Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Often touted as “clean coal,” carbon capture and storage (CCS)  captures pollutants and CO2 for storage. The only problem is, it’s never been successful.

During the past decade, there was a lot of talk worldwide about carbon capture and storage (CCS), which the technology’s proponents misleadingly call “clean coal.” Essentially, this technology captures pollutants and carbon dioxide for separate storage. For industrial processes such as cement production, in which it is extremely difficult to reduce emissions further, CCS could be an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Why doesn’t carbon capture work?

In power plants, however, CCS is viewed by most energy experts as unattractive because it drastically reduces the efficiency of the power plants, thus severely increasing fuel costs.

Furthermore, CCS investments turn out to be prohibitively expensive. Germany set up the first such test facility designed by Siemens in 2006 at Schwarze Pumpe, a coal plant run by Swedish utility Vattenfall at the time.

Vattenfall announced at the end of 2011 that it had abandoned plans for a second demonstration project of 300 megawatts, which would have been ten times the size of the pilot facility at Schwarze Pumpe, thereby even foregoing funding from the EU for the first full-size CCS plant. Vattenfall said it was unable to go ahead with its plans because the German states with suitable storage potential refused to accept the risk. The company also abandoned its plans to build such a plant in Jänschwalde, Germany, and ended its research on CCS in 2014.

Opposition to CCS in Germany

Environmentalists are generally not excited about the technology, as stored pollutants and CO2 will only create further problems for future generations, who will have to make sure that the storage facilities do not leak. Local communities do not wish to have repositories for carbon dioxide near them, so the German government reached a compromise with the German states in 2012.

Now, the states will be able to veto plans to construct carbon dioxide repositories, making it highly unlikely that any such repository will ever be built. The agreement also specifies that the states – and hence taxpayers – will be liable after the first 40 years of operation, with the company liable for the first 40.