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CCS AWOL?

July 25th, 2014

As recently as the Stern Review in 2006, carbon capture and storage from coal-fired power stations was seen as the most promising clean energy technology on offer. This was before the huge decline in the cost of solar PV and the more modest, but still substantial progress on wind energy. Since then, the technology has dropped off the radar, to the point that many reports don’t even mention it. But I just got an invite to a conference on the subject, so I thought I would take another look.

The blurb refers to a number of projects “Callide and Surat Basin in Queensland, CarbonNet in Victoria, and South West Hub in Western Australia”. A quick survey suggests that these are mostly at “proof of concept” stage, rather offering a technology that could actually be implemented on a large scale. Globally, the site says

The Global Status of CCS Report: February 2014 states that there are 12 large-scale CCS projects in operation globally and nine under construction. Overall, these 21 projects have a total capture capacity of almost 40 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

If my arithmetic is right, the entire global effort is about equivalent to the impact of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target:the large scale component calls for 41 000 GWH a year by 2020: my rule of thumb is 1MWh = 1 tonne CO2.

There’s also a report on CCS in the New York Times, which is optimistic, but very vague on cost.

That’s disappointing: from Australia’s point of view, a cheap, safe method of CCS would have resolved the climate change problem, at least as regards electricity, with no adverse impact on our coal industry. I’d be interested in comments from more informed readers.

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  1. Jennifer Gow
    July 25th, 2014 at 17:28 | #1

    This is a classic example of vapourware technology, a particularly apt term in this case. 20 years ago we were assured that CCS (AKA “clean coal”) would be a industrial level technology in 20 years. The 20 year promise remains receeding into the future. Yes there have been a few pilot projects in very specific circumstances usually involving a power station adjacent to a depleted oil well where the CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery. However the energy cost of capturing, compressing, transporting and (fingers crossed) ensuring the long term storage of the CO2 makes even the most efficient power plant uncompetitive with wind and soon the declining cost of solar PV, and in the medium term solar thermal with heat storage.
    I have always seen the oxymoronic or simply moronic concept of “clean coal” as a sop to the coal industry promising some sort of future. Interestingly enough the coal industry has not bought the myth to the extent of commiting serious investment of their own money.
    Even if CCS was developed at an industrial scale the logistic issues of capturing, transporting and storing for the next few thousand years billions of tonnes of CO2 year after year after year is utterly mind boggling. This is particularly the case given that wind, solar PV, solar thermal are developed industrial technologies that feed electricity grids around the world NOW. In the short to medium term battery storage will reach and surpass grid parity as well.
    let the death spiral for coal begin.

  2. Hermit
    July 25th, 2014 at 17:33 | #2

    I believe the biggest CO2 burial project will be when Gorgon gas (unburnt) is scrubbed of CO2 at Barrow island WA. Then in the life of the project some 120 million tonnes of CO2 will be injected into saline aquifers below the island. If some gas escaped a la Lake Nyos in Cameroon the WA and Federal governments will pay the bills. That was before we had a PM who said CO2 was harmless so perhaps any asphyxiation must be imaginary.

    Those hoping for solar salvation should note we have about 3 GW of solar capacity that works in the middle of sunny days while it is thought Australia has 54 GW of total generating capacity much of which can deliver any time any weather.

    The CCS show projects don’t seem to be where they’re most needed. I suspect they will have a cost of CO2 avoided well over $100 a tonne whereas last week the official price was $25.40. Hazelwood brown coal station for example spews out 16 million tonnes a year of CO2. A tiny amount was used to feed algae but the rest will go into the atmosphere until 2031 perhaps longer. The show projects are just a stalling tactic. The electricity generating sector needs to lose over 100 million tonnes by then. The answer must be hamsters on treadmills.

  3. Pete Moran
    July 25th, 2014 at 17:53 | #3

    Using Hermit’s example, and a project that I’m fairly familiar with;

    If the Gorgon fossil gas project actually burnt, generated and recaptured the CO2 back into the field onsite, sending the power via HVDC to Asia (instead of the liquided gas) the cost of the delivered energy would be astronomical. I’ve seen ranges from $340 to $800MWh. I think Sustainable Energy WA did some numbers of this scenario.

    The problem is not with the CCS technology, it’s that you consume a significant percentage of the generated energy compressing and then storing/pumping the CO2. This immediately makes the plant uneconomic. 20-30% of your delivered energy compressing CO2 and pumping it back underground means you can’t compete with pure renewables w/storage or (spare me) nuclear.

    BTW, the carbon bomb that we’re going to let off via the total of gas projects pales in comparison to tar sands, coal basins.

  4. David Allen
    July 25th, 2014 at 18:30 | #4

    CCS today is like appeasement in the 1930′s. People will look back and say, “What were you thinking you morons?”

  5. July 25th, 2014 at 18:48 | #5

    The Working Group III IPCC 5th Assessment Report pushes CCS quite strongly. I think it is coming back into consideration again as the problems with renewables on a large scale have become more apparent. That’s also the message I got from the conferences I attended in June-July in the Northern Hemisphere…

  6. Pete Moran
    July 25th, 2014 at 19:01 | #6

    David Stern :
    The Working Group III IPCC 5th Assessment Report pushes CCS quite strongly.

    I had wondered if this really is an admission that the vested interests are absolutely determined to drain every drop of fossil fuel they can extra.

    problems with renewables on a large scale

    Had a quick look on your blog David, but what are you referring to?

  7. Ikonoclast
    July 25th, 2014 at 20:07 | #7

    A few quotes from Process Ecology, Alberta.

    “CCS applied to a modern conventional power plant could reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by approximately 80-90% compared to a plant without CCS. However, capturing and compressing CO2 requires significant additional energy and would increase the fuel needs of a coal-fired plant with CCS by about 25% (1). These estimates apply to purpose-built plants near a storage location: applying the technology to retrofit existing plants or plants far from a storage location will be more expensive.”

    “Because the CO2 product is at atmospheric pressure, a large amount of energy is needed to compress the CO2 for transportation. Incremental losses for thermal power plants that use amine scrubbing ranges between 10 and 30% of the total power the plant would generate if CO2 capture were not included (3). This energy penalty translates into a noticeable impact on electricity prices.”

    “A research presentation from Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) (4) highlighted the fact that in large industrial sites the energy requirements for CCS technologies may be supplied (at least partially) with available excess heat. Applying the principles of Process Integration leads to modified process designs where, for example, the heat required to regenerate an absorption agent in post-combustion schemes is provided by “waste heat” from the background processes.”

    End of Quotes.

    With respect to the last quote above, we cannot assume that all generation sites currently waste “waste heat”. Waste heat is often utilised already. For example, very dirty coal burning power stations in Russia already utilise waste heat from the plant for central heating municipal apartment blocks.

    Another concern is how many coal power stations are close to sites useful for carbon storage? And what guarantee do we have that geological storage sites won’t fracture or leak?

