Yet another US-China deal on CCUS collaboration, while we keep waiting for a project to materialise

Yoel, MorgueFile

Publish date: September 2, 2015

On 26 August 2015 during the US-China Clean Coal Industry Forum which took place in Billings, Montana, the world’s two largest contributors to climate change signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) committing themselves to joint efforts in advancing carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) among other low-carbon technologies.

While pleased to see the world’s largest emitters committing themselves to further R&D collaboration on CCUS, what we really need to be seeing is a concrete commitment to large scale CCS deployment” – notes Jonas Helseth, Director at Bellona Europa, in reaction to the two-country-agreement.

Helseth further commented that “for CCS to play its crucial role in the decarbonisation of Chinese industry and energy, efforts will need to rapidly focus on the delivery of CO2 storage and not only on CO2 utilisation.”

This agreement formalises existing collaboration between the US and China in the field of low-carbon technologies. Moreover, last week’s MoU will commit the two countries to work on six advanced CCUS pilot projects in China, research and development under the US-China Clean Energy Research Center, and the joint Fossil Energy Protocol signed in 2000.

During last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting China and the US made a joint announcement, committing themselves to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions: while the US committed to emission reductions of 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, China announced a goal of peaking their CO2 emissions by 2030 and increasing their non-fossil fuel sources to about 20% of the total energy mix by the same year.

In addition to sending a strong signal towards the upcoming UN climate negotiations at COP 21, their declaration featured an agreement to boost cooperation in the field of CCUS and to undertake a major project with enhanced water recovery in China.

Unfortunately, we have not seen any concrete actions in the direction of a CCUS project in China.

As revealed by China’s pledge (also known as an INDC) towards COP 21, the country intends to “to strengthen R&D and commercialisation demonstration for low-carbon technologies, such as energy conservation, renewable energy, advanced nuclear power technologies and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and to promote the technologies of utilising carbon dioxide to enhance oil recovery and coal-bed methane recovery”.

While pleased at the explicit mention of CCS in the pledge, it is disappointing to see a concrete plan for a CCS project in China being omitted. Given that coal still accounts for around 66% of China’s energy consumption, this makes CCS an indispensable tool for enabling the country to cut its emissions and sustain economic growth.