Should the Australian Government Promote Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
CCS is a technology for storing carbon emissions underground to slow global warming. It is under development, still several years from commercial deployment, and a key question for policy makers and power companies is whether or not it is a cost effective option compared to the other low carbon alternatives. The question is “should the Australian Government be subsidizing and promoting carbon capture and storage?”
Advantages and Challenges of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage)
How does it Work?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the procedure of sequestering carbon emissions from large emitters, such as power plants, moving it to a storage location, and injecting it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally in deep underground rocks. The aim is to prevent the release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere (from fossil fuel use in power generation and other industries). It is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming and ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide has been placed into deep rocks for many years for industrial purposes, including superior oil return. Long term storage of the gas is a relatively recent concept (Csiro 2014).
Storage of the CO2 has been trialed in subterranean geological structures. Geological formations are currently considered the most promising sequestration sites. Australia has large areas suitable for CCS and the government has opened them up for that purpose. Scientists (Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. 2014) are now generally confident that once carbon dioxide has been deposited it will not escape into the earth’s atmosphere.
CCS entails sequestering billions of tons of carbon dioxide a year from gas or coal power stations, then condensing it for insertion and permanent storage in subterranean micro-porous rocks.CO2 can also dissolve in saline water.
CO2 + H2O → H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
Whilst CCS has been very slow in developing, it could be a valuable tool in the fight against climate change. Like all large resource projects, the lead times for CCS projects can be five to ten years or more, but these large developments offer the prospect of keeping very large quantities of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in one operation.
CCS is expensive and this is one of the main challenges to this new technology. Some recent plausible estimates point toward the expenditure for capturing and storing carbon dioxide is US$60 per ton. This would vastly increase the typical Australian electricity price and increase the typical retail residential electricity price by a large amount. Price increases would likely be expected in coal dependent countries such as Australia, because CCS, as well as the transport and injection costs from such power plants would not, in an overall sense, vary significantly from country to country. There are several...