Policy needed to implement carbon capture technologies

Posted on 14 October 2013

Panelists at the World Energy Congress at the 14 October session said carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies are a necessary factor in a world in which fossil fuels are expect to continue servicing a significant portion of global energy demand for decades to come.

However, they said policy decisions are crucial for key market players to make long-term investments that would make CCUS feasible.

Mike Gibbons, Chair of the UK National Member Committee of WEC, described carbon capture as a way to “have your cake and eat it too.” Gibbons and other backers of carbon capture technologies said it is simple fact that many countries, particularly those in the developing world, will continue to rely on CO2 producing fossil fuels for decades to come. “In some countries, CCUS is the only way they’re going to have a low carbon future.”

“This is not a silver bullet. This is part of the solution,” said Peter Oosterveer, Group President of Energy and Chemicals at Fluor. Still, views were divided about the merits of carbon capture. Dave Collyer, President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), said, “Some view it as a way to mitigate CO2 emissions. Others view it as an expensive science project.”

Supporters of carbon capture and storage say the technologies have the potential to transform carbon dioxide from a waste product that fuels global climate change to a raw material that can be used to fabricate more cost-effective polymers and plastics. Brad Page, CEO of Australia’s Global CCS Institute, said China is rapidly embracing the technology, moving in the last two years from being out of the top 10 carbon capturing nations to second place, just behind the US.

Still, Page and other industry leaders said it is still a tough sell to convince the market that carbon capture is cost effective, citing an absence of consistent and predictable public policy. “Political leaders think in terms of political election cycles of about 5 years, and capital investors think in terms of 20 years. That mismatch in time horizons fundamentally affects the ability to come to an investment decision,” he said. Page acknowledges there are still residual liability issues for storage captured carbon, but said legal and regulatory frameworks can be worked out to deal with the issue.

This news story is based on the Game Changer session, “CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage): Making a difference in time?”,  at the 2013 World Energy Congress.