The Global Status of CCS: Is US Technology Leadership at Risk?

On January 28, The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center hosted the US launch of the Global CCS Institute’s signature publication, The Global Status of CCS, first presented at the COP24 United Nations (UN) climate conference in Katowice, Poland. Moderated by David Livingston, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s deputy director for climate & advanced energy, experts on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) discussed the imperative for—and status of—large-scale global carbon emissions reduction and the role for CCS technologies. Taking note of the role of the United States as the traditional leader in CCS technological development to date, the discussion surveyed the possibility of a changing power landscape as governments and companies in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East accelerate funding and innovation in CCS.

The event began with brief welcome remarks by Livingston, who underscored the salience of the event by referencing the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on what would be needed to keep post-industrial global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal first introduced at the 2015 Paris climate conference. All of the IPCC’s 1.5 degree scenarios, Livingston noted, involve a role for carbon capture, utilization, and storage.

IMG 9042
Global CCS Institute’s Guloran Turan.

Providing background on the CCS Institute’s roots, mission, and future objectives, Global CCS Institute General Manager for Advocacy & Communication Guloran Turan emphasized the necessity for transnational cooperation in CCS technological development before introducing Jeff Erikson, the Global CCS Institute’s general manager of client engagement. Erikson restated the Institute’s three primary goals: building knowledge, shifting the narrative, and enabling CCS investment, before highlighting the need to view 2019 as a year of great impact for carbon capture not as a set of unilateral initiatives, but instead to move towards collaborative multinational effort featuring, at times, healthy technological competition.

CCS speakers
(L to R) The US Department of Energy’s Steven Winberg and the Global CCS Institute’s Jeff Erikson.

Reiterating Erikson’s call for collaboration in the field of CCS development, the US Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg outlined where CCS fits in the Department of Energy (DOE)’s “new energy realism” paradigm, and the role of the DOE in funding projects to further CCS. Winberg said CCS advancement must be driven by a two-pronged effort of continued technological development and smart policy tools. Winberg argued that the future of CCS development would hinge on continued innovation, as well as the successful implementation and full utilization of incentives such as the recently passed “45Q” tax credit for CCS projects in the United States.

Livingston then moderated a panel discussion comprised of four distinguished energy and CCS experts: Lynn Brickett, technology manager at the National Energy Technology Laboratory; Daichi Nakahara, vice president & director of operations at IHI INC., Power Plant Engineering Division; Geir Westgaard, vice president of political & public affairs at Equinor; and Kurt Waltzer, managing director at the Clean Air Task Force. Panelists unanimously agreed on the necessity for multi-sector, cross-national public and private partnership in CCS development. Each panelist provided examples of both current and future global projects and research initiatives. These included, among others, IHI’s oxyfuel combustion project and Equinor’s Northern Lights Project off the coast of Norway. Panelists further emphasized the need for incentive-based policies, including the role that a price on carbon would play in stimulating further CCS innovation and deployment. All agreed that continued CCS cost reductions are necessary in order to see commercial viability in the future, but that these are not out of reach. Livingston then opened the dialogue to questions from the audience. Public questions prompted further discussion of the status of IHI and Equinor projects, areas for improvement in tax credit incentive legislation such as 45Q, complementarities between CCS and hydrogen-based energy strategies, and panelists’ opinions on what needs to happen within the next five to ten years to propel CCS forward.

To view the event, watch the webcast here.

Read the Global CCS Institute’s 2018 Global Status of CCS Report here.

Image: (L to R) The National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Lynn A. Brickett, IHI INC. Power Plant Engineering Division’s Daichi Nakahara, Equinor’s Geir Westgaard, and the Clean Air Task Force’s Kurt Waltzer speak as part of the event’s panel, as the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s David Livingston moderates.