A$450 Million Later, Australia Has Nothing to Show for Carbon Capture Pipe Dream
Australia’s National Audit Office (ANAO) has rubbished the country’s stubborn, decade-long pursuit of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a way to scrub climate-disrupting consequences from the exhaust emissions of its coal-fired power plants.
The Audit Office found that successive coal-obsessed Australian governments had invested more than A$450 million in the technology to date. Yet “not a single tonne of CO2 has been saved, no technology is ready for deployment, and the ANAO report slams the government for having no strategic direction, no oversight over the projects, and little accounting for the spending,” RenewEconomy reports.
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Australia launched its effort to make CCS viable in 2007, with the goal of creating “at least 20 large-scale, integrated CCS demonstration projects” globally by 2010, with multiple commercial deployments of the technology by 2020. A parallel effort to develop so-called “clean” coal technology was also come to market before 2020.
So far, the CCS ‘Flagships’ program has burned through $217 million of a promised $2 billion, and the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative another $233 million. But according to the national auditor, “none of the CCS Flagships projects met the original time frame or reached the stage of deployable technology originally envisaged.” Other experts who have assessed the technology have found that applying it to new plants would make coal-fired power twice as expensive as available renewable alternatives.
Australia’s experience is far from unique.
In June, Mississippi ordered Southern Company, a regulated utility, to abandon its efforts to construct a “clean” coal generating facility with CCS, after costs spiralled from US$2.3 billion in 2010 to $7.5 billion. Instead, the state ordered the company to install a gas-fired unit.
In Canada, Saskatchewan government recently doubled down on CCS technology, which has failed to achieve either its cost or performance targets where it has been installed at the Boundary Dam power station, making it a centrepiece of the province’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In RenewEconomy’s pungent view, “the technology remains nothing more than a fantasy—and a lacquered prop for the fossil fuel industry and its proponents.”