New study questions carbon capture projects’ ability to cut global CO2 emissions

SINGAPORE – A new study calls into question the ability of carbon capture projects to cut global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and puts forth recommendations for upcoming projects if no alternative solutions to emission reduction can be found.

The report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released last Thursday found that many carbon capture projects either underperformed or failed, and questioned whether the world could rely on such technology to meet its target of net-zero emissions.

The problem is that much of the CO2 captured is being used to extract more oil from oil fields, which contributes to more CO2 emissions, said the study.

It also found that CO2 that has been captured and stored may leak into the atmosphere. This means such storage facilities would require monitoring for centuries to ensure that trapped CO2 does not return to the atmosphere, said the study’s author, Mr Bruce Robertson.

Hence, the report called on developers to take responsibility for the leakage of CO2 from their projects, and stressed that CO2 captured should not be used in oil extraction.

Carbon capture projects must also not be used by governments as a climate solution to justify the use of any type of fossil fuel, said the report.

Carbon capture and storage technology entails the capturing of CO2 and storing it underground. This prevents CO2 from accumulating in the atmosphere, where it traps heat and causes global warming.

The International Energy Agency said that annual carbon capture capacity needs to increase to 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030 to meet the global target of net-zero emissions by 2050. This would help avert the catastrophic impact of climate change on countries and economies.

However, the new report said carbon capture projects in the natural gas, industrial and power sectors were not effective in meeting the goal.

The study looked at 13 flagship carbon capture and storage projects in these sectors, which accounted for around 55 per cent of the total current operational capacity worldwide.

Mr Robertson, an energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said that seven of the 13 projects underperformed, two failed, and one was mothballed.

“Carbon capture and storage technology has been going for 50 years and many projects have failed and continued to fail, with only a handful working,” he added.

The reasons for underperformance are diverse, ranging from economic to engineering problems, said Mr Robertson.