Briefing | Jan. 11, 2021

World cannot meet climate targets relying on carbon capture and storage

Unable to ignore the catastrophic emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, the fossil fuel industry has turned to carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a solution that allows them to carry on business as usual.

But with serious concerns about this unproven technology, Global Witness and Friends of the Earth Scotland have commissioned world-renowned climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre in Manchester to assess the role of fossil fuel-based Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the energy system, and its ability to help to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5°C.

This ground-breaking research finds that CCS cannot be relied on to deliver global 2030 emissions reductions, whilst the majority of CCS that exists is being used to extract more oil. It finds:

Current status of fossil fuel-based CCS in the energy system

  • The scale of deployment of CCS to date is significantly less than proponents have predicted, with only 26 CCS plants currently in operation globally.
  • Global operational CCS capacity is currently 39MtCO2 per year, this is about 0.1% of annual global emissions from fossil fuels and less than Scotland’s territorial emissions in 2018.There is no operational CCS capacity in the UK or the EU at all.
  • 81% of carbon captured to date has been used to extract more oil via the process of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). This means CCS is being predominantly used for carbon-emitting oil extraction that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.
  • Current CCS projects usually target 90% capture at peak capacity. The Petra Nova facility missed capture targets by around 17% between starting in 2017 and its mothballing in May 2020.

Key implications for delivering Paris Agreement goal to limit warming to 1.5°C

  • Fossil fuel-based CCS is not capable of operating with zero emissions. Many projections assume a capture rate for CCS of 95%, however, capture rates at that level are unproven in practice.
  • Fossil fuel-based CCS will continue to entail residual, process and supply chain greenhouse gas emissions. There must be consideration of whether fossil fuel hydrogen with CCS is sufficiently low-carbon relative to remaining carbon budgets.
  • Even if the technology is to become economically and technically viable at scale, optimistic forecasts do not anticipate significant CCS capacity until at least the 2030s.
  • A focus on CCS will not help achieve 2030 CO2 emission reduction targets being adopted by Governments, which have to be met if we are to prevent a climate catastrophe. The research emphasises the real danger of reliance on CCS in energy for delivering these vital emission reductions, given they cannot be expected to any degree until at least 2030.

On the basis of this research, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness believe the promotion of CCS in energy is a distraction from the rapid growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency required. We urge instead reliance on technologies that can deliver the emissions reductions required by 2030 if we are to deliver on the Paris Agreement goals.

Download a summary brief of the report produced by Global Witness and Friends of the Earth Scotland:

The full report is available to download from the Tyndall Centre website and below.


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