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CO2 Capture and Storage

10. Conclusion: the future of CO2 capture and storage

  • 10.1 What knowledge gaps remain?
  • 10.2 How much could CO2 capture and storage contribute to climate change mitigation?

10.1 What knowledge gaps remain?

The source document for this Digest states:

This summary of the gaps in knowledge covers aspects of CCS where increasing knowledge, experience and reducing uncertainty would be important to facilitate decision-making about the large-scale deployment of CCS.

Technologies for capture and storage

Technologies for the capture of CO2 are relatively well understood today based on industrial experience in a variety of applications. Similarly, there are no major technical or knowledge barriers to the adoption of pipeline transport, or to the adoption of geological storage of captured CO2. However, the integration of capture, transport and storage in full-scale projects is needed to gain the knowledge and experience required for a more widespread deployment of CCS technologies. R&D is also needed to improve knowledge of emerging concepts and enabling technologies for CO2 capture that have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of capture for new and existing facilities. More specifically, there are knowledge gaps relating to large coal-based and natural gas-based power plants with CO2 capture on the order of several hundred megawatts (or several MtCO2). Demonstration of CO2 capture on this scale is needed to establish the reliability and environmental performance of different types of power systems with capture, to reduce the costs of CCS, and to improve confidence in the cost estimates. In addition, large-scale implementation is needed to obtain better estimates of the costs and performance of CCS in industrial processes, such as the cement and steel industries, that are significant sources of CO2 but have little or no experience with CO2 capture.

With regard to mineral carbonation technology, a major question is how to exploit the reaction heat in practical designs that can reduce costs and net energy requirements. Experimental facilities at pilot scales are needed to address these gaps.

With regard to industrial uses of captured CO2, further study of the net energy and CO2 balance of industrial processes that use the captured CO2 could help to establish a more complete picture of the potential of this option.

Geographical relationship between the sources and storage opportunities of CO2

An improved picture of the proximity of major CO2 sources to suitable storage sites (of all types), and the establishment of cost curves for the capture, transport and storage of CO2, would facilitate decision-making about large-scale deployment of CCS. In this context, detailed regional assessments are required to evaluate how well large CO2 emission sources (both current and future) match suitable storage options that can store the volumes required.

Geological storage capacity and effectiveness

There is a need for improved storage capacity estimates at the global, regional and local levels, and for a better understanding of long-term storage, migration and leakage processes. Addressing the latter issue will require an enhanced ability to monitor and verify the behaviour of geologically stored CO2. The implementation of more pilot and demonstration storage projects in a range of geological, geographical and economic settings would be important to improve our understanding of these issues.

Impacts of ocean storage

Major knowledge gaps that should be filled before the risks and potential for ocean storage can be assessed concern the ecological impact of CO2 in the deep ocean. Studies are needed of the response of biological systems in the deep sea to added CO2, including studies that are longer in duration and larger in scale than those that have been performed until now. Coupled with this is a need to develop techniques and sensors to detect and monitor CO2 plumes and their biological and geochemical consequences.

Legal and regulatory issues

Current knowledge about the legal and regulatory requirements for implementing CCS on a larger scale is still inadequate. There is no appropriate framework to facilitate the implementation of geological storage and take into account the associated long-term liabilities. Clarification is needed regarding potential legal constraints on storage in the marine environment (ocean or sub-seabed geological storage). Other key knowledge gaps are related to the methodologies for emissions inventories and accounting.

Global contribution of CCS to mitigating climate change

There are several other issues that would help future decision-making about CCS by further improving our understanding of the potential contribution of CCS to the long-term global mitigation and stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations. These include the potential for transfer and diffusion of CCS technologies, including opportunities for developing countries to exploit CCS, its application to biomass sources of CO2, and the potential interaction between investment in CCS and other mitigation options. Further investigation is warranted into the question of how long CO2 would need to be stored. This issue is related to stabilization pathways and intergenerational aspects.