    CCS was always doomed due to the energy overheads and the many technical and practical obstacles to it (suitable, safe natural resevoirs being a big issue). I am sure I said all this a long time ago on this blog. CCS is “putting toothpaste back in the tube”. In other words, it’s trying to undo the effects of a lot of unleashed disorder or entropy (not exactly the same things of course) by using costly energy to undo the disorder / entropy / negative externality generated. It’s better to not create the problems in the first place.

  8. July 25th, 2014 at 20:37 | #8

    See my post on the key messages from the WG3 IPCC Report:

    http://stochastictrend.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/key-messages-from-ipcc-working-group.html\

    This was based on Ottmar Edenhofer’s press conference that I listened in on.

    At the workshop in A Toxa I attended in late June, Richard Schmalensee presented findings of a yet to be released MIT report on the “Future of Solar”. It was skeptical of how much of a role solar can play any time soon in addressing the climate issue. It’s not clear that the costs of solar can come down a lot more when most of the costs are now in the non-silicon components. There is also the issue of rare materials needed for alternatives to silicon. Then there is the intermittency/storage issue. Yes, we keep hearing about storage breakthroughs but they aren’t yet commercial products. And even when they are they add huge costs. There is a need for new transmission infrastructure to the renewable locations. Markets like the Australian NEM are not designed for handling solar’s cost profile. We need to reform electricity markets again (payments for capacity etc.).

  9. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2014 at 20:42 | #9

    “Those hoping for solar salvation should note we have about 3 GW of solar ”

    Derp

  10. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2014 at 20:45 | #10

    @David Stern

    It’s certainly true that we need to reform electricity markets, but we’ve been doing that continuously, and badly, for 20+ years. It’s surely not impossible that we might get it right some time.

  11. Pete Moran
    July 25th, 2014 at 20:52 | #11

    @David Stern

    Do you think German efforts are misplaced?

    Balance of system costs solar PV Aust/US to Germany are about double for no good reason at all.

    With regards solar PV process, did you see this?

    http://news.liv.ac.uk/2014/06/25/watch-tofu-ingredient-could-revolutionise-solar-panel-manufacture/

    We seem to be pretty early on the learning curve for a number of renewable tech and nobody has seriously started with the bulk delivery ones like CSP (inexpensive, non-rare materials).

  12. July 25th, 2014 at 20:59 | #12

    @John Quiggin
    Yes, but it’s part of what is behind the backlash against the RET in Australia so it looks like we might head in the opposite direction for a while.

  13. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2014 at 21:06 | #13

    Indeed, progress is rarely linear. But it’s a mistake to confuse political obstacles with technological constraints.

  14. James Wimberley
    July 25th, 2014 at 21:23 | #14

    @David Stern
    “It’s not clear that the costs of solar can come down a lot more when most of the costs are now in the non-silicon components.” It seems to be an abiding myth that BOS costs are incompressible. If they stubbornly stay high in US residential solar, compared both to US utility and German and Australian residential, it’s because of local features of red tape and baroque financial incentives. (Tax credits lead to inflated bills; FIT;s to low ones.) Yingli quote system utility costs in Western China as €1.05 watt, with (I infer) BOS costs around 40%.

    The other reason for expecting further BOS reduction is conversion efficiency gains. Mono silicon panels over 20% efficiency are available at a small premium from several manufacturers. They are popular: Sunpower’s factories run at capacity. There are several promising approaches to further gains, such as perovskite layers. Most BOS costs apart from inverters are either fixed (permitting) or proportional to area (racks, cables and installation) so efficiency gains give an immediate and nearly proportional BOS reduction.

  15. James Wimberley
    July 25th, 2014 at 21:36 | #15

    Sorry, $1.05/watt.

  16. Hermit
    July 25th, 2014 at 21:37 | #16

    By mid century both natural gas and petroleum will be relatively exorbitant in price. That scenario covers both a high dollar price and a modest price in a struggling economy. We may need coal for both peaking plant (currently the strong suit of gas and hydro) and to make airline fuel. If people of the mid century are concerned about emissions then they may be prepared to pay the cost of CCS. However I believe very few sites will be suitable. I recall a few years ago (before the fracking craze) gas company Santos proposed burying CO2 from NSW Hunter Valley power stations in depleted gas wells 1,000 km away in the Cooper Basin. About the same time then then Vic premier Brumby enthused about pumping some lab grade CO2 down a well at a place called Boggy Creek. That was storage S. The bit about carbon capture CC was assumed to be effortless and didn’t need testing.

    However like Ikonoclast and the International Energy Agency I believe the movers and shakers of 2050 will not have the spare cash to pay for CCS therefore peaking plant and jetfuel will be carbon intensive. To make a quid out of CCS other revenue streams have to be found. A rare success is the Great Plains Synfuel Plant in North Dakota that sells CO2 to Canadian oil drillers. Then again the latter’s federal government cares even less than ours.

  17. July 25th, 2014 at 23:17 | #17

    The Duke of Edinburgh toured the gravity gradiometer project at UWA last year. Rio Tinto are funding this. During the tour, a Rio executive was explaining some of the possible uses of the gradiometer. At the end, he included finding possible suitable sites for CCS. At which the Duke looked at him and said, “So you’re one of those nutters are you?”

  18. July 26th, 2014 at 02:55 | #18

    It certainly requires energy to capture and sequester CO2 from coal plants and above Ikonoclast quotes a figure of 25% for a conveniently located plant. Now I’m going to be nitpicky and point out that it is not the actual extra energy cost that is the problem. Energy from coal, or at least stranded coal which is what Australia’s brown coal is, is very cheap. The cost of an extra 25% more coal would only raise the wholesale price of electricity by a fraction of a cent. Before our carbon price was murdered on the day of stupid knives Victoria’s brown coal generators were only making two cents per kilowatt-hour, which obviously was enough to pay for both coal and operating costs.

    It is not energy requirements that make carbon capture at coal plants an economic impossibility, it is captial costs and extra operating costs. A coal plant with capture is going to have to be a quarter or more larger than normal for the net amount of electricity it produces, so that’s extra capital cost right there. It going to need extractors, scrubbers, hundreds or perhaps thousands of kilometers of pipelines, compressors, wells to inject CO2, monitoring equipment, and so on. That’s all extra capital cost and it all has to be maintained and operated which costs money as well.

    It is all this extra captial and operating costs that makes coal plants with carbon capture an economic impossibility. If there is no carbon price then obviously carbon capture can’t compete. If there is a carbon price then carbon capture can’t compete with modern renewables. Even if there isn’t a carbon price new coal capacity can’t compete with wind and solar in Australia, so the idea that coal plants with carbon capture will be competitive is as nutty as a lumpy chocolate bar.

  19. John Quiggin
    July 26th, 2014 at 05:31 | #19

    The current approach to solar PV still reflects the need to optimise the use of silicon, from when the module dominated costs. For example, the inverter is chosen to match the maximum output capacity of the module. Now that modules are much cheaper, while inverter prices haven’t changed much it makes sense to have a lower capacity inverter. Some peak electrical output is lost, but the overall cost-efficiency of the system is increased.

