Carbon capture technology not viable in Germany, Europe – study

08 September 2010 18:59  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is not likely to become a viable option for German or European industry - including chemicals and power plants - to fight carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to a study by a German research institute released on Wednesday.

A number of chemical firms, including BASF and Linde of Germany, and Air Products in the US, are interested in carbon capture and storage processes, and countries such as Canada, the US and Germany have begun investing in CCS projects to help reduce emissions.

However, Christian von Hirschhausen, director of research at Berlin-based DIW institute, said that contrary to earlier promises and hopes, CCS had turned out to be “very uncertain and very expensive.”

He was introducing a DIW study on the prospects of CCS technology.

Von Hirschhausen went on to say that a number of significant technical, commercial and institutional factors prevented the development of viable CCS projects, not only in Germany but also elsewhere in Europe.

CCS technology was technically challenging, the regulatory framework for transporting CO2 to appropriate storage facilities was still unclear, available storage capacity was insufficient, and demonstration projects were being opposed by affected residents and property owners, as well as many politicians, he said.

Von Hirschhausen also said that Germany’s recently proposed regulatory framework for CCS projects allowed for only 3m tonnes/year of CO2 storage capacity per facility – not enough to bundle emissions from several plants or utilities and thus achieve needed economies of scale.

Globally, some 100 demonstration projects with a storage capacity totalling 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 and 10,000 kilometres of pipeline were needed to achieve a meaningful emissions reduction in the foreseeable future, he said. So far, however, only seven demonstration projects had started up, he said.

Governments had over-emphasised the role of CCS and would do better to invest the money in renewable energy projects, he said.

He was also critical of Germany’s new “energy concept” introduced this week.

The government, in its targets for emissions and renewables targets under the concept, assumed that CCS technology would be commercially available by 2025 - a “very unrealistic” assumption, he said.

In its report, DIW said it could not exclude that CCS technology would fail.

“As it stands today, the technology for carbon separation, capture, transport and storage is highly uncertain in Germany, and throughout Europe,” it said.

It would take several decades before the first large-scale projects could become operational, it said.

However, the technology may yet have a chance, but only if governments took “drastic steps” to accelerate commercialisation.

Those steps would include immediate investments and aid for specific projects, a reliable legal framework, and an “active government role” in planning and financing projects – including their pipeline infrastructure and necessary storage capacities.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said last year he was confident that CCS could be commercially viable within 10 years - but reaching that goal would require major effort by global governments and industry.

The study is available, in German, on DIW’s website.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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