In a blow to the deal struck between the Obama administration and India during pre-Copenhagen visits, in which the President arranged for the transfer of innovative new clean coal technologies; Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) might be removed from the list of technologies that industrial countries can invest in to reduce worldwide emissions to meet Kyoto Accord goals.
This comes at a time when Kyoto Accord requirements have prompted serious investigations (unlike the always “FutureGen” under the previous US administration) into CCS that are actually starting to produce results.
A Canadian trial for tapping into gas from un-mined coal-fields to run gas power plants, instead of mining and burning the coal is showing results in Alberta. A UK company is building a hydrogen electricity plant with CCS in California (previous story), partly funded by the Obama administration.
Under Kyoto, which China, India and the US did not sign; industrial countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in more renewable energy, and by reducing fossil fuel emissions; for example with CCS, and using efficiency technologies like combined heat & power and waste-to-energy.
But a turnaround from last year; after some countries expressed their reservations at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, carbon capture and storage is off the list of options that qualify. With 300 million allowances on the ETS CCS had access to up to 7 billion Euros ($10 billion) in funding.
The issue is the “untested and unproven” long-term safety of storage technologies. Wave power is at a similar stage of unproven development with just the first few pilot programs totaling less than 300 MW, (or around the size of just one typical solar farm or gas plant) being tried around the world, but safety is not an issue.
Part of the $100 billion promised from already industrialized nations to the developing nations would likely have gone to CCS projects aimed at reducing emissions from China and India. The advantage is that power plants in developing countries are yet to be built. This offers a clean slate opportunity that is no longer available in the US, where old dirty coal plants have long been grandfathered in; with the result that US coal plants are no more efficient than they were in 1957.
As a part of the Obama administration’s Manhattan Project level of VC funding – $36 billion for breakthrough renewable energy technologies; the US Department of Energy invested $1.4 billion in 12 CCS projects. Another three projects are due to receive $979 million this month.
The win-win payoff for US investment would come from technology sales resulting in greenhouse gas emission reductions from China and India.
But any final decision will be delayed till the UNFCCC’s scientific advisory body reports back to delegates at the next climate conference in Mexico in 2010 or in South Africa (a major coal dependent nation) in 2011, after it investigates the risk of seepage from storage sites and liability issues in the event of leakage.
Image: Flikr user Chuckumentary