Carbon Capture and Storage, the only solution to climate change?

Climate change is being widely recognized as the major environmental problem facing the globe. Global warming has become perhaps the most complicated issue for world leaders today. Large-scale burning of coal and fossil fuels worldwide has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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That is why carbon capture and storage has been accepted as a serious effort and probably the only solution to combat climate change at the Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-11) Conference hosted by the International Energy Agency in Kyoto last week. The GHGT conference has established itself as the premier international platform for the presentation of cutting edge research and the latest developments in CO2 capture and storage technologies. It is a platform for individuals, industry representatives and researchers from Asia, Europe and Australia, USA to network with one another.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing waste COfrom large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it to an underground geological formation. The aim is to prevent the release of large quantities of COinto the atmosphere. It is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming.  Carbon capture and storage was very much a novel concept with limited research but there has been a significant technological development in recent years.

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The conference highlighted the fact that “CCS is Ready to Move Forward”. CCS is now at the phase where pilot projects operate around the world, which will be followed by commercial deployment.  Regardless, the world seems to be closing down more CCS plants than it opens. Member discussions at the conference approved CCS as a potential technology, but developments are still needed in the areas of CO2 capture, transportation, storage and the integration of these components, both in terms of reliability and efficiency.  Several CO2 trapping mechanisms such as post combustion, oxy-fuel combustion, pre combustion, chemical looping, the costs and impacts of these technologies were discussed. Focus was also drawn on storage techniques, public-private partnerships, management of technologies, techniques, risk assessment, CO2 utilisation, transport networks and safety measures. Panel members concluded that legal and regulatory frameworks, breakthroughs in areas of funding and communication need to be considered by various stakeholders including industrialists, researchers, government bodies, institutes and the public. CCS techniques, such as Enhanced Oil Recovery, have been used for decades, but only recently has it been viewed as a viable means of reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from power plants.

Governments around the world need to show more commitment towards framing standards, rules and regulations for CCS. CCS needs to be employed on a much larger scale, then only will it be able to make that level of impact its potential suggests.

The organizers of the GHGT Conference consisted of a mix of representatives from the hosts; in the case of GHGT-11, The Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth and the International Energy Agency. Researchers and industry experts world over attended the Conference.

Prateek Bumb, Director of Carbon Clean Solutions Ltd, was one of the few Indians present there. The conference was chaired by renowned personalities such as Dr Kelly Thamimuthu, Chair of IEAGHG, Mr John Gale, General Manager, IEAGHG and Mr Tim Dixon, Manager, CCS & Regulatory Affairs, IEAGHG. Emminent speakers such as Professor Yoichi Kaya, President, RITE, Mr Koichi Akaishi, METI, Mr Atsutoshi Nidhida, Chairman of the Board, Toshiba, Mr Brad Page, CEO, Global CCS Institute, Dr Jay Braisch, Senior Advisor, Office of Fossil Fuel Energy USDOE,  Mr Juho Lipponen, Head of CCS Unit, IEA, Dr Francis O’Sullivan Executive Director , Energy Sustainability Challenge Programme, MIT, Henk Reimink, Executive Director, Energy Sustainability Challenge Programme, World Steel Association, Chris Hendriks, Managing  Consultant, Ecofys and Keigo Akimoto, Chief Researcher and Group Leader of the Systems Analysis Group, RITE addressed the conference.

The next GHGT Conference is scheduled to be held at The University of Texas, Austin in USASeveral U.S. and International demonstrations of CCS are expected to be showcased at GHGT-12.  

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