  20. Ikonoclast
    July 26th, 2014 at 09:22 | #20

    The issue not being addressed here is that over 60% of the world’s energy comes from oil and gas. And over 90% of energy for transport comes from oil and gas. Not only does coal use need to be phased out quickly (say by 2035) but also oil and gas use need to be phased out as well by say 2050.

    Stanford did a study I think of how the entire energy system could be built on renewables, at least so far as aggregate energy use is concerned. I am not sure if they addressed the nitty-gritty of changing the entire land, sea and air transport system over to renewables.

    Only what is possible can happen and not all that is possible will happen. ;)

  21. Collin Street
    July 26th, 2014 at 09:48 | #21

    Strikes me that the geological requirements for CO2 sequestration strata are pretty much identical to the geological requirements for natural-gas capture/production.

    [CCS is a waste of time and money for the same reason as nuclear: there isn't enough of the needed resource to justify the capital expense of setting up infrastructure to utilise it.]

  22. Hermit
    July 26th, 2014 at 10:24 | #22

    Before fracking natural gas was found at pressure in marine sediments where it was trapped by underground domes or faults sealed by impermeable rock. Coal is a terrestial sediment mined in bulk usually at shallow depths. It’s unlikely the two types of formation will be found nearby, say within 50 km or so. If life on Earth started less than 1 bn years ago it is only in the last 0.3 bn or so that large fossil fuel deposits were accumulated. The Judaeo-Christian world view seems to be this abundance of burnable material was pre-ordained, not a geological fluke. Most of the remaining economically recoverable fossil fuels will be depleted or unavailable during the lifetime of today’s children.

    That’s the prehistoric aspect. Now we’re trying to rewind the clock just few centuries by generating energy in real time. Before the Industrial Revolution wood was the main source of heat which was solar energy converted to fuel with about 0.5% efficiency. Now we want to abandon coal we have solar panels with 17% conversion efficiency X 16% solar availability or 2.7% combined. Yet people wonder why it’s hard to wean ourselves off coal.

  23. Pete Moran
    July 26th, 2014 at 10:37 | #23

    @Ronald Brak

    Energy use of CCS comes right off the top of the plant efficiency. Siemens integrated brand new 800MW hard coal plant simulation/design showed a typical ~45% efficiency being knocked down 9%, which is a 20% change to the delivered energy (income).

  24. July 26th, 2014 at 12:49 | #24

    Pete, so Siemen’s says a coal plant will need to burn 20% more coal while Process Ecology quoted by Ikonoclast above mentions 25%, although they actually give a wide range. These figures seem to be in the same ball area. However, I trust neither. One reason being the low quality of coal used in many places will increase the energy required and the other being that when estimates for an engineering projects are put forward by people interested in building them there can sometimes be a slight positive bias. And sometimes a huge one. But until we get better information a figure of 20+% seems okay to use for back of the envelope calculations provided we keep in mind it could be a little better or considerably worse.

  25. July 26th, 2014 at 13:21 | #25

    John, an intresting anecdote about rooftop solar and inverters. I just has a small 2.5 kilowatt system installed on my parents’ roof. The installers were going to put in a three kilowatt inverter but instead they threw in a 5 kilowatt inverter for the same price. Why do such a thing? Well, the material costs between making a three kilowatt and a 5 kilowatt inverter are tens of dollars and I assume the installers are getting their 5 kilowatt inverters in bulk from China at a good price and there is not a lot of difference between the cost of the two. There may actually be no difference for them. Ease of installation could figure into it, as dealing with fewer kinds of inverters makes things easier, and then there’s also repeat business. Since it’s now cheap and easy to double the number of panels there’s a good chance now that I’ll call them up and get them to install more simply because I have a small particle of empathy for the people who are suffering and dying as a result of human caused climate change.

    Inverters are now so cheap that I would actually suggest that it may be more economical for people get a cheap inverter and oversize it so it will last longer, as it’s not operating near its maximum load, than to undersize their inverter. I’d also suggest that it still may be best to get a cheap inverter even if you aren’t oversizing as you may want to replace it with an inverter with built in energy storage in a few years. (Getting the inverter and energy storage as a single unit may be a lower cost option than bolting on a separate energy storage unit.)

  26. John Quiggin
    July 26th, 2014 at 13:32 | #26

    @Ikonoclast

    Electric cars are not just feasible, but on the market now. And their demand characteristics are well suited to solar, since so many of them are sitting in car parks in the middle of the day. So, it is certainly possible – as you say, that doesn’t mean it will happen.

  27. John Quiggin
    July 26th, 2014 at 13:40 | #27

    It certainly appears that inverter prices are falling.

    http://press.ihs.com/press-release/design-supply-chain-media/ihs-cuts-global-solar-inverter-revenue-forecast-light-heavy-

    This report, rather annoyingly, places a huge amount of emphasis on “competitive pressure” without discussing whether production costs have declined, though given the rapid growth in total demand, this must surely be the case.

  28. July 26th, 2014 at 14:22 | #28

    A quick look online shows I can buy a 5 kilowatt Chinese inverter for $1,342. That’s about 27 cents a watt, but I assume the people who installed my parents’ system paid less than that. If the 27 cents a watt price was linear, which it’s not, it would cost $134 dollars to oversize ones inverter by 500 watts to extend its lifespan, with the drawback that it would lose a little efficiency as it would be spending more time operating below the sweet spot of maximum efficiency. Whether or not that is worth it would all depend on the expected increase in lifespan, the cost of inverters in the future, whether or not future inverters may have improved features such as energy storage, and the cost of paying someone to come round and replace it. In reality, as I mentioned above, depending on the wheeling and dealing going on it may be possible to get a larger inverter for free.

  29. Ken Fabian
    July 26th, 2014 at 15:26 | #29

    To what extent has the expectation of CCS contributed to maintaining investment in fossil fuels and divert it away from low emissions alternatives? It does seem to have made it’s way into Treasury and other economic modelling that ‘advises’ governments and bureaucracy and forms the basis of their policy. I can’t help but see the “value” of CCS being far more about managing those policy expectations than managing CO2 – but I’m extremely cynical.

    Pr Quiggin – On costs – what is immediately relevant in the Australian context is what it costs to retrofit existing plant in their current locations, or the costs of closing as well as replacing it with idealised new purpose built plant, in ideal location, near to both geology (or transport options) suited to CCS as well as coal mines.

    More broadly, Australia’s energy sector has managed to avoid commitment to the kinds of large scale solar thermal that can and should include storage right now, no doubt because of that abundance of existing generation capacity. Storage is likely to remain constrained to a single overnight rather than multiple days of capacity without major investment in storage and it’s use becomes one more element added to the growth of rooftop PV that is forcing a shift towards intermittency – with higher costs – by existing plant.

