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Poll: Are carbon capture projects worthwhile?

12/08/2019
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If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is correct, a 2◦C rise in global temperatures by the end of the century could have a dire impact upon ecosystems, human health and wellbeing. Many policymakers and politicians across the world have heeded this warning and are now exploring solutions to prevent catastrophic warming. One of the most controversial solutions is carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, given the global scale of carbon emissions are carbon capture projects worthwhile? Or is it too little too late?

Vote now in the poll below, and add your voice in the comments section:

So how big is the problem? The IPCC has stated that global temperature rises should be kept to no more than 1.5◦C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences to ecosystems.

The question we want you, the readers of EngineeringPro to ponder in this context is ‘are carbon capture projects worthwhile’?

Let’s start with a quick definition of what CCS technology actually is. According to the Carbon Capture & Storage Association ‘Carbon Capture and Storage is a technology that can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.’

It’s a technology that, whilst not widely deployed at present, has been eagerly adopted by Governments across the developed the world as they seek to maintain the output of their industrial economies whilst simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.
Are carbon capture projects worthwhile?
In the UK for example, the government has committed to several ambitious goals in relation to CCS:

  • Finalise plans in 2019 for the UK’s first carbon capture and storage facility.

  • Invest £20 million in supporting construction of CCS technologies at industrial sites across the UK, as part of a £45 million commitment to innovation.

  • Invest up to £315 million in decarbonising industry through the use of CCS tech.

  • Begin work with the Oil and Gas Authority, industry and the Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to identify existing oil and gas infrastructure which could be transformed for CCS projects.

  • That’s just the UK! Elsewhere in Europe, the Americas, Australia, Canada and may other countries similar efforts are underway to deploy CCS technology.

    But there are some even more ambitious carbon capture projects being trialled which promise the counter-intuitive solution of ‘negative emissions’.

    Negative emissions: a solution to the industrial dilemma?


    Despite the IPCC suggesting that radical changes are needed to combat runaway warming, it seems unlikely that governments around the world will be engaging in the wholesale abandonment of industrial society any time soon.

    Instead, many of these industrialised countries are pinning their hopes on a series of new ‘negative emissions’ projects which promise to actively draw down carbon out of the air and sequester it.
    Negative emissions projects such as this one from Carbon Engineering offer one possible solution to climate change
    (Image via Carbon Engineering).

    These negative emissions projects have attracted much attention from established players in the global energy business. BHP has recently invested in Carbon Engineering, whilst ExxonMobil has sunk a sizeable sum into Global Thermostat. Back in Britain, BP has purchased a stake in C-Capture. All of which could offer a solution which enables society to stay industrialised whilst also actively reducing carbon emissions.

    Is carbon capture tech a modern-day Sisyphus?


    All of these efforts to not only reduce carbon carbon emissions, but also directly remove carbon from the air are certainly laudable. But in the face of rapid fossil-fuelled industrialisation amongst developing nations one has to ask, are carbon capture projects fighting a losing battle?

    It brings to mind the tale of Sisyphus from Greek mythology.

    To keep it brief, Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity.
    Although it’s not a precise analogy it does present a reasonably accurate picture of the position that climate advocates find themselves in.
    Growing coal consumption in developing nations threatens to overwhelm carbon capture and storage efforts.
    For all of the innovative emissions-reduction projects outlined above, there are new coal-fired plants being built all the time – especially within the developing nations of the East. In South and SouthEast Asia, coal burning is expected to increase about 3.5% a year for the next two decades (during this period the IPCC says that coal should be phased out entirely to avoid catastrophic warming). Of the countries adding new coal-fired power plants four are the world’s most populous nations: China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. In short, highly polluting coal isn’t going away anytime soon.

    Do carbon capture projects represent a modern-day Sisyphus doomed to repeated failure?

    Have your say


    Are carbon capture projects worthwhile? Or do they represent a niche technology that is insufficient to represent the challenge raised by rising emissions and changing temperatures? Perhaps there’s something we’ve missed? 

    Vote in the poll at the top of this page and let us know your thoughts in the comments below. The best comments will be featured in this week’s EngineeringPro newsletter.

    The results of the poll will be published on Monday 19th August.
    Recent Comments
    Leave CARBON ALONE !!!! We are ALL living in a CARBON-BASED World.. Climate-Change (ex-warming biz) is an ABSOLUTE HOAX, designed by SOCIALIST POLITICOS, to have CONTROL of our fossil-based-resources, hence to control our own LIVES.. Again, Leave CARBON ALONE !!!! Thx. PS. I made a career in Oil&Gas industry.
    ANDRE GURSES, 14 August 2019
    Remove carbon and everything dies - simple
    Ian Joel, 15 August 2019
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