International Energy Agency Realistic Commitments Of Carbon Capture Technology

International Energy Agency: Realistic Commitments of Carbon Capture Technology

The United Nations Climate Summit is taking place in Dubai to determine the fate of future fossil fuels. Activists, experts, and many countries are calling for an agreement to gradually eliminate oil, gas, and coal, which contribute to global warming. On the other hand, energy companies and oil-rich countries plan to continue extracting oil in the future.

Carbon capture and removal technologies are at the forefront of these debates. Many rely on these technologies to achieve net-zero emission commitments. However, some critics are concerned that the technology is being exaggerated to allow the industry to maintain its current state.

Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, stated before the talks began, “The industry must commit to genuinely supporting the world’s energy needs and climate goals, which requires giving up the illusion that incredible amounts of carbon capture are the solution.”

Many industrial facilities, such as coal-fired power plants and ethanol plants, produce carbon dioxide. To prevent this greenhouse gas from reaching the atmosphere, companies can install equipment to separate this gas from other gases outside the chimney and transport it to a place where it can be permanently stored underground. Even industries attempting to reduce emissions, such as cement producers using a chemical process to emit CO2, may still produce some carbon.

Karl Hausker, an expert on achieving net-zero emissions at the climate-focused non-profit World Resources Institute, said, “We call this a reduction technology, a way to stop the increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

Captured carbon is condensed into a form that can be transported to a vehicle or pipeline and then moved to a location underground for long-term storage.

Additionally, carbon removal is also a consideration. Instead of capturing carbon from a single concentrated source, the goal is to remove carbon already present in the atmosphere. This occurs naturally when forests are restored, but there is a push to use technology for this purpose. It is possible to achieve this by using a method that pulls carbon dioxide from the air using chemicals.

For some, carbon removal is essential in the years-long transition to clean energy. For example, despite significant gains for electric vehicles in some countries, gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to operate in the future. Industries like shipping and aviation find complete decarbonization challenging.

Jennifer Pett-Ridge, the head of the carbon initiative at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said, “We need to remove what’s already in the atmosphere in addition to stopping emissions.” The laboratory, a major emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S., leads in this effort.

Birleşmiş Milletler İklim Zirvesi Fosil Yakıtların Geleceği Tartışılıyor (2)

HOW IS THE TECHNOLOGY PROGRESSING?

Many experts acknowledge that carbon capture and storage technology works but is expensive and not yet widely used.

According to the International Energy Agency, there are approximately 40 large-scale carbon capture projects worldwide, capturing about 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is less than 0.1% of the total global emissions calculated by the Global Carbon Project at 36.8 billion metric tons. The IEA described the history of carbon capture as “generally filled with unmet expectations” and emphasized that the path to achieving global net-zero emissions largely depends on reducing fossil fuel use.

While the pace of new projects is increasing, they face significant obstacles. There is opposition to pipelines carrying CO2 to storage sites in the U.S. Security is a concern; in 2020, a CO2 pipeline in Mississippi exploded, releasing carbon dioxide and sending dozens to the hospital. The federal government is working to improve security standards.

Companies may also struggle to obtain permits. South Dakota regulators, for example, rejected a construction permit this year to move CO2 pipelines to a storage site in the Midwest.

Direct air capture technology is also available, but its widespread implementation is more distant and particularly costly.

Birleşmiş Milletler İklim Zirvesi Fosil Yakıtların Geleceği Tartışılıyor (3)

WHO SUPPORTS IT?

The American Petroleum Institute claims that carbon capture technology is the “key to economy-wide cleaner energy use” to reduce global carbon emissions, stating that oil and gas will remain critical energy sources for decades. Most oil companies, when examining their plans to achieve net-zero emissions, rely on carbon capture in some form.

The Biden administration is also calling for more investment in carbon capture and removal, relying on larger expenditures compared to other countries worldwide. However, this industry requires incentives to attract private financing. The Inflation Reduction Act makes tax benefits more generous. For instance, investors can receive a $180 credit for each ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere and stored underground. The Department of Energy is spending billions to support new projects.

Jessie Stolark, the Executive Director of the Non-Profit Carbon Capture Coalition, said, “We are taking a proven and tested technology and applying it much more broadly and at a higher cost to sectors.”

Investment is increasing, and the Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating dozens of applications for wells capable of storing carbon. Local leaders, such as those in Louisiana and North Dakota, are struggling to attract projects and investments.

Even left-leaning California has an ambitious climate plan that includes carbon capture and direct air capture. Leaders say there is no other way to reduce emissions to zero.

WHO OPPOSES IT?

Some environmentalists argue that fossil fuel companies are leading the way in accelerating carbon capture and ignoring the necessity of rapidly phasing out oil, gas, and coal.

Shaye Wolf, the director of climate science at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The fossil fuel industry has proven itself dangerous and deceitful.”

There are other concerns as well. Some projects have not met their carbon removal goals. In 2021, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated that out of eight pilot projects for carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants, only one had begun operating when the report was published, despite receiving millions of dollars in funding.

Opponents also argue that carbon capture could potentially sustain a polluting facility that would otherwise shut down earlier. This could harm poorer minority communities living near long-standing polluting facilities.

Moreover, critics point out that in the U.S., much of the captured carbon is ultimately injected underground and used to extract more oil; this process is referred to as “enhanced oil recovery.”

Hausker emphasized the importance of governments setting policies to reduce fossil fuel use and incorporating carbon capture and removal into those policies. He said, “We’re not going to tell Exxon, ‘please, please stop developing fossil fuels.’”


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