    The biggest threat to growth of renewables is going to be regulatory, preventing intermittent renewables from maximising it’s contributions as and when conditions suit, regulation to prevent fossil fuel plant from being forced to ramp down because of supply that is there, without additional cost, whenever the sun shines or wind blows. I hear of “excess” renewables contributions to the grid going to waste as fossil fuel plant continues operating, rather than accommodating those inconvenient fluctuations. I think that will have to stop.

    Given that there is excess dirty generation capacity already in place that will not be abandoned without “good cause” and a fight, and given the success of efforts to persuade that there is no sufficient good cause, where is there any basis for investment in CCS for those with that dirty generation capacity?

    I keep coming back to the distortions arising from rejection of the science on climate, especially when that rejection comes from the top down. We won’t get rational climate/emissions/energy policy as long as mainstream politics supports, endorses, promotes or otherwise gives oxygen to climate science denial. When a PM’s or Treasurer’s response to an Alan Jones or similar being disparaging climate action is unequivocal rejection of that position, we might have the foundation for the kind of rational reform of energy markets Pr Quiggin mentions. Until then, commerce and industry and it’s political mouthpieces will choose the apparently cheaper option of doing as little as possible that rejection of climate science provides; our future sold to the cheapest bidders by interests who will continue to engage in their own ongoing, multipronged promotion of climate science denial and cultivation of economic fears to inhibit sound policy action. Policy based on lies and deception just won’t do.

  30. July 27th, 2014 at 21:22 | #30

    I’ll just explain a bit further why a high capital low fuel cost source of electricity such as coal with carbon capture, or even just a standard new coal plant, is not a money making proposition in Australia. It’s because high capital cost zero fuel cost generating capacity will make it unprofitable.

    I just had solar installed on my parent’s roof for $1.38 a watt or about $2.11 before STCs are accounted for. And this was with an extra large inverter. So people can now get solar installed for about $2 a watt in Australia, particularly if they go for an average sized system rather than the small one I went for. This means that with a 5% discount rate, 50% self consumption, a minimal or zero feed-in tariff, and no Renewable Energy Target subsidy, many people can produce their own electricity for about two-thirds or less what they currently pay for grid power.

    Now the interesting thing about rooftop solar is it doesn’t really matter what the daytime price of electicity is, people will still have an incentive to install it as they can save money even if they get zero cents a kilowatt-hour for the electricity they export to the grid. This means that without drastic reductions in retail electricity prices, and continuing decreases in its cost, the installation of rooftop solar won’t slow until the majority of homes and businesses have some. In South Australia we get over 5% of our total electricity use from rooftop solar and as a result on some sunny days we meet over a third of our demand at around noon from solar. This has been achieved with solar on about one in five houses, but most of those systems are quite small. With the average installed system being much larger now, solar PV on two in five houses or so should be enough to meet all electricity demand for a significant portion of sunny days.

    And with solar making fossil fuel generated electricity unnecessary for a significant amount of the time and pushing down prices whenever the sun is above the horizon, a high capital cost power plant such as a coal plant with carbon capture that saves little or no money by shutting down during sunny periods, which are extremely common in Australia, is going to lose a lot of money.

    If people want to use fossil fuels with carbon capture, it would probably be much cheaper to simply burn natural gas in existing power plants and then capture the CO2 released agriculturally. Since this should be able to be done for less than $100 a tonne in Australia, the cost should be less than one cent per kilowatt-hour, though it would depend upon the efficiency with which it is burned. It seems very unlikely that coal plants with carbon capture where solar is providing the majority of the daytime electricity could be competitive with natural gas and agricultural CO2 capture, biomass, or energy storage – particularly since the cost of energy during the day will often be zero. Then also consider the fact that wind is cheaper than new coal and definitely cheaper than new coal with carbon capture and it will also be pushing down electricity prices and often making fossil fuel use unnecessary early in the morning and things get worse. And then remember that wind and solar will allow more of Australia’s significant hydroelectric capacity to be reserved for when those two sources can’t meet demand and things look more worse. And then there’s the fact that it appears we are now at the point where Australians can save money by installing home and business energy storage and that makes things appear totally the worsterest for coal with carbon capture.

  31. Hermit
    July 27th, 2014 at 22:17 | #31

    @Ronald Brak
    Several problems with this theory. Firstly PV installations have nosedived since 2012. See Clean Energy Regulator Data-reports#Smallscale-installations-by-installation-year .. so this trend somehow needs to be reversed. Secondly providers of night time and rainy week power will have to charge more to cover fixed costs (ie fewer Mwh to spread the overhead) and transients costs like maintaining steam. Word is that generators will ask for a subsidy or capacity payment for this task. That higher as yet unknown cost may fall harder on the those who don’t have panels, people like renters and the socially disadvantaged.

    Thirdly even PV installers are telling people in the suburbs not to get batteries as they aren’t cost effective yet. It would be unwise to disconnect from the grid with batteries that last three rainy days at best. Fourthly try to imagine that the RET was abolished as Abbott’s man apparently recommends. Without the LGC subsidy wind farms would not have the buffer to offer wholesale power discounts and without the STC subsidy then PV installers will raise prices. Fifthly gas is pricing itself too high; example Tarong coal station coming out of retirement while Swanbank gas power station is mothballed.

    My suggestion is forget the RET and bring back carbon pricing to see what happens. If the power companies offered to install rooftop PV on pensioner’s homes (as happens in the US) then we’d know it is really cheaper for all concerned.

  32. July 28th, 2014 at 00:13 | #32

    Hermit, could you please state in a sentence what my theory is? I’d be interested to know.

  33. Hermit
    July 28th, 2014 at 07:49 | #33

    @Ronald Brak
    A paragraph perhaps. The bottom line is whether your proposal is physically workable and people are willing to pay for it. Carbon tax repeal was a strong hint. Some key assumptions (admittedly omitting qualifiers) are questionable.

    …the installation of rooftop solar won’t slow
    …solar PV on two in five houses
    …a coal plant ..is going to lose a lot of money
    …much cheaper to …burn natural gas
    …Australia’s significant hydroelectric capacity
    …can save money by installing …energy storage.

    You have to put together an integrated proposal to go with about a dozen others such as Zero Carbon Australia or Diesendorf et al.

  34. July 28th, 2014 at 11:48 | #34

    No, you still haven’t told me what my theory is, Hermit. Let’s see if I can help you out by looking at the first paragraph of what I wrote. Let’s see: “…a high capital low fuel cost source of electricity such as coal with carbon capture… is not a money making proposition in Australia… because high capital cost zero fuel cost generating capacity will make it unprofitable.”

    There we go! Now let’s put it all together in one sentence: A high capital low fuel cost source of electricity such as coal with carbon capture is not a money making proposition in Australia because high capital cost zero fuel cost generating capacity will make it unprofitable.

