Captured carbon has mostly been used for enhanced oil recovery; The few successful carbon capture utilization and storage projects mainly serve the fossil fuel industry, leading to further emissions; And extending the lives of fossil fuel power plants with carbon capture brings significant financial and technical risks. These are among the key findings of a new report authored by Bruce Robertson and Milad Mousavian and issued by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
The research, published on Sept. 1, looked at 13 flagship carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) projects on a global scale. Two of them failed, more than half underperformed, and one was phased out, the report found.
A 50-year-old technology for enhanced oil recovery, carbon capture and storage has only recently been repurposed in the fight against global warming. However, opinions on whether CCS is a greenwash technique or a much-needed climate solution vary.
According to the IEEFA report, the failed or underperforming projects far outnumber the successful ones. Additionally, CCS and CCUS projects in natural gas processing still do not account for Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions in a company’s value chain).
Hard-to-abate industries such as cement could use CCS as an “interim partial solution with careful consideration,” the report suggested, further clarifying that the projects should happen in safe locations, include long-term monitoring and compensation plans in case of failure, and not burden taxpayers.
“CCS technology has been going for 50 years and many projects have failed and continued to fail, with only a handful working,” Robertson told the Canberra Times. “Many international bodies and national governments are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to net zero, and it simply won’t work.”
Australia’s Gorgon project – the country’s only functional CCS system and one of the world’s biggest – underperformed by about 50%, according to the study. The two most successful projects studied in the report were Sleipner and Snohvit in Norway, which operate in the gas processing sector.