Column: A Carbon Capture and Storage Gold Rush?

Later this year, a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 1.5°C will be released, and it is very likely to put great emphasis on the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the role that it needs to play in containing global emissions such that a net-zero-emissions outcome can be achieved and within the time needed to limit average surface temperature warming to 1.5°C. This is not a surprise, given the similar story in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report in 2013 for a 2°C outcome. Yet, despite the recognition of the role of CCS, the technology is not being deployed at the rate necessary to make a difference, not just to emissions but also to the cost of the technology itself, which will almost certainly fall as experience is gained, supporting infrastructure is built, and innovation kicks in.


The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) tracks CCS development, and it notes that only 17 CCS facilities are operating today. Just five new facilities are under construction.

Recently in The Guardian (Australian edition), an article appeared under the title It’d Be Wonderful if the Claims Made About Carbon Capture Were True, which turned out to be more a critique of the coal industry than a deep criticism of CCS technology, but titles of that type don’t help the technology gain a true foothold. In a roundabout way, the author also reaches the conclusion that CCS is necessary, but deployment is far too slow.

Technology isn’t the issue holding up the deployment rate; that works just fine. CCS brings together a number of different technologies and processes that have been available in the oil and gas industry for decades and repurposes them for CO2 capture and storage. Rather, the issue is the economics of doing this; unless there is a clear financial benefit for doing this, it won’t happen. To date, that benefit has largely come through enhanced oil recovery (EOR). But, in a few cases, the benefit has come, at least in part, from a government-implemented carbon-pricing mechanism.

But a CCS white knight has now appeared on the horizon, and it is potentially a game changer. The US Congress has considerably expanded what was a modest and limited tax credit for CCS into something meaningful that ought to accelerate deployment of the technology. On 9 February, Congress passed and the president signed into law a budget agreement that included language to expand a 2009 tax credit for CO2 capture and storage known as 45Q. The key provisions are that, for stored CO2, the tax credit rises to $50 per tonne in 2027, while, for use (EOR, as well as other uses), the equivalent value is $35. The amounts will be adjusted for inflation after 2026. The credit goes to the facility that captures the CO2 and is available for the first 12 years of operation. There is no cap on the arrangement for the tax credit for CCS facilities put into service after 2018 and for which construction has started before 2024, and eligibility is on a performance basis.

Read the full column here.



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