Capturing and burying CO2 is heralded as the technological fix to mitigate climate change. But many oil and gas majors are using the technology to produce more fossil fuels.
With every passing second, vast amounts of human-produced CO2 billows into the atmosphere. Collectively, we generate nearly 40 gigatons (Gt) annually, mainly by burning fossil fuels for energy, electricity and transportation.
Studies show if emissions continue at current levels, the window for avoiding dangerous warming will rapidly diminish. In that sense, countries are in a race against time — and one technology is being touted as indispensable to prevent “runaway” climate change: Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).
“We talk about having no silver bullet on climate change but having silver buckshot,” said US Democratic Party lawmaker Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the most dedicated environmental champions in the Senate. “And one of the pellets in the silver buckshot has to be really aggressive work on carbon capture.”
Twenty-six utility-scale CCS projects are operating worldwide, with a combined capacity to capture and store some 40 million tons of carbon per year. The CO2 is either piped into deep geologic formations or injected into depleting oil and gas reservoirs. According to the Global CCS Institute, an international organization dedicated to promoting the technology, more than 40 other projects are under construction or in advanced planning stages on nearly every continent.
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) recent headline-grabbing “Net Zero by 2050” report, designated CCS as one of seven pillars needed to achieve mid-century climate neutrality and limit global heating. Echoing previous analyses, it states that as we rapidly expand emissions-free renewable energy systems, we must construct thousands of CCS plants worldwide with the eventual capacity to bury more than 3 Gt to 7 Gt of CO2 annually — akin to running today’s global fossil fuel industry in reverse.