Over 50 participants from the EU institutions – including MEPs and several representatives of the Commission – the oil and gas industry, power companies, national governments, and journalists attended an open hearing on carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) in the European Parliament on 7 March 2006.
The event, co-organized by British Liberal Group Member of European Parliament (MEP) Diana Wallis and the Bellona Foundation, presented the case for CCS, addressed safety concerns, and provided a case study for kick-starting CCS in Europe.
Wallis spoke of the importance of the EU’s leadership on climate change issues and the already notable effects of climate change in the Arctic. She noted that, while any solution envisaged has its own problems, CCS offered great opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
The case for CCS
After listing the various storage options and presenting the already established demonstration projects, John Gale of the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme emphasized that CCS is capable of large-scale reductions in CO2 emissions over the next 20 to 50 years, without the need for major energy infrastructure changes.
Bellona founder and President Frederic Hauge stressed that all available options to mitigate climate change must be implemented considering the disastrous consequences of global warming. The development of renewable energy is an important part of the solution, but the current difficulty is to produce enough energy from renewables to meet growing demand. In addition, since injecting CO2 into oil and gas reservoirs leads to enhanced oil and gas recovery, any infrastructure necessary for CCS which is not already in place would essentially be self-financing.
Speaking on safety aspects of CO2 storage, Nick Riley of the UK Geological Survey made the point that “Whilst we delay deploying CCS by agonizing over the very low risk of possible leakage from geological storage, we continue to emit 100 percent of fossil fuel CO2 emissions to the sky. What is unsafe is to fail to deal with fossil fuel emissions effectively and quickly”.
The geologist added that, in addition to contributing to climate change, CO2 emissions in the atmosphere lead to the acidification of the world’s oceans, which will likely result in a collapse of the ocean ecosystem.
A case study for kick-starting CCS in Europe
Bellona’s Marius Holm presented a case study for kick-starting CCS in Europe and stressed that large-scale CCS will not be deployed in Europe if left to market forces alone. There currently exists a willingness to pay for CO2 in the North Sea and the technical potential is huge. However, financial and legal barriers, and the lack of a CO2 value chain, are hindering the development of commercial-scale projects. Holm told the EU’s policy-makers and legislators that there is a necessity for potential investors in the technology to see a commercial, profit-making opportunity in CCS.