Report: Carbon Capture Projects Not Progressing Fast Enough

When the EPA announced last month its intention to regulate the carbon emissions from new fossil fuel power plants, the fossil fuel industry claimed that the emissions standards were largely out-of-reach for coal-fired power plants. In order for a new coal power plant to be built in the US, it would need to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to cut its emissions down to 1,110 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour—a reduction of about 60%.

In response, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy reassured critics that CCS technology was quickly advancing and that it would be a viable option for new coal-fired power plants. But just how far along is this technology?

A new report from the Global CCS Institute suggests that CCS development is actually losing steam. According to the report, there were 75 CCS development projects in 2012. That number has dropped to 65 in 2013. The institute’s CEO explained this drop by saying: “Ongoing uncertainty about the timing, nature, extent and durability of emissions reductions policies, as well as a lack of sufficient incentives and funding support for more CCS projects, are limiting investment in the technology.”

The good news is that the number of operational CCS projects rose from 8 in 2012 to 12 in 2013. Unfortunately, CCS projects in the development stages are not keeping up. The only CCS projects proposed in 2013 have been in China.

Despite this, the US is still the world leader in CCS technology with 20 projects in the development stages. China, meanwhile, has 12 projects being developed. Of the 12 operational CCS projects, 7 are located in North America. Two more will begin operation in 2014—one in Kemper County, Mississippi and one in Saskatchewan, Canada. These two projects will represent the first coal-fired power plants with CCS technology installed.

In order for CCS technology to put a dent in the emissions that are causing climate change, the number of CCS projects will need to increase dramatically, according to the report. “An urgent policy response is required to ensure the successful global large-scale demonstration of CCS in the next five to 10 years.”