The report, The Carbon Capture Crux – Lessons Learned, assessed the performance of 13 flagship large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS)/carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects.
According to author Bruce Robertson, seven of these projects have underperformed, two failed, and one was mothballed.
The Schute Creek project in the US was found to have underperformed its capacity by around 36% over its lifetime, Boundary Dam in Canada by about 50%, and the Gorgon project off the coast of Western Australia by about 50% over its first five-year period.
Two more successful projects – Slepiner and Snohvit – are both located in Norway, a country with a unique regulatory environment for oil and gas companies.
Commenting on report, Milad Mousavian, co-author, said, “Governments globally are looking for quick solutions to the current energy and ongoing climate crisis, but unwittingly latching onto CCS as a fix is problematic.”
Having been employed in industry for approximately 50 years, CCS has only recently been explored as an option to reduce emissions.
Historically, CCS has been used by oil companies through enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a process which involves reinjecting captured CO2 into oil fields to push more oil and gas out of the ground, resulting in the production of further CO2 emissions.
The IEEFA report revealed that of the 39 million tonnes of CO2 that is captured annually from processing natural gas, industrial applications and power generation, 73% is used for EOR.
Robertson explained that although the technology has a role to play, it shouldn’t be relied upon to meet Net Zero targets.
“…continues to overstate and underperform.”
“Many international bodies and national governments are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to Net Zero, and it simply won’t work.”
“Although some indication it might have a role to play in hard-to-abate sectors such as cement, fertilisers and steel, overall results indicate a financial, technical and emissions-reduction framework that continues to overstate and underperform.”
This is reflected by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which stated that annual carbon capture capacity needs to increase to 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030 to align with the Net Zero by 2050 pathway.
“In addition to being wildly unrealistic as a climate solution, based on historical trajectories, much of this captured carbon will be used for EOR,” added Robertson.
Even when stored underground, trapped CO2 needs monitoring for centuries to reduce the risk of leaks, presenting further challenges.
To mitigate these risks, the report advises that future projects consider a long-term monitoring plan and compensation mechanism in case of failure.
It also discourages CCS projects from promoting EOR and calls for large oil and gas companies to be held liable for any failure/leakage and monitoring costs of CCS projects.
Suggesting that more research should be done on CCS applications for hard-to-abate industry, Robertson added, “as a solution to tackling catastrophic rising emissions in its current framework however, CCS is not a climate solution.”