    Now that’s not a theory, Hermit. That’s a proposition which I have used a connected series of statements to establish. And if you want to argue against it you will need to make a series of connected statements to establish the proposition that high capital zero fuel cost generating capacity will not make high capital low fuel cost capacity, such as coal with carbon capture, unprofitable. Or you could just make a single statement. A series isn’t technically required. Alternatively you could argue in favour of the proposition that coal with carbon capture is not a high capital cost low fuel cost technology. Currently I can’t see how else you could argue against my proposition.

    So with regard to the example I gave of rooftop solar costing my parents’ about $2.11 a watt before any subsidy, are you able to argue that the electricity it produces won’t be cheaper than electricity purchased from the grid? I don’t see how you can, but I guess I am faintly curious about what an attempt would look like. You see, at current retail electricity prices, even if the cost of generating grid electricity was zero, distribution costs would still make grid electricity much more expensive than $2 or so a watt rooftop solar. Or do you wish to argue that’s not the case? I really can’t see how you could do that, but please go ahead and try if you like.

  35. Chris Short
    July 28th, 2014 at 13:43 | #35

    John – sorry, late to the conversation

    A balanced answer to your questions would note

    (i) CCS costs for power plants remain higher than anticipated due to the almost complete failure of the recent ‘global’ push for large-scale demonstration plants (there are a couple of successes in Nth America for specific reasons, but nowhere else)

    (ia) That failure has many causes, but a key one was that the costs of CCS as a nascent technology were much higher than understood – and despite an govt effort (by large fossil fuel ‘dependent’ economies) estimated at between US$20-30 billion in support, it was insufficient to accelerate the development of the technology from pilot to full-scale in only a matter of years

    (iii) CCS remains a key technology for decarbonising industrial sources and probably still power sources of emissions because (a) for industrial purposes, there is little expectation that renewables will be effective (either on a cost basis, or a technological basis – eg making iron is a chemical process requiring heat, though some bench top technologies on other approaches are beng trialled)
    (iiia) on a cost basis – for the scale considered (including the risk-managing role of grids), CCS remains a contestable technology on a long-time frame – even noting the rapid reductions in solar costs recently.

    (iv) the absence of considered chance of a global political solution in the short to medium term of reducing emissions saw private sector R&D for CCS fall rapidly post Copenhagen. The limited expectations that polluters will have to pay over the, say, next 10-15 year horizon at a level that matters for those producing carbon based energy technologies for the market (and those markets are overwhelmingly emerging markets) resulted in that drop-off in R&D expenditure and point (i) above.

    (V (or iiib)) – All credible, long-term energy models developed by ‘neutral/independent/disinterested’ parties have CCS as a long term solution.
    (Va) – this is of course slightly circular as it depends on the cost assumptions going forward, and those are considered to remain favourable for CCS over the longer term. YMMV here.
    (Vb) – the modelling constraints of effectively modelling just quickly an energy system can switch technologies (or call it assumptions, but it’s also a modelling technology issue)

    (vi) a key lesson in that global push noted in 1a above is just how quickly energy technologies can be scaled up – and the amount of effort required for large-scale power plants. For example, the successful CCS powerplant in Canada, Boundary Dam, has a history of some 20 years of intermittant studies assessing the viability of repowering a fully depreciated (in the economic sense) plant – and even then, the final scale was a third that of the ambitous plans in Europe and Australia.

    So that’s it globally. For Australia:

    i) At any country level, it’s usually a political question for introducing new technologies
    ii) As you know, it makes sense for a county to use RD&D dollars to pick winners in its areas of comparative advantage – so Australia has an interest in the success of CCS.
    iii) Does that mean we should do large-scale demonstration activitiy vs wait & see for the technology providers to develop it? (in part we answer this on the good work we do on storage issues – but the case for

    (and another aside – much of what is written in comments above seems ignorant of the vast work done globally on CO2 storage capacity, on why CCS was considered a significant option early on, and on why CCS is features prominantly in IPCC work – much of it is based around strong geologic experience gathered over the past 70 years)

    Finally – there remains the non-trivial possibility that CCS will suffer the fate of the nuclear power industry – though the technological issues for CCS are much simpler, and more likely to be standardised quickly if the world can mould expectations to make that investment worthwhile.

    John – sorry, late to the conversation

    A balanced answer to your questions would note

    (i) CCS costs for power plants remain higher than anticipated due to the almost complete failure of the recent ‘global’ push for large-scale demonstration plants (there are a couple of successes in Nth America for specific reasons, but nowhere else)
    (ia) That failure has many causes, but a key one was that the costs of CCS as a nascent technology were much higher than understood – and despite an govt effort (by large fossil fuel ‘dependent’ economies) estimated at between US$20-30 billion, it was insufficient to accelerate the development of the technology from pilot to full-scale in only a matter of years
    (iii) CCS remains a key technology for decarbonising industrial sources and probably still power sources of emissions because (a) for industrial purposes, there is little expectation that renewables will be effective (either on a cost basis, or a technological basis – eg making iron is a chemical process requiring heat, though some bench top technologies on other approaches are beng trialled)
    (iiia) on a cost basis – for the scale considered (including the risk-managing role of grids), CCS remains a contestable technology on a long-time frame – even noting the rapid reductions in solar costs recently.

    (iv) the absence of considered chance of a global political solution in the short to medium term of reducing emissions saw private sector R&D for CCS fall rapidly post Copenhagen. The limited expectations that polluters will have to pay over the, say, next 10-15 year horizon at a level that matters for those producing carbon based energy technologies for the market (and those markets are overwhelmingly emerging markets) resulted in that drop-off in R&D expenditure and point (i) above.

    (V (or iiib)) – All credible, long-term energy models developed by ‘neutral/independent/disinterested’ parties have CCS as a long term solution.
    (Va) – this is of course slightly circular as it depends on the cost assumptions going forward, and those are considered to remain favourable for CCS over the longer term. YMMV here.
    (Vb) – the modelling constraints of effectively modelling just quickly an energy system can switch technologies (or call it assumptions, but it’s also a modelling technology issue)

    So that’s it globally. For Australia:

    i) At any country level, it’s usually a political question for introducing new technologies – and the lack of local or global outcomes does not make for a short term ‘winner’ for politicians supporting it.
    ii) As you know, it makes sense for a county to use RD&D dollars to pick winners in its areas of comparative advantage – so Australia has an interest in the success of CCS.
    iii) Does that mean we should do large-scale demonstration activitiy vs wait & see for the technology providers to develop it? (in part we answer this on the good work we do on storage issues – but the case for a large-scale power plant is much less, though we have Gorgon as noted above).
    iv) is it AWOL in Australia – only if you consider power plants.