Source & ©: IPCC  Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: Technical Summary (2005)
10. Gaps in knowledge, p. 48

10.2 How much could CO2 capture and storage contribute to climate change mitigation?

The source document for this Digest states:

Economic potential of CCS for climate change mitigation

Assessments of the economic potential of CCS are based on energy and economic models that study future CCS deployment and costs in the context of scenarios that achieve economically efficient, least-cost paths to the stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

While there are significant uncertainties in the quantitative results from these models (see discussion below), all models indicate that CCS systems are unlikely to be deployed on a large scale in the absence of an explicit policy that substantially limits greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. With greenhouse gas emission limits imposed, many integrated assessments foresee the deployment of CCS systems on a large scale within a few decades from the start of any significant climate change mitigation regime. Energy and economic models indicate that CCS systems are unlikely to contribute significantly to the mitigation of climate change unless deployed in the power sector. For this to happen, the price of carbon dioxide reductions would have to exceed 25–30 US$/tCO2, or an equivalent limit on CO2 emissions would have to be mandated. The literature and current industrial experience indicate that, in the absence of measures for limiting CO2 emissions, there are only small, niche opportunities for CCS technologies to deploy. These early opportunities involve CO2 captured from a high-purity, low-cost source, the transport of CO2 over distances of less than 50 km, coupled with CO2 storage in a value-added application such as EOR. The potential of such niche options is about 360 MtCO2 per year (see Section 2).

Models also indicate that CCS systems will be competitive with other large-scale mitigation options such as nuclear power and renewable energy technologies. These studies show that including CCS in a mitigation portfolio could reduce the cost of stabilizing CO2 concentrations by 30% or more. One aspect of the cost competitiveness of CCS technologies is that they are compatible with most current energy infrastructures.

In most scenarios, emissions abatement becomes progressively more constraining over time. Most analyses indicate that notwithstanding significant penetration of CCS systems by 2050, the majority of CCS deployment will occur in the second half of this century. The earliest CCS deployments are typically foreseen in the industrialized nations, with deployment eventually spreading worldwide. While results for different scenarios and models differ (often significantly) in the specific mix and quantities of different measures needed to achieve a particular emissions constraint (see Figure TS.12), the consensus of the literature shows that CCS could be an important component of the broad portfolio of energy technologies and emission reduction approaches. The actual use of CCS is likely to be lower than the estimates of economic potential indicated by these energy and economic models. As noted earlier, the results are typically based on an optimized least-cost analysis that does not adequately account for real-world barriers to technology development and deployment, such as environmental impact, lack of a clear legal or regulatory framework, the perceived investment risks of different technologies, and uncertainty as to how quickly the cost of CCS will be reduced through R&D and learning-by-doing. Models typically employ simplified assumptions regarding the costs of CCS for different applications and the rates at which future costs will be reduced.

For CO2 stabilization scenarios between 450 and 750 ppmv, published estimates of the cumulative amount of CO2 potentially stored globally over the course of this century (in geological formations and/or the oceans) span a wide range, from very small contributions to thousands of gigatonnes of CO2. To a large extent, this wide range is due to the uncertainty of long-term socio-economic, demographic and, in particular, technological changes, which are the main drivers of future CO2 emissions. However, it is important to note that the majority of results for stabilization scenarios of 450–750 ppmv CO2 tend to cluster in a range of 220–2,200 GtCO2 (60–600 GtC) for the cumulative deployment of CCS. For CCS to achieve this economic potential, several hundreds or thousands of CCS systems would be required worldwide over the next century, each capturing some 1–5 MtCO2 per year. As indicated in Section 5, it is likely that the technical potential for geological storage alone is sufficient to cover the high end of the economic potential range for CCS.

Perspectives on CO2 leakage from storage

The policy implications of slow leakage from storage depend on assumptions in the analysis. Studies conducted to address the question of how to deal with impermanent storage are based on different approaches: the value of delaying emissions, cost minimization of a specified mitigation scenario, or allowable future emissions in the context of an assumed stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Some of these studies allow future releases to be compensated by additional reductions in emissions; the results depend on assumptions regarding the future cost of reductions, discount rates, the amount of CO2 stored, and the assumed level of stabilization for atmospheric concentrations. In other studies, compensation is not seen as an option because of political and institutional uncertainties and the analysis focuses on limitations set by the assumed stabilization level and the amount stored.

While specific results of the range of studies vary with the methods and assumptions made, the outcomes suggest that a fraction retained on the order of 90–99% for 100 years or 60–95% for 500 years could still make such impermanent storage valuable for the mitigation of climate change. All studies imply that, if CCS is to be acceptable as a mitigation measure, there must be an upper limit to the amount of leakage that can take place.

Source & ©: IPCC (WGI)  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC
Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: Technical Summary (2005)

8. Costs and economic potential, p. 43

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