Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technology still “not ready”

The real reason carbon capture and storage has failed to spread is that the technology is not sufficiently mature, says a Chinese expert. 

Voices at home and abroad are clamoring for the use of carbon sequestration (CCS) technology – yet there is still no real push for it and it is still not used. Why is CCS not used? On October 24, experts heatedly discussed this question at a Chinese-American Coal Industry Conference on International Sustainable Development.

Many different views were contested during the conference. Dan Guttman, a visiting scholar from the Johns Hopkins University U.S. Government Research Center, suggested that the difficulty in getting countries to use CCS is probably not technology, but management.

On the other hand, Chairman of the World Coal Association, Milton Catelin, disagreed and said that the crux of the problem is in technology. For instance, Catelin said that the U.S. has many plans for the application of CCS, including building 35 CCS power plants, but none of these plans have materialised.

Ni Weidou, a professor at the Chinese Engineering Institute at Qinghua University, explained the importance of CCS technology. If CO2 is only sealed up, it does not have a big impact — mature technology is needed to translate this trapped CO2 into economic benefits.

Further research into new ways of managing CO2 is needed; however, right now both the effort put into research and government investment are far from adequate.

“In terms of using clean coal, including CCS, even the U.S. has not invested much money,” said Professor Ni. “This means the U.S. still needs to do initial research to analyse the technology and find a new path forward.”

Yet another view, put forth by Shi Sen, Director of the China Huaneng Clean Coal Technology Research Group, said that CCS simply does not have complete projects to show its use. Since CCS does not have large scope or long-term operating results to show, it is too early to judge the technology’s efficiency.

During the conference it was mentioned that although the EU has a CCS technology research and development foundation, it is still in the process of conducting pilot tests. The EU has been researching global climate change for over 20 years, but EU coal consumption accounted for 30% of the global total last year, and is still on the rise.

Translated and edited by China Dialogue volunteers Marta Casey and Hope Loudon respectively.