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Most major carbon capture and storage projects haven’t met targets

Most of the 13 major CCS programs worldwide, representing 55 percent of captured carbon dioxide, have either completely failed or captured much less CO2 than expected


September 1, 2022

The Gorgon gas project in South Australia


Several of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage projects are significantly underperforming, according to an analysis showing that some capture only half as much CO2 as promised.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is regarded by authorities as the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The technology will receive generous support in the US government’s new climate bill, and other countries are encouraging its adoption, including Norway and the UK.

A report published today analyzed the performance of 13 leading existing CCS schemes worldwide, representing 55 percent of captured CO2, using figures published by the companies.

Most have captured much less CO2 than expected, the report shows. According to the report, ExxonMobil’s LaBarge facility at Shute Creek, Wyoming, has underperformed about 36 percent in terms of capacity over its lifetime. The world’s only major power plant with CCS, Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan, Canada, has captured about 50 percent less than planned, according to the report, and the capacity of Chevron’s Gorgon gas facility in Western Australia was about 50 percent lower than planned. planned in the first five years.

Two projects in the report failed, including the Kemper Coal CCS project in Mississippi, which was long delayed and construction eventually halted in 2017.

“Is CCS a solution to our climate problems? I would say no. More often than not, it doesn’t really work to its design capacity,” says Bruce Robertson at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), an Australian think tank, which is the author of the report.

The technology dates back to the 1970s and is in many cases used to extract more oil from reservoirs than to combat climate change by capturing CO2 for the long term. “She [the industry] say it is an emerging sector. In fact, it’s been in use for most of our lives,” says Robertson. The underperformance of schemes is not because of lack of financial or technical resources, he adds. The Gorgon project alone cost AU$3.1 billion.

On a more positive note, the report finds that the Sleipner and Snøhvit CCS projects in Norway have been a success, which the report says is largely due to the country’s unique business and regulatory environment. Robertson admits that CCS could play a role in the future in heavy industries where emissions are difficult to avoid, such as cement making.

Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh in the UK says the IEEFA report is thorough but it’s “too simple” to claim CCS doesn’t work. He says one of the reasons CCS projects seem to be underperforming is not technology, but a lack of market incentives to store CO2 and a lack of proper regulation. “CCS works and will work if the rules are correct,” Haszeldine says.

A Chevron spokesperson said, “Innovation on this scale is not without its challenges, but the technology works.” An ExxonMobil spokesperson said, “The LaBarge facility has captured more CO2 to date than any other facility in the world.”

Saskpower disputed the suggestion that the Boundary Dam project had a catch rate of about 50 percent, giving a figure of 68 percent. Robertson says this discrepancy is due to the IEEFA reviewing the project’s original catch target, rather than a revised, lower target.

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