Today the International CCS Knowledge Centre sent the following open letter to government leaders in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada on behalf of many of the world’s leading environmental scientists, academics and experts on carbon capture and storage (CCS) regarding the importance of large-scale CCS as a safe, proven and economically viable tool for addressing climate change and achieving the world’s ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
While the letter is specifically addressed to national leaders, the intent of the co-authors is to encourage all levels of government and industry to recognize the value of CCS and to collaborate on finding realistic and sustainable solutions that will bring new CCS projects to life across heavy-emitting industries worldwide.
July 10, 2023
Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
Joe Biden, President of the United States
Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy
Michael Regan, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance
Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Re: Carbon capture and storage is needed and ready to address climate change
The significant support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects adopted by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in recent months has highlighted the importance of CCS in meeting international climate goals. Indeed, achieving net-zero emissions will rely heavily on implementing CCS in industries across the world — power generation, cement, steel and fertilizer manufacturing and mining, in particular — as well as for hydrogen fuel production from natural gas and addressing emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels as the world undertakes an orderly transition towards decarbonization.
While much attention is on the hefty upfront price tag for building large-scale CCS infrastructure, what is often lost in the discussion about investment in CCS are the costs to our society if we do not proceed at pace with the massive build-out of CCS that is required to meet Paris Agreement commitments.
At the highest level, the world can’t afford to ignore CCS as a key tool in fighting climate change, along with energy efficiency and greater electrification based on the expansion of renewable and nuclear power. The International Energy Agency estimates that CCS will be required for 15 to 25 per cent of the GHG reductions necessary by 2050, while the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts that the cost of climate mitigation could more than double without the application of CCS technologies.
It is also important to look beyond the direct cost of building a CCS facility and consider how the cost of CCS impacts end users of the products and services we all rely on for daily life. Several studies have concluded that implementing CCS on large-scale industrial projects yields significant CO2 reductions at minimal cost to the public over the long term. As seen in a recent study examining CO2 emissions from the construction of a major U.S. bridge project, CCS is a relatively cheap emissions reduction solution for the end users of the commodities that heavy-emitting industries provide. After all, the average person does not tend to directly buy a lot of steel, cement, fertilizer or crude oil, but we do rely on these inputs for our homes, buildings, roads, clothing, food, pharmaceuticals and electronic devices. It turns out the overall cost for mitigating CO2 emissions with CCS is marginal and well within the normal range of variation we see in market prices for many goods and services.
To be clear, reaching a net-zero world requires using all the tools we have at our disposal. However, CCS is the only proven solution we have today that can drastically cut CO2 emissions from hard-to-decarbonize industries that are the pillars of our economy. It is worth pointing out that investment in this emissions reduction pathway has been virtually non-existent compared to what has been spent on wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles so far this century – during which time greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb, absolute fossil fuel consumption has grown by more than one-third, and the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix has only budged marginally from 87 per cent in 2000 to 84 per cent by 2020.
The argument against CCS, that it is unproven — aside from being incorrect — is circular. Far from unproven, this group of technologies is being applied on many tens of industrial CO2 capture projects, including two offshore operations in the North Sea (Sleipner and Snohvit), which have been capturing a million tonnes of CO2 a year for 27 years and 15 years respectively. Meanwhile, Canada is home to the world’s first CCS facility on a commercial power plant – SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Unit 3 CCS facility, which has captured more than 5 million tonnes of CO2 so far, while the Quest CCS facility operated by Shell has captured and safely sequestered more than 7 million tonnes from the Scotford Refinery near Edmonton since 2015. Like any evolving technology, the rapid scale-up of CCS comes with uncertainties and unexpected challenges, which is why applying the knowledge and lessons learned from the first generation of CCS projects is critical to reducing the risk, lowering costs and improving the performance of the hundreds of new projects being planned around the world.
Building the new CO2 capture facilities, pipelines and storage systems on the massive scale and aggressive timelines needed to meet international climate obligations requires significant collaboration between industry, governments, financial institutions and other partners. As governments continue to work on implementing the necessary policies and efficient regulatory processes to support private-sector investment in CCS, the industries that depend on the successful development of CCS for their long-term survival must also set out realistic business models that are not overly reliant on public subsidies to ensure their existence in a net-zero world.
It’s time to get on with proving the enormous potential of CCS to fight climate change in a just and sustainable manner — transitioning our CO2-intensive industries that employ millions of people, provide major contributions to national GDP and government revenues — while driving up efficiency, reducing hydrocarbon consumption and paving the way for the necessary removal of historic CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
Our children are counting on us to realize this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Paul Fennell, Professor of Clean Energy, Imperial College London
Niall Mac Dowell, Professor of Energy Systems Engineering, Imperial College London
Geoffrey Maitland, Professor of Energy Engineering, Imperial College London
Andrea Ramirez Ramirez, Professor of Low Carbon Systems and Technologies, Delft University of Technology
Vikram Vishal, Associate Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
Kevin O’Brien, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Simon Roussanaly, Research Scientist, SINTEF Energy Research
Rahul Anantharaman, Research Scientist, SINTEF Energy Research
Nathalia Weber, Co-Founder, CCS Brazil; Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Innovation, University of São Paulo
Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Oxford University
Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage, University of Edinburgh
Jon Gibbins, Professor of Power Plant Engineering and Carbon Capture, University of Sheffield
Matteo Romano, Professor of Systems for Energy and Environment, Politecnico di Milano
Howard Herzog, Senior Research Engineer, MIT Energy Initiative
Jeffrey Brown, Managing Director, Energy Futures Financing Forum; Adjunct Professor, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability
Dianne Wiley, Dean of Engineering, University of Newcastle Australia
Matthew Green, Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, Arizona State University
Sean McCoy, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary
Steven Bryant, Professor of Petroleum and Chemical Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary
Yrjo Koskinen, Professor of Sustainable and Transition Finance, University of Calgary
Rick Chalaturnyk, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, University of Alberta
James Millar, President and CEO, International CCS Knowledge Centre