Carbon capture & storage

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© Wild Wonders of Europe / Inaki Relanzon / WWF
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been promoted as a means to ‘decarbonize’ fossil fuels by removing and storing the CO2 during the production of energy.

Whilst CCS may play an important role in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the future, there are currently too many unanswered questions for it to be considered an immediate solution. This is particularly true for marine sequestration, storage in the open ocean, open acquifiers, lakes or on the sea floor.

WWF calls on governments to resolve the following key concerns:

  • Ensuring the permanent safe storage of CO2 so that no leakage or gassing out is possible.  This would mean ensuring the CO2 is safely stored for a period of 100,000 years and should be assessed and confirmed through independent scientific review.

  • Confirming that the storage of CO2 does not interfere with or have negative direct impacts on the environment, specifically, biodiversity. This also must be assessed by independent scientific review.

  • Adoption of internationally agreed procedures for independent verification and monitoring of storage and related activities before CCS technologies are allowed to count towards greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Marine sequestration, storage in the open ocean, open acquifiers, lakes or on the sea floor should be avoided in any case as these technologies are unexplored and carry huge potential risks.

WWF is very apprehensive about an approach that embraces CCS, and calls on governments and industry to resolve key questions and concerns BEFORE giving the green light to this approach.  

High cost?

The rush towards carbon capture and storage (CCS) by interested stakeholders as a ‘cost-effective’ means to combat climate change frequently does not reflect the real costs.  

Compared to the cost of burning fossil fuels without capture, CCS would increase the costs of power generation by 40-80%, varying according to location, technology and type of fuel.

The cost increase reflects the increased energy demand resulting from capturing carbon, the cost of capture technology and the cost of transport to suitable storage locations (in the case of post-combustion capture). The potential costs for storage such as monitoring and verification to ensure that stored carbon really remains in storage for thousands of years would add additional unquantified cost.

With so many unknowns surrounding CCS, would it really be sensible to invest significant sums in this technology when it is likely that the falling cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy options will will make them directly competitive?

Renewable energies and energy efficiency have a further significant advantage over CCS. There are none of the negative environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel extraction and processing and they provide an infrastructure for a carbon-free energy sector rather than continued reliance on fossil fuels.

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