    And an aside – much of what is written in comments above seems ignorant of the vast work done globally on CO2 storage capacity, on why CCS was considered a significant option early on, and on why CCS is features prominantly in IPCC work – much of it is based around strong geologic experience gathered over the past 70 years.

    cheers

  36. Hermit
    July 28th, 2014 at 14:16 | #36

    @Ronald Brak I don’t disagree that onsite PV is cheaper than new coal delivered by the grid. It’s just at latitude 35 degrees south it’s missing in action roughly 84% of the time. That means both industry and households need something else to get through the time when it is not the middle of sunny days. That something is not currently Gwh scale energy storage for most of Australia, either in little batteries or big dams. I’m saying those other power sources will be unfairly expensive for many. Do we want pensioners in fibro homes without PV to pay $1 per kwh for aircon when it is 45C?

    @Chris Short I don’t think Saskatchewan’s Boundary Dam CCS can he held out as an example of what can be replicated everywhere. I gather it has revenue from sale of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery 70 km away. In that form of EOR a third or so of CO2 comes back to the surface in the oil and needs either more capture effort or is vented to the atmosphere. That defeats the twin objectives of keeping fossil carbon underground while achieving high net energy.

    On the other hand Ontario has admirably low emissions. Could be a form of the high capital cost low fuel cost technology of which RB speaks.

  37. July 28th, 2014 at 14:22 | #37

    What is interesting about this discussion is that you appear to have a number of people who sound like they know what they are talking about, saying completely different things.

    Which makes me think, as someone who is interested in the issues but by no means expert, that:
    - generally, “we know” (what is feasible, what will happen in future) should be replaced by “we think”
    - the position and interests of the person who thinks should be made explicit

  38. July 28th, 2014 at 14:27 | #38

    @Hermit

    As an example of deconstructing a person’s position, Hermit, what you are saying in your first paragraph is:

    -we currently have a system of wealth distribution that means some people live in poorly insulated homes and can’t afford air-conditioning
    -this is an argument against renewable energy

    It isn’t, you know. It’s an argument in favour of the status quo.

  39. Chris Short
    July 28th, 2014 at 14:28 | #39

    @Hermit – didn’t know we were playing an all or nothing game.

    Whether or not a CCS operations using EOR as the storage solution remains net negative in emissions is a valid question – and depends on several factors. It’s been a while since I looked, but I recall Boundary Dam as being net negative.

    But it’s also beside the point. It shows that if there is a revenue stream (or cost pressure), CCS is a viable technology. That is, effective carbon pricing can bring CCS (and other technologies including renewables) forward.

    Another way to think about it – if we relied only on current carbon pricing activities around the world, how much renewable activity would there be?

  40. July 28th, 2014 at 14:36 | #40

    @Hermit
    And just to remind you Hermit, Australia’s (now sadly defunct) carbon price legislation gave low income groups compensation for the increased price of electricity.

    There were also a range of measures, including the (now sadly defunct) Home Energy Savers’ Scheme, that provided direct assistance to people on low incomes wanting to reduce their energy costs. Under this scheme, they could also get no interest loans to assist in buying solar panels.

    That’s the sort of thing you do if you want to protect low income groups from the costs associated with transitioning to renewables – quite different from using them as supposed justification for keeping the status quo. After all, vulnerable and low income groups are the ones most likely to suffer from climate change.

  41. Pete Moran
    July 28th, 2014 at 14:39 | #41

    @Val

    I think people make this stuff too complicated.

    The use of CCS, or whether it works as a technical proposition, is not in question. There are questions of process optimisation, retrofit and location questions. Questions of cost, not technology.

    The bottom line is that CCS results in an uneconomic conventional plant from the point-of-view of the owner attempting to sell delivered energy.

    The question then becomes, what is the relative alternative use of those dollars that is being missed?

    As the South Australian wind example demonstrates, and what the fossil fuel industry fears, is the wholesale destruction of their business model from zero-cost fuel input renewables. We see it clearly in their fightback/squeal-test responses.

    If renewables didn’t work, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard. None of them believe that.

    They’re now conspiring to see if they can’t make use of the grid their revenue earner while simulataneously excluding citizen generation or community collaboration. This is occuring in Germany too, where the Energiewende test-bed is gathering pace.

    http://energytransition.de/2014/07/angst-that-the-energiewende-will-work/

    Efficiency and renewables (with little political support so far) are turning the screws on the fossil model – we need to help it, urgently.

  42. July 28th, 2014 at 15:38 | #42

    @Hermit
    Why Hermit, I happen to live at latitude 35 degrees south and I can assure you that the availability of the sun is 50%. (If you read the wikipedia article on day you’ll see why.) And while clouds do get in the way at times, they reduce but do not eliminate light coming from the sun. And here in Adelaide, as everyone knows, or apparently almost everyone knows, we average about 2,765 hours of sunshine a year. So if one were to count only direct sunshine and not sunshine attenuated by cloud cover then we would have sunshine about 32% of the time rather than the 16% you give.

    And I think I see another source of confusion when you mention energy storage. You see, solar power does not have to provide electricity at night to damage the economics of high capital low fuel cost generating capacity. It only has to produce electricity during the day to do that. You see, by causing low electricity prices during the day solar power reduces the average wholesale price of electricity. And high capital cost low fuel cost generating capacity needs a high average wholesale electricity price to make money because it saves little or no money by shutting down when electricity prices are low or zero. Do you understand this point?

  43. July 28th, 2014 at 16:20 | #43

    Chris Short, do you think it is possible for people to make money from generating electricity in Australia using carbon capture coal plants? Personally, I don’t see how it’s possible. Without a carbon price they obviously won’t be built and with a carbon price wind and solar will force down average wholesale electricity prices to a point where where high capital low fuel cost generating capacity will not be profitable as they will save little or no money by shutting down during periods of low wholesale electricity prices. In fact, even without a carbon price, point of use solar is going to end up supplying much of our daytime electricity as no utility scale generating capacity can compete with it unless there are drastic reductions in retail electricity prices, and that doesn’t strike me as likely to happen any time soon.

  44. Chris Short
    July 28th, 2014 at 16:37 | #44

    No one will currently build a CCS plant anywhere in the world without some incentive.

    The ‘global’ policy effort for the past, say 8 years, has been to rapidly accelerate technology development, deployment is a longer term, full pricing of the externality challenge.

    As regards the rest of your question, the types of technology selected in electricity markets is always a trade-off between fixed costs, operating costs and the periods in which you can profitably recover both fixed and operating costs. Have a technology option with a zero marginal cost does not change this calculus. You still require sufficient revenue periods to cover the fixed costs.

    That statement assumes all technologies are competing ‘equally’.

    In Australia, the RET guarantees a market for renewables. By design the market ensures sufficient revenue is generated up to the policy chosen level of renewable generation, and by design the wholesale price falls but total electricity costs rise.

    In a market with only a carbon price (pick your flavour), you would get a different outcome. Wholesale prices would not fall – even if solar power (and a storage technology) generation was the cheapest total cost operation for a 24 hour period.

    At least with current or near technologies. There are those who posit solar costs will eventually fall below unabated fossil fuel generated technology costs. That would be a good state outcome.

