Can Technology Unblock Unburnable Coal?

Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) Imperial College London

[Oil and Gas Journal] Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology offers more hope than generally is believed as a way to allow use of fossil energy while meeting aggressive targets for mitigation of climate change, says a new report.

A study by the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) at Imperial College London observes that pessimistic assessments of CCS tend not to look beyond 2050, when advantages of the technology begin to rise in relation to those of other mitigation strategies.

The study suggests CCS could unlock fossil energy reserves now targeted for nondevelopment as “unburnable carbon.”

That concept arises from estimates of the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted without compromising a two-thirds chance that global average temperature will rise no more than 2°C. above preindustrial levels. That was a central goal of the Paris climate summit last year.

At current emission rates, the so-called carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatonnes will be depleted within 30 years, according to the study. These trends give rise to estimates of unburnable carbon and political appeals to forswear development of oil, gas, and coal resources…

While near-term costs of CCS represent a barrier, the costs of alternative strategies will rise above those of CCS over time, the study says…

“Beyond 2050, the costs of capturing and storing CO2 are likely to be significantly less than the marginal cost of alternative ways to mitigate CO2,” it says.


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