An increasing number of countries are committing to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But what about the industries and factories that continue to spew out carbon dioxide? Could we capture it instead? In fact, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology focuses on exactly that. But some say the technology costs too much. But could it help to solve climate change?
CCUS technology is a “critical part” of reaching net-zero carbon emissions, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA states that it contributes to reducing emissions in key sectors directly and removing CO2 to balance emissions that are difficult to avoid.1
However, critics say that CCUS costs too much and is not effective in reducing CO2 emissions.2
How much does carbon capture and sequestration cost?
The cost of CCUS technology can vary greatly depending on the process involved. For industrial facilities that produce concentrated carbon dioxide – ethanol production or natural gas processing – it can cost USD $15 to $25 to capture a tonne of CO2. In factories where CO2 is more diluted, it can cost anything from USD $40 to $120 per tonne of CO2. This would apply to cement factories or power generation, says the IEA.
The cost of CCUS technology has also changed in recent years. The cost of capturing a tonne of carbon dioxide at a coal-fired power station (Boundary Dam, 2014) was USD $110. A second-generation carbon-capture plant (Petra Nova, 2017) lowered the cost to USD $65 per tonne. The cost of capturing a tonne of carbon from planned CCUS projects may be as low as USD $45 per tonne, says the IEA.3
What is the major cost of carbon capture machines?
The largest portion of costs for carbon capture machines comes from labour, the cost of energy and the type of environment it is deployed in. CCUS technology needs energy to run, and that can generate more carbon emissions. Countries with lower labour costs – for example, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Poland – and low energy costs – such as Saudi Arabia – have the lowest cost for implementing CCS, says the Global CCS Institute.4
However, many climate scientists point to the high costs of CCUS technology and its slow uptake as reasons to avoid seeing it as a solution. They claim that faith in CCUS perpetuates a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the urgency to curb carbon emissions now.5
- IEA. (2020). CCUS in Clean Energy Transitions – Analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/ccus-in-clean-energy-transitions.
- Dyke, J., Watson, R. and Knorr, W. (2021). Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap.[online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/climate-scientists-concept-of-net-zero-is-a-dangerous-trap-157368 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].
- IEA. (2021). Is carbon capture too expensive? – Analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/commentaries/is-carbon-capture-too-expensive.
- Irlam, L. (2017). GLOBAL COSTS OF CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE 2017 Update. [online] . Available at: https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/archive/hub/publications/201688/global-ccs-cost-updatev4.pdf.
- Dyke, J., Watson, R. and Knorr, W. (2021). Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/climate-scientists-concept-of-net-zero-is-a-dangerous-trap-157368 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].