Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves capturing carbon dioxide released by power stations and other industrial sources, and burying it deep underground. But in addition to keeping an important greenhouse gas (GHG) out of the atmosphere, this technology will lead to benefits and trade-offs for air pollution. A new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) describes the effects that CCS may have on emissions of some key air pollutants.
"Carbon capture and storage can bridge the gap for the next few decades, cutting emissions until we can shift to a low carbon economy", Professor Jacqueline McGlade EEA Executive Director said. "Our report shows that while CCS may have an overall positive effect on air pollution, emissions of some pollutants may increase. Understanding these types of trade-offs are extremely important if we are to deploy this technology across Europe and the world."
What does CCS mean for air pollutants?
CCS technologies require approximately 15 – 25 % more energy depending on the particular type of technology used, so plants with CCS need more fuel than conventional plants. This in turn can lead to increased 'direct emissions' occurring from facilities where CCS is installed, and increased 'indirect emissions' caused by the extraction and transport of the additional fuel.
The EEA report identifies some of the potential benefits and trade-offs for the main air pollutants. It also presents a life-cycle case study for 2050 considering three different scenarios, showing the potential impacts on emissions of air pollutants if CCS were widely implemented in Europe. Key findings include:
Carbon capture and storage technologies are assumed to play a central role in helping Europe achieve its long-term GHG reduction objectives in a cost-effective way, reducing domestic GHG emissions by 80-95 % by 2050.Implementing CCS is therefore considered as a bridging technology, and should not introduce barriers or delays to the EU’s objectives of moving toward a lower-energy and more resource-efficient economy.
In the EU, there are plans to build several demonstration plants for CO2 capture and storage in order to commercialise the technology from 2020. Currently, there are around 80 large scale CCS projects at various stages of development around the world but only a few are operational. There are as yet no large-scale CCS plants in operation which cover all three elements of the CCS chain – the capture, transport and storage of CO2.
Nov 19, 2011.