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CO2 Capture and Storage

9. How could emission reductions be quantified?

    The source document for this Digest states:

    An important aspect of CO2 capture and storage is the development and application of methods to estimate and report the quantities in which emissions of CO2 (and associated emissions of methane or nitrous oxides) are reduced, avoided, or removed from the atmosphere. The two elements involved here are (1) the actual estimation and reporting of emissions for national greenhouse gas inventories, and (2) accounting for CCS under international agreements to limit net emissions.

    Current framework

    Under the UNFCCC, national greenhouse gas emission inventories have traditionally reported emissions for a specific year, and have been prepared on an annual basis or another periodic basis. The IPCC Guidelines (IPCC 1996) and Good Practice Guidance Reports (IPCC 2000; 2003) describe detailed approaches for preparing national inventories that are complete, transparent, documented, assessed for uncertainties, consistent over time, and comparable across countries. The IPCC documents now in use do not specifically include CO2 capture and storage options. However, the IPCC Guidelines are currently undergoing revisions that should provide some guidance when the revisions are published in 2006. The framework that already has been accepted could be applied to CCS systems, although some issues might need revision or expansion.

    Issues relevant to accounting and reporting

    In the absence of prevailing international agreements, it is not clear whether the various forms of CO2 capture and storage will be treated as reductions in emissions or as removals from the atmosphere. In either case, CCS results in new pools of CO2 that may be subject to physical leakage at some time in the future. Currently, there are no methods available within the UNFCCC framework for monitoring, measuring or accounting for physical leakage from storage sites. However, leakage from well-managed geological storage sites is likely to be small in magnitude and distant in time.

    Consideration may be given to the creation of a specific category for CCS in the emissions reporting framework but this is not strictly necessary since the quantities of CO2 captured and stored could be reflected in the sector in which the CO2 was produced. CO2 storage in a given location could include CO2 from many different source categories, and even from sources in many different countries. Fugitive emissions from the capture, transport and injection of CO2 to storage can largely be estimated within the existing reporting methods, and emissions associated with the added energy required to operate the CCS systems can be measured and reported within the existing inventory frameworks. Specific consideration may also be required for CCS applied to biomass systems as that application would result in reporting negative emissions, for which there is currently no provision in the reporting framework.

    Issues relevant to international agreements

    Quantified commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions and the use of emissions trading, Joint Implementation (JI) or the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) require clear rules and methods to account for emissions and removals. Because CCS has the potential to move CO2 across traditional accounting boundaries (e.g. CO2 might be captured in one country and stored in another, or captured in one year and partly released from storage in a later year), the rules and methods for accounting may be different than those used in traditional emissions inventories.

    To date, most of the scientific, technical and political discussions on accounting for stored CO2 have focused on sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere. The history of these negotiations may provide some guidance for the development of accounting methods for CCS. Recognizing the potential impermanence of CO2 stored in the terrestrial biosphere, the UNFCCC accepted the idea that net emissions can be reduced through biological sinks, but has imposed complex rules for such accounting. CCS is markedly different in many ways from CO2 sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere (see Table TS.12), and the different forms of CCS are markedly different from one another. However, the main goal of accounting is to ensure that CCS activities produce real and quantifiable reductions in net emissions. One tonne of CO2 permanently stored has the same benefit in terms of atmospheric CO2 concentrations as one tonne of CO2 not emitted, but one tonne of CO2 temporarily stored has less benefit. It is generally accepted that this difference should be reflected in any system of accounting for reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions.

    Table TS.12. Differences in the forms of CCS and biological sinks

    The IPCC Guidelines (IPCC 1996) and Good Practice Guidance Reports (IPCC 2000; 2003) also contain guidelines for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions. It is not known whether the revised guidelines of the IPCC for CCS can be satisfied by using monitoring techniques, particularly for geological and ocean storage. Several techniques are available for the monitoring and verification of CO2 emissions from geological storage, but they vary in applicability, detection limits and uncertainties. Currently, monitoring for geological storage can take place quantitatively at injection and qualitatively in the reservoir and by measuring surface fluxes of CO2. Ocean storage monitoring can take place by detecting the CO2 plume, but not by measuring ocean surface release to the atmosphere. Experiences from monitoring existing CCS projects are still too limited to serve as a basis for conclusions about the physical leakage rates and associated uncertainties.

    The Kyoto Protocol creates different units of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reductions, and emissions sequestered under different compliance mechanisms. ‘Assigned amount units’ (AAUs) describe emissions commitments and apply to emissions trading, ‘certified emission reductions’ (CERs) are used under the CDM, and ‘emission reduction units’ (ERUs) are employed under JI. To date, international negotiations have provided little guidance about methods for calculating and accounting for project-related CO2 reductions from CCS systems (only CERs or ERUs), and it is therefore uncertain how such reductions will be accommodated under the Kyoto Protocol. Some guidance may be given by the methodologies for biological-sink rules. Moreover, current agreements do not deal with cross-border CCS projects. This is particularly important when dealing with cross-border projects involving CO2 capture in an ‘Annex B’ country that is party to the Kyoto Protocol but stored in a country that is not in Annex B or is not bound by the Protocol.

    Although methods currently available for national emissions inventories can either accommodate CCS systems or be revised to do so, accounting for stored CO2 raises questions about the acceptance and transfer of responsibility for stored emissions. Such issues may be addressed through national and international political processes.

    Source & ©: IPCC  Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: Technical Summary (2005)
    9. Emission inventories and accounting, p. 46


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