  45. Hermit
    July 28th, 2014 at 17:39 | #45

    @ RB next you’ll be including moonlight as reflected rays from the sun. The 16% capacity factor for that latitude (ref Melbourne Institute) is the weighted average of the dawn to dusk insolation curve peaking at local noon.

    @Val I recall in recent heatwaves it has been 35C at 9 pm. A frail person might need aircon to cope so PV won’t help and batteries aren’t right yet. The despised grid is needed to power that aircon.

    @CS that is the big question whether carbon pricing alone will get the ‘right’ mix of technologies. Already wind is getting relatively cheaper than gas fired electricity and PV on the users premises cuts out the middle man. Note pre-1997 hydro is RET exempt as it doesn’t need any help. CCS also has the huge advantage of key infrastructure already in place My suggestion is test the waters with a tough 5 year CO2 cap then see who survives.

  46. July 28th, 2014 at 18:10 | #46

    Hermit, you wrote, “I don’t disagree that onsite PV is cheaper than new coal delivered by the grid. It’s just at latitude 35 degrees south it’s missing in action roughly 84% of the time.” Do you support this statement or do you wish to retract it because I can personally vouch that a solar panel will produce current more than 16% of the time here in Adelaide.

  47. July 28th, 2014 at 18:42 | #47

    Chris, we both agree that no one will build CCS plants without incentive. If that incentive is a carbon price then I do not think that CCS plants will be built in Australia. We are fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough when you look at it another way) for point of use solar to provide electricity at a lower cost to Australians than any utility scale generation. And an interesting thing about point of use solar is that people still have an incentive to install it even if they receive little or no payment for the electricity they export to the grid because it still saves people the expense of having to purchase grid electricity. Here in Australia our rooftop solar capacity has reduced demand for grid electricity and lowered prices during the day and this effect will grow stronger as its capacity increases. And with installations being done before subsidy for about $2 a watt, there is no reason for Australians to stop installing it. Particularly as its cost will continue to decline. And this means lower average wholesale electricity prices than there otherwise would be.

  48. Hermit
    July 29th, 2014 at 15:09 | #48

    @Ronald Brak
    Solar capacity factors take average annual output of what I presume is a benchmark polycrystalline silicon cell compared to what it would produce all year at nameplate output. The panels I’m familiar with are rated 160w or 250w but suppose we had a 1 kw peak panel. The maximum possible annual output if sufficiently illuminated around the clock is 8,760 kilowatt hours. If in practice due to the seasonal and daily insolation curves that panel produces 1,400 kwh a year it has a capacity factor of 16%.

    See also Wikipedia – Capacity Factor.

  49. Val
    July 29th, 2014 at 16:06 | #49

    @Hermit
    But but Hermit – the starting assumption for solar panels is that they produce energy when the sun is shining. It doesn’t even make sense to take a theoretical capacity as being what they could do if the sun shone 24 hours a day.

    because you know, notwithstanding social constructionism, most of us accept that night does fall

    My 1.6 kw solar system produced 5 kwH yesterday – in Melbourne, latitude 37, only five weeks after the winter solstice. How about that?

    Some other points – you have been talking about heat and vulnerable people, which is a really important consideration – but on hot days solar panels would greatly help reduce their energy bills for aircon, so obviously measures to help vulnerable people get solar power (either through their own panels, or community solar as I’ve written about on my blog) would be a real help to them.

    But, according to what I have read from Tony McMichael and his crew at ANU, in the early decades of this century additional deaths in vulnerable groups in southern latitudes of Australia may be less than declines in cold related mortality.

    An interesting thing about climate change is that it may reduce energy needs for heating, which are significant in colder climates. For example, my electricity usage in my small apartment varies from around 1kw or less per day for most of the year (I don’t have or need AC, because of good insulation, cross ventilation and careful use of shading) to as much as 8kw when I use my electric space heater in the winter months. However I have been finding lately that when the sun shines on my north facing windows, I come home about 6.30 pm and still find the flat reasonably warm. I am pretty sure that if the average winter temp continues to rise, it would, in the not too far distant future, be possible for me to meet the night heating requirements of my flat by solar and storage.

    This, of course, is not to say, oh climate change is really a good thing! Of course it’s not, but if, instead of doing the automatic eeyore ‘oh it’s impossible for us to make the transition to renewables’ doom and gloom thing, you thought more clearly about this, you might see that there are opportunities as well as challenges.

  50. Val
    July 29th, 2014 at 16:10 | #50

    @Hermit
    In brief – there are two possible responses to the ‘transition to renewables’ question. One, like yours, is to say ‘oh no it’s not possible’. The other is to say, ‘we really want to do this, so how can we do it?’.

    It’s obvious which one gets us further.

  51. July 29th, 2014 at 19:05 | #51

    @Hermit
    Hermit, you wrote, “It’s just at latitude 35 degrees south it’s missing in action roughly 84% of the time.” Do you believe that a typical rooftop solar system will produce usable current only roughly 16% of the time at latitude 35 degrees south anywhere in Australia?

  52. July 29th, 2014 at 20:29 | #52

    John, one interesting thing about the inverter I recently bought my parents. I looked up its stats on the internet and the weight and dimensions of the 5 kilowatt inverter are the same as their 3 kilowatt inverter. So it is possible that they are actually the same thing and one’s just been limited to 3 kilowatts. Now I don’t know if the savings the manufacturer would get from producing larger volumes of one kind of inverter instead of two could make that worthwhile, but I guess it is a possibility.

  53. Ben
    July 29th, 2014 at 23:37 | #53

    @John Quiggin
    Google provides free EV charging to its employees, who park their cars under PV carports.

  54. Collin Street
    July 30th, 2014 at 00:23 | #54

    > So it is possible that they are actually the same thing and one’s just been limited to 3 kilowatts.

    Power semiconductors are remarkably small: half the size of a sugarcube, even for ones handling kilowatts. It’s probably the same design, just with lower-rated transistors swapped into the same circuit-board. The heatsink would probably wind up overspecced, but aluminium extrusions are pretty cheap.

  55. July 30th, 2014 at 10:48 | #55

    Thanks for that, Collin.

  56. Hermit
    July 30th, 2014 at 11:46 | #56

    @Val
    I suggest renewables find their own level without a guaranteed 20% share. For all we know the least cost mix could have renewables at 30% or 40% since the alternatives aren’t getting any cheaper, carbon tax or not. Critics would be silenced if renewables stood on their two feet.

    The flip side to warmer winters could be hotter summers. Southern capitals have nudged 47C this decade. We could hit 50C like Baghdad. Ambulances will carting out former occupants of fibro homes. However blackouts may be less common, a result of ‘gold plating’ the network.

