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University of Oxford Report: Heavy dependence on Carbon Capture and Storage ‘highly economically damaging’

By Emma Schmit

News December 5, 2023

Last month, we saw yet another study showing carbon capture and storage (CCS) to be a false climate solution. Now, a new report from Oxford is lifting the veil on the economic concerns facing the future of CCS technology. These papers highlight what we already know – a large-scale carbon capture buildout, and the pipelines that would come with it, does not benefit everyday people, our pocketbooks, or our planet. 

Across the globe, countries are incentivizing carbon capture and storage as a means of reducing carbon emissions. In the US, that has meant offering up billions of our tax dollars to wealthy corporations as Bold’s Paul Blackburn detailed in a multi-part series earlier this year. And it’s working – in 2018, there were 35 CCS facilities existing or under development across the globe. In 2023, that number skyrocketed to 312. But, as  Bacilieri, et al. point out in the Oxford study, a massive expansion of carbon capture networks is not the best route forward. The authors suggest that “rapid, widespread electrification powered by renewable energy should be the centerpiece of any decarbonisation strategy, while continuing high fossil fuel use with increasing abatement should not.”

The report found that relying on CCS to reach net-zero by 2050 comes with a number of potential issues, including:

  • 29 of the 41 operating CCS facilities rely on enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to remain economically viable. As the global demand for oil decreases, so will the value of EOR. At this point, there is not a revenue stream comparable to EOR that could serve as a replacement. 
  • Few CCS projects actually get up and running. The study notes, “In 2011 the capacity [of CCS facilities] in planning and construction totalled about 130 MtCO2, with approximately 20 MtCO2 already in operation; a decade later, operational capacity totalled about 40 MtCO2, showing that the vast majority of planned projects were abandoned.”
  • Carbon capture technology is incredibly expensive. What’s more, unlike other technologies such as wind or solar, the cost of carbon capture and storage isn’t expected to go down. If CCS is highly utilized to decrease carbon emissions, rather than focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency and electrification, the price tag for reaching net-zero by 2050 would jump by more than $30 trillion.

You can learn about additional drawbacks by reading the study in-full below:

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