CCS Is Like Trying To Push Water Uphill, According To Head Of U.N.’s IPCC Jim Skea

CCS Is Like Trying To Push Water Uphill, According To Head Of U.N.'s IPCC Jim Skea - Carbon Herald
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The viability of carbon capture and storage as a solution of reducing hard to abate emissions is once again put into a question. Jim Skea, the head of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned on Tuesday during the International Energy Week conference about the significant challenges standing in front of scaling carbon capture solutions. 

In the first day of the three-day global energy conference in London gathering industry majors, Mr Skea compared the rollout of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to “trying to push water uphill.” He also highlighted the continuous efforts from the oil and gas industry to tout the technology as integral to net-zero emission plans. That, however, is still a huge question mark. 

“One of the challenges is, if you take things like solar energy, it is modular and small scale, and you can roll it through the system more quickly. Once you get past the threshold, it happens by itself… CCS is much more like trying to push water uphill to get it into technological systems, it is more challenging,” said Jim Skea, as reported by CNBC. 

One of the major problems regarding carbon capture is the way it is being used by large industry figures as a solution to capture the emissions from almost any kind of polluting facilities using fossil fuels for energy from a range of industries like power plants, steel, ethanol and metallurgical plants. However, the real energy transition requires a shift away from fossil fuel based operations and towards processes based on clean energies and technologies. 

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Some concerns are expressed that the industry is pushing to position carbon capture as equally important to technologies that can deliver a real decarbonization. The truth is that most scientists recommend carbon capture as necessary for just a number of use cases where other alternatives for true decarbonization are either non-existent, still in development stage or are much more expensive to implement. 

“The big challenges, for me, are around the business models and the policy framework within which it takes place. If we have the will to address these issues, then I see CCS as having a role to play. It is not the answer to everything, but it is certainly part of the picture,” explained Mr Skea.

In November 2023, in an interview for FT, Jim Skea raised once again his concerns about overreliance on carbon capture and highlighted the challenges standing in front of the solution. 

He explained that carbon capture and storage is a technological system with different elements – capture, transportation and storage, and they all have their own issues. There are projects showcasing some elements of the system but there is a lack of big projects that join the bits together creating the whole system that delivers results.

Relevant: New Report Shows Unforeseen Carbon Capture And Storage Risks Are Common

A report issued in June 2023 from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) examining two flagship carbon capture and storage projects – Sleipner and Snøhvit also raised concerns and highlighted major financial and environmental issues with them. The report goes through the unexpected challenges that were faced during their development and concludes that rather than being models for CCS, they raise a cautionary tale about the technical and financial viability of the concept in the long run.

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