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Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

What CCS is?   

CCS is NOT a solution to our climate and energy crises; it is life support for Big Coal - an attempt to continue burning a toxic and finite resource.

CCS stands for Carbon Capture and Storage (or Sequestration). It is a technology that captures carbon dioxide from coal plants (pre or post combustion), compresses it to a liquid-like state, transports it to specific geologic formations, and pumps the greenhouse gas into deep underground cavities (sequesters it) where it should stay immobile for centuries to come. CCS involves five processes: capture, compression, transport, injection, and monitoring. Carbon capture and sequestration accounts for 80% of CCS costs, while transportation, injection, and monitoring account for the remaining costs. No commercial scale CCS facility is in operation today and Norway’s Sleipner project (often described as the model for other CCS projects around the world), is leaking an ‘oily waste’. It has also been determined that the project, one-tenth the size of some proposals in the United States, is unable to adequately sequester the carbon dioxide. The stored carbon is moving through a the Utsira formation 25x faster than predicted.

What does CCS cost?

CCS is more costly than traditional coal or renewables.

  •   Carbon capture will add over 30 percent to the cost of electricity for new “clean” coal plants (integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)) and over 80 percent to the cost of electricity if retrofitted to existing pulverized coal (PC) units. Source: Dept. of Energy
  •   Projected CCS costs do not factor in costs of greenhouse gas regulation (promised by the Obama administration) that would make CCS more expensive.  Remember, CCS technology emits carbon through transporting the compressed carbon to storage sites.  Additionally, CCS technology does not eliminate carbon emissions, carbon capture rates fall between 40 and 90% of total carbon emitted from the plant and carbon compression takes significant energy.
  • While carbon regulation would make CCS facilities more cost competitive with other coal technologies, safe, renewable, non-carbon technologies are put at an even greater advantage.  These are the technologies to invest in.
  • What insurers will insure projects that are liable to leak carbon dioxide that could suffocate hundreds or thousands of people if the gas made its way to the surface? There is no regulatory framework to deal with this liability and policies covering risks far into the future would add an additional expense to already pricy projects.
  • We can be assured that the more coal we burn, the more expensive it becomes.  Already, most economically extractable coal has been burned. U.S. Energy Information Administration information on coal “reserves” does not take into account economic recoverability.
  • Wind energy is already cost competitive with building new coal plants and investments in renewable energy generate 50% more jobs per dollar invested than coal.
  • Even the coal industry admits that jobs from CCS technology would not materialize until 2020. Energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs can be scaled up at faster rates than coal.Wind and solar jobs are beginning to surpass the total number of mining jobs and the gap is expected to widen.
  •   Both CCS coal plant operations and efficiency cost 3 cents/kWh.  The difference is that CCS has a capital investment cost of ~12cents/kWh.  That makes CCS 4-5 times more expensive than efficiency.

CCS is inefficient.

  •  A coal-fired power plant that sequesters its carbon dioxide must burn about 30 percent more coal than conventional plants to cover these energy needs
  • Retrofitting existing coal plants with CCS technology is uneconomical and inefficient as net energy produced from that plant is reduced by 20-30% due to the energy needs of compressing and storing carbon dioxide (US Department of Energy).  In addition, the lost power (from inefficiency) needs to be made up and the plant needs to be connected to new or existing pipelines to transport the C02.
  • CCS storage requires expensive and decades long infrastructure developments. Even the Edison Electric Institute admitted to DC’s House Select Committee that CCS would be feasible only after 25 years of research and investments of ~ 25billion . Capturing a quarter of the carbon emitted in 2005 would require infrastructure more than twice that of the world’s crude-oil industry (Vaclav Smil).  We cannot wait for infrastructure developments decades in the making; we need to invest in safe, clean, renewable energy sources today.

CCS poses new pollution hazards.

  • The coal industry has proposed these risky projects in communities already identified as environmental justice communities. For instance, the PurGen proposal in Linden, NJ will create new environmental hazards in a community where African Americans, Hispanics, and people of below-average income levels are already disproportionately burdened by pollution.
  • While CCS technology reduces emissions of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), it may increase emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. Koornneef, an environmental scientist at Utrecht University found that CCS technology caused nitrogen and sulfur oxides to rise up to 40 percent higher than the total cradle-to-grave emissions of a modern plant that doesn’t capture its CO2.
  • CCS removes (most) carbon dioxide emissions, but it does nothing to reduce or eliminate emissions of fine particulate pollution that contribute to lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiac and respiratory problems.
  • Transporting carbon dioxide by pipeline introduces many problems, including potential for leaking carbon dioxide gas, and pipelines cutting through residential properties.