CCS, reality or science fiction?

One of the most interesting presentations I attended this week at COP-20 was on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. This technology is designed to extract CO2 emissions from coal power plants. The word “clean coal”, probably invented by the coal industry, is coal with CCS technology. Several environmental groups, however, oppose CCS technologies because they believe that it would likely extend the employment of coal for power generation. However, the latest IPCC report calls CCS an essential technology in mitigating the role of climate change.
I was very surprised to hear Michael Monea of Saskpower in Canada claiming that they have modernized an old coal power plant and reached 80% efficiency capturing CO2 and will reach 90% in the next few months. They have also reduced SO2 emissions to zero. While Monea wouldn’t talk about the profitability and acknowledged that considerable subsidies went into this project, he firmly asserted that at a carbon price of $30/ton this plant would be profitable. That $30/ton is within the reasonable expectations of future carbon prices.
90% of CO2 capture is a very impressive achievement. If true, and if this technology could be deployed worldwide and the captured carbon could stay in the ground forever, or at least for decades until better technology is invented to seal leaks, it could be a very significant contribution towards reducing our greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Let’s hope that the Canadian government takes a serious scientific approach to studying the effects of this project and shares the results with the public and the rest of the world and then, if it is demonstrated to work, let’s hope it gets the popular support it needs to move forward. When it comes to the biggest long term threat faced by humanity, we need as many options as possible.

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