Moving CCS Globally

 Image Courtesy of: Flickr User donkeyhotey

Most strategies to advance CCS focus on a “West First” approach, expanding the technology in the US and other Western nations where it was first developed and where climate policies are most advanced.                               


These efforts are yielding results.  The Global CCS Institute reports that 74 large- scale CCS projects are under active development, with almost all of these in North America, the EU and Australia. 


But further progress will be slowed in the West by:


  • High CCS construction and operating costs;


  • Weak economies and tight budgets that make governments both less willing to support subsidies and also less willing to adopt more aggressive climate policies, and


  • Slowing demand in electricity markets that dampen adoption of new technology.



A better strategy takes a global approach that deploys more projects faster and at lower cost by:


  • Combining the strengths of the US, China, India and European Union to create global synergies, and


  • Exploiting global niches that move CCS with little or no subsidies.



How exactly does combining strengths worldwide create new options?  Below are three strategically important examples.



#1 China CCS through EORShidongkou PCC Plant, outside of Shanghai China


In China, faster construction schedules, cheaper labor and materials makes capture technology much less expensive than in the West. The Shidongkou PCC plant near Shanghai captures carbon dioxide at around $35 per ton, a fraction of the cost of similar plants operating in the United States. 


But unlike the US and Canada, China has little experience with enhanced oil recovery (EOR).  EOR is especially important for pioneer CCS projects because the revenue from selling CO2 offsets some of the cost of capture and compression.

                                                                                                                                                              Shidongkou PCC Plant, outside of Shanghai, China


By combining low-cost capture plants in China with US EOR experience, many CCS projects could be built in China with little or no subsidies-- perhaps as many as 30 GW of by the early 2020’s.  That amount, far more than a “West First”  approach, is a large enough scale to gain enough industry-wide experience to drive capture cost down even lower.



#2 Underground Coal Gasification


Another way of lowering the costs of  near zero fossil technology is by focusing on cheaper conversion technologies. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) technology enables CCS with coal at costs that are comparable to uncontrolled natural gas plants and uncontrolled pulverized coal.  The technology is key to taming India’s CO2 increases from coal expansion, and China has identified establishing a UCG industry as part of its 12th Five Year plan. 




#3 Natural Gas with CCS


New emphasis must be focused on CCS with natural gas.  That’s because in North America, and more slowly perhaps in the EU, unconventional gas reserves will increasingly supply base load power needs.  If natural gas prices stay relatively low over the long-term, gas CCS may produce electricity at prices that are lower than coal. Pioneer projects aimed at NGCC-CCS must be established.



The Clean Air Task Force- Fossil Transition Project is working to:

  • Reduce the climate impact of coal-based energy
  • Publicly advocate for the widespread use of CCS
  • Ensure that federal policy demands carbon reductions and advances rapid deployment of CCS
  • Promote collaboration of CCS projects between the US and China
  • Support projects in the US that utilize advanced CCS technologies
  • Communicate the importance of CCS to the public
  • Proving out in a commercial scale CCS technologies such as UCG and EOR
  • Identify RD&D needs and opportunities for the CCS industry