Where did carbon capture and storage go?

Netherlands CATO-2 event reveals flagging support for CCS pending 'robust’ carbon pricing. Shell - ‘long term commitment’ required to move from today’s white elephant projects to CCS at scale.

We attended the annual CATO- 2 event in Rotterdam last month for an update on CCS. Master of ceremonies Jan Brouwer (TNO) observed that while renewables are making faster progress than anticipated, fossil fuels will play a major role in energy supply for the next several decades. Limiting their greenhouse gas emissions will mandate the use of CS as a ‘bridge’ to a greener world.

Anita van den Ende from the Dutch environment ministry outlined the ‘interesting times’ of energy in the run-in to COP21. Current COP21 pledges fall short of the 2°C warming target, so ‘more action, including CCS is necessary.’ While current focus is on technology, social acceptability is a big issue for both CCS and wind – folks say ‘yes’ to renewables but ‘not in my back yard!’ van den Ende expressed ‘curiosity’ as to where the EU CCS flagship ROAD Project is going. ROAD sees Rotterdam as a CO2 ‘hub’ for Northwest Europe. There will be a Netherlands pavilion at COP21, van den Ende invited CATO folks to tag along.

Maarten de Hoog (of the Rotterdam port authority DCMR) said that Rotterdam was set to be the world capital of CCS. Coal fired power plants are ‘needed in this country’ so why was the CCS ambition not met? One answer is cost, and another is foot dragging Greenpeace which sees CCS as aiding and abetting coal, and there are the nimbies. Answering van den Ende, de Hoog stated that the ROAD demonstrator is in the final decision phase and its future is uncertain. CCS is the future if we want to solve the climate issue, but politics and economics have proven stumbling blocks to date.

Project director Onno Tillema confirmed that the ROAD business case failed because of high capex, opex and ‘abex’ the cost of abandoning the pilot and operating at scale. The hope was that the emissions trading scheme was going to pay for the operation, but ETS prices are now too low. The team is to remobilize early 2016 with a final go/no go decision for mid 2016.

Tim Bertels (Shell) warned that we may not hear much about CCS from the Paris COP21. While CCS is a ‘reality,’ without a robust carbon price, it is ‘cheaper for companies like ours to vent CO2 to the atmosphere.’ Shell, like other oil majors sees natural gas as ‘abundant, affordable and acceptable,’ thanks to 50% less emissions than coal. Shell is involved in several CCS pilots at various stages of funding or advancement but what is really needed is a long term commitment to CCS rather than today’s one of a kind/white elephant projects.


We also listened-in to a recent web meeting hosted by the International Energy Agency where we heard poacher-turned-gamekeeper Kamel Ben Naceur (formerly Schlumberger, now IEA director of sustainable energy policy and technology) explain that CCS was largely absent from the IEA’s current ‘Bridge’ scenario. More in our next post-COP21 issue.

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