Carbon capture projects up despite costs

- The number of projects for capturing greenhouse gases from power plants and factories edged up in 2010 despite soaring costs and slow progress in UN-led efforts to slow climate change, a study showed recently.

The focus of carbon capture and storage CCS projects also shifted more to the United States from Europe even though U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to persuade the Senate to legislate caps on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

The Global CCS Institute said 234 CCS projects were active or planned worldwide at the end of 2010, a net rise of 26 from 2009 despite cancellations including in the Netherlands and Finland.

CCS aims to capture planet-warming carbon dioxide in fossil fuels, such as from coal-fired power plants or cement factories, and bury it in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or other underground stores. No commercial-scale projects yet exist.

"The global commitment to carbon capture and storage remains strong," according to the Australia-based Institute, whose members include major businesses and governments of top emitters led by China, the United States, Russia and India.

But the study, published on the Institute website, pointed to rising costs that have discouraged investments due to sluggish economic growth in many developed nations.

It said recent reviews suggested costs for CCS, rising in line with those of large-scale energy projects, were "20 to 30 per cent higher than indicated in similar studies undertaken only two to three years ago."

UN reports have suggested CCS could be as important this century as a shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power in curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

But UN climate negotiations have failed to agree a treaty to limit emissions that would help set a global penalty on carbon emissions to promote a surge of investments in CCS.

Among big projects in 2010, Chevron Corp began construction on the Gorgon project in Australia, due to be the biggest carbon storage project in the world. And U.S. Southern Company is going ahead with a major U.S. project.

The Institute also saw progress on promised funds. "As much as $40 billion could be available to have large-scale projects up and running this decade," it said.

It listed 77 major projects, either planned or active, at the end of 2010 including 31 in the United States. That total was up 13 overall in 2010 despite delays or cancellations to 22.

"There is a shift in focus a little bit from Europe to the United States," said Bob Pegler, general manager-Europe of the Global CCS Institute.

The change was partly because many U.S. projects were also aiming to improve cash flow by injecting carbon dioxide into semi-depleted oilfields to raise output of crude, trading at $113 a barrel recently.

Among setbacks, in October the Dutch government shelved plans for a demonstration project in Barendrecht after delays and opposition from local people.

Finnish energy company Fortum also said in October it was scrapping a Meri-Pori CCS project due to technological and financial risks.

The report said that China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, "remains focused on research and development" for CCS. Pegler added: "If you look forward 10 or 15 years I can see China being a major, if not the dominant, player."


in Year