Carbon capture and storage, an essential but far from sufficient technology to meet the climate challenge

A recent report by the London-based think-tank Energy Transitions Commission estimates that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) would store some of the greenhouse gas emissions from activities that manufacturers will not be able to decarbonize by 2050. This “ low-carbon but not carbon-free technology “, as the authors of the report write, will play a role ” vital but limited” to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2°C.

In 2050, CCS would intervene in 3 stations: the impossibility of finding a clean alternative energy, the contribution to the reduction of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and, in certain specific cases, for economic reasons.

In the absence of alternatives to fossil fuels to operate certain industrial activities, such as cement plants, CCS would then be a good way to pursue these activities that emit greenhouse gases by reducing their climate impacts. CCS could also intervene to capture and lock up some of the carbon already emitted into the earth’s atmosphere so that it does not warm the planet. Finally, the use of carbon capture and storage could be justified in certain cases where this technology would be less expensive than decarbonized alternatives due to certain local specificities.

Around 40 million tonnes of CO2 are captured each year around the world, at around thirty sites. Even though CCS technology is developing, it still faces significant costs. However, future capture needs by 2050 are estimated at between 7 and 10 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, which represents up to a quarter of current emissions, according to projections by the Energy Transitions Commission. It hypothesizes that, by the middle of the century, the consumption of coal and oil will have decreased by 90% and that of gas by 30%.

The investments required in CCS infrastructure are “ important, but manageable” and estimated at 5,000 billion dollars, that is a tiny part (0.1%) of the world GDP expected by the middle of the 21st century. In addition, for the deployment of this method to be successful, the price of carbon must increase and governments must support these technologies.

The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) is a coalition of several industry groups whose goal is to promote technologies to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, including through decarbonization, hydrogen and fuel technologies. electrification of many sectors.

Julien Leprovost

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