News Column

Infographic: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

June 13, 2014

Jared Anderson

After analyzing the EPA's 'Clean Power Plan' proposal for the Scientific American, David Biello aptly concludes that in order "to burn coal or even natural gas without exacerbating global warming requires CO2 capture and storage whether in India or Indiana. The EPA, because of the cost of such CCS technology, will not go that far." Meanwhile, across the pond a report from the UK'sHouse of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee reaches a conclusion that only underlines how vital this technology is to tackling climate change:

"CCS is one of the only technologies available that has the potential to decarbonise fossil fuel power plants and other industrial processes. The capture, transport and storage technologies involved are considered to be safe, the scientific and engineering challenges small and the capacity to be deployed at scale promising. New and novel CCS technologies, such as the NET Power cycle, have the potential to improve CCS prospects. It is widely acknowledged that CCS could play an important role in helping the UK to meet its carbon reduction commitments. This role may change over time to take account of global policy developments including the 21st Conference of the Parties in 2015. Although CO2 emissions have reduced in this country and the EU, the carbon footprint of both has increased. If CCS was widely adopted abroad, it could help to reduce the UK's embedded carbon emissions. Deploying CCS in the UK could also increase UK plc's future share of the global CCS market, create a North Sea "storage market" whereby the service of permanently storing CO2 was sold to other European countries, and protect jobs associated with the UK's coal and energy intensive industries. The UK is considered ideally suited to take advantage of CCS because of its combination of geological, engineering, industrial and academic capabilities, together with a stated policy commitment to reduce CO2 emissions and the foundational legislative framework required for CO2 storage."

Instead of simply dismissing CCS technology as currently not commercially viable, the report makes very clear that this technology could save and protect jobs associated with the coal industry. Moreover, it proposes a financial incentive framework the US should consider replicating if the current US administration is really interested in an "All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy" and, at the same time, tackling climate change. The report stipulates:

"Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has the potential to help keep carbon emissions within the limits that are needed to avoid dangerous global temperature rises. As such, it could be a game changer in efforts to tackle climate change, but high energy and financial costs currently make CCS uneconomic without specific policy interventions to support it. These are likely to be subsidies from the public purse and/or the consumer. As a result, progress on CCS has been extraordinarily slow with only a handful of projects in operation around the globe and none fitted to power stations at full scale. (…) To ensure CCS can start helping us cut power sector emissions by the 2020s, the Government needs to prioritise designing a credible financial incentive framework using guaranteed-price 'Contracts for Difference' (CfD) and commit to a realistic but ambitious timeline for awarding support to projects both inside and outside its CCS commercialisation competition."

Note, in order to spur energy innovation, government has a role to play – preferably limited but still direct – as is evidenced in the renewable energy sector. Strengthening clean energy technology alone, however, will not reduce carbon emissions. It still requires a parallel and smart cutting back on fossil fuel consumption.

So, how does CCS work?

In general, carbon capture and storage (CCS) – also referred to as carbon capture and sequestration – can be broken down into three major steps, with the overall objective to capture CO2 produced by large power plants, thereby preventing large volumes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. First, carbon dioxide needs to be collected at its source. It is then compressed for transportation and finally injected deep into a secure natural rock formation for permanent storage at a safe site.

The following graphic illustrates the three major steps in the CCS process:

Source: Energy and Earth Resources, Department of State Development, Business and Innovation within the Victorian State Government (Australia)

Capture / Separation of CO2

Process starts with capturing carbon dioxide in large quantities from power plants or other major carbon dioxide emitters.


Collected CO2 gas is then transported under high-pressure in a liquid-like state via pipelines, ships or trucks to a selected storage site. Note, carbon dioxide is non-flammable and therefore in comparison to natural gas relatively safe to transport.


Eventually, CO2 is injected into deep natural underground rock formations suitable for geological storage, where the fluid is ideally trapped below a layer of impervious stone and absorbed in the porous rock below (Geological sequestration). Other possible forms of sequestration include mineral and biological sequestration.


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Breaking Energy

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