The Hype Around Carbon Capture Is Causing Problems

After years of promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies as a mid-term solution to clean up fossil fuel production, many are now concerned about the caliber of CCS projects currently underway. As oil companies around the world rush to integrate CCS into their operations, to decarbonize without giving up oil entirely, are they making the right decisions or are they simply rushing to meet international ESG expectations?

It was widely accepted that the CCS will play a role important role in global net zero ambitions. As long as demand for oil and gas remains high, fossil fuel production will fill the gap until we have access to a cleaner alternative. Therefore, implementing low-carbon operations and integrating CCS technologies into production processes could help reduce emissions until we can move away from fossil fuels altogether.

However, a few years after the big CCS boom, we are now seeing a lot of skepticism in the industry. Recent headlines slam the US for blowing up a report $1.1 billion on failed CCS projects. The U.S. Department of Energy (DEO) has divided those funds among 11 carbon capture projects at coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities since 2009. But many of them turned out to be failures, several never having ever been built, according to a Government Accountability Office. (GAO) report.

In addition to investing in CCS projects that never materialized, the government would have continued to finance operations that did not reach important milestones. Many of these failed projects have been seen in coal-fired power plants, but as natural gas facilities become more competitive in terms of pricing and cleaner energy, many coal-fired power plants have closed.

A DOE spokesperson explains how the institution learns from mistakes to improve: “This office will seek to prove the effectiveness of innovative technologies in real-world conditions at scale to pave the way for adoption and widespread deployment, “they declared.

And it’s not just in the United States that we’re seeing CCS technologies fall short of their potential. In Canada, a project once hailed as the future of CCS is now under intense scrutiny. Oil major Shell operates a CCS facility called Quest in Alberta, decarbonizing its oil sands production in the region by capturing carbon. Shell secured government support for the construction of the facility, with $120 million in Canadian government funds and another $745 million from Alberta. In 2020, he was considered a “flourishing example”, reaching the milestone of 5 million tons of sequestered carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to removing about 1.25 million cars from the road. At that time, Shell was considering replicating its Quest project in other parts of Canada.

But the plant is now drawing criticism for releasing more CO2 in the atmosphere it captures. This month Global Witness published a report showing that although the plant has captured 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2015, it has also released 7.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases into the environment. atmosphere during this period. This means that only 48% of carbon emissions from oil sands operations have been captured, well below the expected rate of 90%, according to the findings.

Shell responded to Global Witness saying it was wrong about the type of project in question. A Shell spokesperson Explain, “Our Quest facility was designed a few years ago as a demonstration project to prove the underlying concept of CCS, while capturing around a third of the CO2 emissions. It is not a hydrogen production facility. Additionally, “The hydrogen projects we are planning – like Polaris – will use new technology that captures more than 90% of emissions. Global Witness is comparing apples with pears,” they said.

While CCS is essential in going green, bridging the gap as oil and gas are still in high demand, governments and energy companies should invest wisely, not just throw their money at CCS projects. risky to meet ESG expectations. In Europe, the German Climate Minister announced this month that the the speed of carbon cuts should be tripled to achieve carbon neutrality. While CCS may not offer the long-term solution for decarbonization, it can help support low-carbon oil and gas operations in the medium term.

But let’s not forget, for every failure there is also achievements when it comes to CCS. For example, the Norwegian Equinor has carried out more than 25 years of carbon injection operations in a saline aquifer. And with CCS becoming more mainstream, there will be both successes and failures, as with all new energy projects. It is now up to energy companies and governments to invest in technology to ensure they learn from early practice and improve CCS operations over the coming decades.

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

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