  57. July 30th, 2014 at 13:32 | #57

    Good news about the Energy Brix (we can’t spell) Power Station closing down in Victoria, Fran. It’s only a small generator, I think maybe 120 megawatts, but it’s still excellent news. Black coal plants and South Australia’s brown coal capacity has been shutting down or running at low capacity for years now, but Victoria’s outlandishly CO2 intensive brown coal plants have kept on chugging on and choking on. The Energy Brix Power Station was on its last legs being 58 years old, but basically all of Victoria’s brown coal capacity is on its last legs and only kept going through extensive repair and maintenance. I wonder what its decommissioning costs will be as there is a good chance the place is riddled with asbestos. Perhaps the best thing will be to seal it in a concrete sarcophagus and leave it for future generations to deal with. I sometimes wonder if it is decommissing costs resulting from asbestos which explains why certain people seem so deperate to keep Victoria’s old brown coal plants operating.

  58. July 30th, 2014 at 13:53 | #58

    Sorry, I put my last comment in the wrong thread. Teach me to have multiple tabs open. (Yes, that’s right, my computer can handle having more than one tab open at a time. Now if only I could watch a video without it stuttering – but what am I saying? We’re not living in a dreamworld here.)

  59. August 5th, 2014 at 12:34 | #59

    John – Terrific that you’re opening up discussion about CCS in your blog.

    CCS is the only method currently available that prevents carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are used to generate energy (and in heavy industrial processes) from reaching the atmosphere.

    But you’re right, the technology is expensive and projects have not advanced at the rate we had hoped. Significant effort is now going into reducing the costs involved in capture, in particular, as well as demonstration and deployment at industrial scale.

    We’d be delighted to have you join us at the 2014 National CCS Conference to which you refer, where the cost of CCS will be one of the topics explored. The impressive program features local and international speakers with expertise and insights into the financial challenges relating to CCS, including renowned economists Professors Jeffrey Sachs and Ross Garnaut, CEDA chief economist Nathan Taylor, UQ Energy Initiative Director Professor Chris Greig, CCS project proponents and industry representatives.

    Your contribution to the conference discussions would be greatly valued. I hope we’ll see you there.

  60. Chris Short
    August 5th, 2014 at 23:20 | #60

    Richard – what effort is going into deployment?

  61. Chris Short
    August 7th, 2014 at 18:52 | #61

    To answer my own question – Norway does deployment of CCS with several large commercial projects operating in their off-shore gas fields – driven by a ~US$50/tonne carbon price for off-shore oil and gas extraction that has been in place for well over a decade.

    But that’s for the low hanging fruit of the burying the CO2 stipped from natural gas extraction (so the capture cost is already part of the industrial process – with only compression and injection to be covered – and a US$50/tonne cost for emissions is a strong incentive for those relatively low costs. Again demonstration of what can happen with a price on carbon.

    But I’m not aware of anywhere else in the world where CCS is in a deployment mode and I’m not sure I’d classify current limited industrial, site specific, EOR based projects in the US as more than examples, rather than deployment.

    nonetheless, I had a look at the conference program your team is running – and you’ve certainly got a number of the key international analysts and project movers involved.

    Whilst some of us don’t see a lot of movement in the near term for CCS, if you wanted to know where was at internationally, it’s a good opportunity to talk to those in the know.

  62. Ikonoclast
    August 7th, 2014 at 19:33 | #62

    CCS is a completely spurious diversion. It will never work technically nor economically on a scale sufficient to make any real difference to global CO2 emissions and global warming. CCS is deliberately promoted by fossil fuel interests as a subtefurge to delay action on CO2 emissions and climate change.

    CO2 injection into oil and gas wells might be the one application that is economic as it can increase production. However, more oil and gas production is the last thing we need as the accumulated human CO2 and fugitive methane emissions load moves up to very dangerous levels.

  63. Chris Short
    August 7th, 2014 at 19:41 | #63

    Whilst one can have different views on the feasible set of technologies, I’ll make two points (i) pretty sure those views were said about wind and solar and (ii) you have your precedence order the wrong way around: without action on CO2 emissions and climate change, CCS cannot work -

  64. Ikonoclast
    August 7th, 2014 at 20:17 | #64

    @Chris Short

    A wrong prediction about A has no implications for a prediction about B if A & B are not causally related. Wind and solar power are about power generation from those sources. CCS is about removing and sequestering a waste byproduct during or after energy generation by combusting fossil fuels. This involves different technologies, different physical and chemical processes and different engineering challenges.

    The technology for solar power in particular has improved markedly and come down markedly in price this decade. It has also been implemented broadly albeit not yet on a large scale. It is now economic to implement. Can CCS demonstrate similar progress in the same timespan? The answer is “no”.

    CCS is fundamentally flawed. The energy cost in separating, piping and injecting CO2 is prohibitive. Storing CO2 safely forever in geological formations is a promise that might be made but cannot be kept. Storing CO2 as calcium carbonate would be the safest way but again the cost and scale of chemical or biological fixing processes will prove prohibitive.

    “A new research paper by Richard Middleton of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Adam Brandt of Stanford University estimates that “significant capture and storage occurs only above $110/tonne CO2 in our simulations.”

    Unfortunately, global carbon markets aren’t pricing CO2 emissions anywhere near these levels.

    The current price for carbon in the EU Emissions Trading System is just €5 per tonne. The new California CO2 allowance is $13.62 per ton, and the proposed U.S. carbon tax would be about $20 per ton.

    With the future of carbon policy so uncertain in the United States and abroad, it’s not at all clear that carbon prices will rise to the point where investing in CCS makes sense.” – (see paper below)

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/the-take/why-carbon-capture-and-storage-will-never-pay-off/

  65. Chris Short
    August 8th, 2014 at 09:06 | #65

    Not sure we’re looking at the problem in the same way, but looking at it from your perspective, here’s some questions and comments

    i) What’s your estimate of the current avoided CO2 cost for solar technologies (in $/tonne)?

    ii) Would any current carbon market be deploying solar?

    iii) the timespan for solar R&D is substantially longer than that for CCS – but your comment is certainly true – solar costs have come down a long way in the past decade

    iv) Yes – the thermal efficiency of power production when CCS is added on falls – and that plays out in its cost structure. But if you are very concerned about the technology properties, does the very low efficiency of solar concern you?

    v) CCS costs – haven’t read Midddleton/Brandt, but the estimate, but the implicit cost estimate in the part you quote is probably reasonable – depending on the sector it’s applied to.

    vi) Are you aware that all long term decarbonisation models have carbon prices rises well above $100/tonne? Such scenarios price price projections should be taken with a grain of salt as should carbon pricing ever become widespread, the technical possibilities it will bring forth in many areas of economic activity are not really foreseeable – but as I said before, all the credible scenarios from the neutral/disinterested model groups are consistent in those price outcomes.

    vii) The smartplanet article you point at quotes my cost estimates for CCS (see v) as evidence as to why CCS won’t happen – but holds up gas(?) as the saviour – and is primarily short term in its focus.

    viii) And whilst not addressed in your comment, CCS is supported by a large number (not all) of well credentialed green groups precisely because it is the only currently known technology available for doing negative emissions. But that time is someway off if your focus is on current costs and revenues to support a range of technologies.

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