The world’s fossil fuel industry has joined with environmentalists in an unholy alliance to push for carbon capture, demanding radical changes in public policy to kick-start the technology. Leaders of the largest oil, gas, and coal companies lined up at the IHS CERA Week summit in Houston, pledging a muscular drive to slash the costs of extracting CO2 from hydro-carbon energy. The goal is some sort of ‘Manhattan Project’ to safeguard the long-term survival of their companies. “We can’t just keep our heads in the sand,” said Bob Dudley from BP. Contrary to widespread belief, the top executives are going out of their way to praise the findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “I have read all the IPCC reports. We understand the risks associated with fossil fuels, and we think we can help mitigate those risks through technology,” said Darren Woods, the new chief of ExxonMobil. Few believe that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement under President Donald Trump – despite his rhetoric – or that his election will stop the global push for tighter controls on greenhouse emissions in the 2020s and beyond. The historic forces are too powerful. Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, has warned that it would be fatal for American credibility to pull out of the accord. Ivanka Trump is trying to persuade her father to let the matter drop quietly. The fear in Houston is that hardening public attitudes and rising penalties on carbon will drive much of the fossil industry out of business unless it can come up with viable forms of carbon capture and storage (CCS). If they fail to take the lead in time, some rival technology may beat them to it and catapult reneweables into irreversible dominance. Carbon capture is not new. Drillers use CO2 on a commercial basis, pumping it into depleted wells for enhanced oil recovery. The gas sells of $15 a tonne at current crude prices, but would be worth nearer $40 in a fresh oil boom. It is used in a host of processes, from fertilizers, or the treatment of alkaline waste water, to dry cleaning, and decaffeinated coffee. Utility-scale CCS has so far proved too expensive. Southern Co’s project at a Mississippi coal plant in Kemper has been a sorry saga, running $4bn over budget and two years late. It will capture just 65pc of the emissions. the UK is better placed than almost any other country to take the lead on CCS since it has storage sites in the North Sea and a nexus of pipelines already in place. Yet the government abandoned Britain’s £1bn prize for twin projects in Scotland and North Yorkshire in 2105, citing budget costs. While the abrupt decision caused uproar at the time, it may prove fortuitous if cheaper technologies emerge. “The most elegant solution is to disassemble the carbon molecule itself. We are not there yet,” said Lord Browne of Madingley, former BP chief and now a champion of green energy causes.
Telegraph 12th March 2017 read more »