DNV: Survey Finds Strong Support for CO2 Capture and Storage Tech

A new survey of over 500 key energy decision makers from across Europe has found a strong appetite for the development of CO2 capture and storage technologies in Europe as a way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. The survey was funded by the Research Directorate of the European Commission.

The survey was coordinated by DNV, and it was directed at the energy industry, researchers, governments, environmental groups and parliamentarians and respondents from 28 European nations participated.

Dr Simon Shackley, from the University of Manchester, who led the research, said:

"It is clear from the results of this survey of over 500 of the key players in the European energy industry and policy making that there is strong support for the development and implementation of technologies for the capture of CO2 from power plants and its storage in geological reservoirs. The technology is now being seen as necessary if Europe is to meet the demanding CO2 reduction targets that are in the process of being adopted. The perceived advantages of CO2 capture and storage are that it can be implemented over the next few decades and has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions rapidly in most countries. The key concerns expressed in the survey are the relatively high cost at present of CO2 capture and the effect of investment in this technology upon development of renewable sources of energy."

The main findings of the survey are summarized below.

Need for CO2 Capture and Storage

Three quarters thought that widespread use of CO2 capture and storage – abbreviated to CCS – was definitely or probably necessary to achieve deep reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2050 in their own country.

Only one in eight considered that CCS was probably or definitely not necessary to achieve deep reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Risk Perceptions of CO2 Capture and Storage

The environmental and health and safety risks of CCS were regarded by the majority of respondents as being moderate or minimal. For most risks, 60 to 80% thought that there would be no risks or that the risks would be minimal, 15 to 30% thought that the risks would be moderate, whilst 2 to just over 10% thought that they would be very serious.

The greatest risk identified was that of the additional use of fossil fuels necessary to provide the extra energy for CCS (the so-called 'energy penalty'). Nearly 50% thought that this was a very serious or moderate risk.

Another risk which concerned 44% of the sample was that investment in CCS might have negative impacts upon development of other low-carbon energy technologies such as renewable energies. 51%, however, did not think that there would be negative impacts or thought that impacts might even be positive. A similar response was observed with respect to the possible impacts of CCS upon development of a more decentralized power generation system.

Incentives for CO2 Capture and Storage

Half of the respondents thought that incentives for CCS should be set either at the same level as those for renewables (39%) or at a higher level (11%). By contrast, a third of the respondents consider that incentives for CCS should be lower than those for renewables. A further 12% felt that incentives for CCS were not needed at all.

By far the most popular incentive mechanism is support for research, development and demonstration (over 90% in favor), followed by an early commitment to extend the EU Emissions Trading Scheme with tighter emission caps (77% in favor, 8% against).

Environmental organizations least enthusiastic

Environmental organizations are the most skeptical about the role of CCS and have a more negative perception of the potential risks than other stakeholders. Environmental organizations also regard CCS as having a strongly or at least moderately negative impact upon investment in renewable energies, energy efficiency, energy demand reduction and movement towards a decentralized power generation system.

Nevertheless, on balance, there are still more respondents from environmental organizations who believe that CCS is 'definitely' or 'probably necessary' in their own country (40%) than believe that it is 'probably' or 'definitely not necessary' (35%) (with a further 25% believing that CCS is 'only necessary if other options fail to live up to current expectations').

The Energy industry most enthusiastic

The energy industry is most enthusiastic about the role of CCS, including a low perception of the risks and generally not sharing the concerns regarding the adverse impacts of CCS upon investment in renewable energies.

Researchers and governments tended to be somewhat closer to the views of the energy industry, whilst parliamentarians tended to be closer to the views of the environmental organizations.

Norway, the Netherlands and UK lead the way

Strongest support for CCS was identified in Norway, Netherlands and UK. Not far behind in support for CCS are Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. CCS is most frequently regarded by European nations as probably necessary, but with some potential risks and uncertainties that need to be addressed before it can be more fully endorsed. The least enthusiastic countries are Sweden, Finland and Eastern European countries. Nevertheless, on balance, these countries are still more in favor of CCS than against its use.

Policy recommendations

Stronger financial incentives to support the implementation of CCS within Europe were strongly supported by all energy sector decision-makers in all countries surveyed (with the exception of some environmental organizations). There is strong support across-the-board for more research, development and demonstration of CCS technologies and the underlying science.

More effort at communicating and evaluating the role of CCS in Eastern Europe and in some Scandinavian countries is necessary and existing EU projects are tackling this gap. Many European nations are struggling to meet their Kyoto greenhouse gas emission targets for 2008-2012. Through inclusion of CCS in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, it might be possible for countries with the most suitable conditions for CCS to trade the CO2 reductions with other EU countries.

On 9th March 2007 the Prime Ministers of the EU nations committed the EU to a unilateral 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, and to a 30% reduction by that date if other industrialized countries make similar commitments.

Many European countries are currently failing to meet their legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The following percentage reductions in emissions (relative to 1990 levels) are required by 2008-2012: Austria & Denmark (-19%), Finland (-14%), Ireland (-10%), Portugal (-13%), Italy (-18.5%) and Spain (-33%). Whilst CCS cannot contribute much to meeting the Kyoto target, it can assist in meeting the even more challenging long-term targets that are necessary in the EU.

CO2 capture and storage (CCS) involves the physical or chemical removal of CO2 from the emissions arising from power plants or chemical works. Between 80 and 90% of the CO2 can be removed. The CO2 is then compressed and conveyed as a liquid to be stored deep underground (> 800m down) in a suitable reservoir. The most frequently used reservoirs are depleted oil and gas reservoirs and 'deep saline aquifers' – rock formations which can store large volumes of CO2 under pressure.

CCS has been taking place since 1996 in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea at the Sleipner field. Over 8 million tonnes of CO2 have been stored in a saline aquifer deep below the sea bed.

On 27th February 2007 the first onshore CO2 storage demonstration project in Europe began at the village of Ketzin near to Potsdam, Germany. The drilling of the borehole for injection of the CO2 into a rock formation that had been used previously for storing natural gas was initiated.

CCS is not currently a cheap option for reducing CO2 emissions. It is anticipated to increase the cost of electricity by between 1.5 and 4 euro cents per kWh (1 – 2.5 p/kWh), representing an increase in the whole sale price of electricity of 20 to 90%. Nevertheless, the costs of reducing CO2 emissions through use of CCS are comparable with the costs of other key contending technologies including off-shore wind, bio-energy and new nuclear build.