Technology Focus

In my view, carbon capture and storage* (CCS) will provide a significant global contribution to help mitigate climate change. However, the magnitude and timing of the contribution CCS can depend on several factors.

Making Action on Climate Change More Urgent.

While the science linking global warming with manmade CO2 emissions is clear, the pace of national and international political agreements for action requires time. As such, the framework for a post-Kyoto agreement is still unclear. While it is likely such an agreement will be reached, the exact nature will drive the level of urgency on climate-change action.

Creating a Commercial Value for Carbon.

The key to action in a commercially driven world is a valid cost on CO2 emissions. While a CO2 tax provides a predictable cost for industry, it does not provide governments with clear emissions-reduction levels. Conversely, CO2 cap-and-trade systems can provide governments with clearer emissions-reduction levels, but they leave industry with uncertain carbon prices. Therefore, industry often "favors" a tax-based approach and governments favor a cap-and-trade approach. The challenge for CCS is to have a sufficiently high price to justify the major capital investment. Experience indicates that the cap-and-trade approach takes many years to introduce and many additional years to adjust caps to create a market price that could justify investment in CCS.

Establishing Early Uptake of CCS.

Long-term investments in CCS are hampered by the lack of long-term political agreements and an appropriate carbon price, as outlined above. Early uptake of CCS, however, is required to prove the technology and ensure that supporting legislation can be put in place. Several projects are in advanced stages of engineering in Europe, the US, and Australia. Making these projects happen is crucial. With such early action, CCS has the potential to mitigate global CO2 emissions by 28% or more by 2050.

*CCS involves capturing flue-gas CO2, initially from large point sources such as power stations, and compressing the CO2 for transport before injecting it into the deep subsurface for indefinite storage. Most of the technologies required are available, but not all have been implemented commercially at the required scale. The situation is different for most currently operating projects, which involve separating CO2 from produced methane and then reinjecting that CO2 for long-term storage.

CO2 Applications additional reading available at the SPE eLibrary:

SPE 108924 • "Geoengineering and Economic Assessment of a Potential Carbon-Capture-and-Storage Site in Southeast Queensland, Australia" by Y. Cinar, University of New South Wales, et al.

SPE 114028 • "CO2 Storage in Low-Permeability Formations" by Y. Cinar, University of New South Wales, et al.

SPE 108540 • "Simulations for CO2-Injection Projects With Compositional Simulator" by S. Hurter, SPE, Schlumberger Carbon Services, et al.

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