Carbon-capture technology installations stall

Although 75 major carbon capture and storage projects are under way, there are only 8 operational sites -- the same number as two years ago.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

There was a time when carbon capture and storage technology received a lot of airplay, because it offered a way of diverting and storing carbon emissions before they had a chance to do damage on the atmosphere.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems work at the source of generation, sending the emissions to containers or reservoirs developed for the purpose.

new analysis from Worldwatch Institute reports that there are currently only eight operational large-scale carbon capture and storage projects -- the same number that was operational at the end of 2009. This is despite the fact that there are 75 different projects under way in 17 different countries, according to Worldwatch Institute. Funding for the projects as of 2011 was $23.5 billion.

The storage capacity of the operating systems amounts to about 0.5 percent of the emissions produced by energy generated around the world, circa 2010, the Worldwatch report estimated.

The author of the report, Worldwatch energy fellow Matthew Lucky, noted:

"Although CCS technology has the potential to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions -- particularly when used in greenhouse gas-intensive coal plants -- developing the CCS sector to the point that it can make a serious contribution to emissions reduction will require large-scale investment. Capacity will have to be increased several times over before CCS can begin to make a dent in global emissions.

There are factors that could encourage a turn around, including proposed new U.S. regulations that would make it difficult for coal plants to expand capacity without investing in emissions controls.

But sequestration just isn't a big priority for countries still struggling with a slow economic recovery, because of the huge investment they will require. Especially considering that it would take new investment of $5 billion to $6 billion per year between now and 2020 to have a major impact.

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