Barriers to Carbon Capture and Storage

Jul 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Climate Change

Our knowledge of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and experience dealing with it have greatly increased over the past decade, but CCS is still far from living up to its potential in stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and mitigating climate change impacts. To deploy CCS on a larger scale, the following economic, social, and legal barriers will need to be addressed.


Economic Barriers to CCS

For a technology to become deployable, it needs to be commercialized or become cost-effective. It is understandable that CCS technologies will require additional costs (i.e. new equipment, labor, efficiency loss), however, while demonstration projects are under way and research and development is ongoing, CCS for the most part is not yet economical enough, at least when compared to other carbon dioxide reduction strategies. To overcome this barrier, incentives for investment need to be established at the national and international levels. One of the key ways to do this is by increasing the global price on carbon. Presently, the price has been hovering between 8 to 13 Euros per ton of carbon emitted, while estimates of the price needed range from 50 to 100 Euros per ton. In the end, CCS will only be cost competitive with other traditional technologies when a sufficiently high global carbon price is achieved. This, however, is as much a political issue as it is an economic issue.


Social Barriers to CCS

As with any new technology, CCS must be accepted by the public if it is to be deployed on a large scale. Engaging society in the CCS development and decision-making processes will help to ensure that potential future opposition is avoided; it will also improve the legitimacy of a particular project. As we have seen in a number of cases with CCS, society’s opposition can lead to an entire project being delayed for several years or, as was the case in Barendrecht, Netherlands, it can be completely abandoned.

Poor communication efforts and a lack of engagement on the part of governmental representatives and project proponents often lead to project opposition. Thus, it is crucial for researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders to pay attention to the public’s perception and understanding of CCS from the beginning and to aim for a more active engagement that encourage public participation in the environmental assessments, planning, decision making, and monitoring.


Legal Barriers to CCS 

Currently, one of the main barriers to deploying CCS is the absence of a more comprehensive framework for policy, legislation, and regulation. In some countries CCS policies and legislation that include capture, transportation, and storage are already in place, although overall these measures remain limited in scope. At the international level, some progress has been made in attempting to provide for such a framework. A good example is the 2009 European Directive on the geological storage of carbon dioxide (CCS Directive 2009/31/EC). While certainly a good step forward, one of the Directive’s main limitations has been the fact that only a small number of countries have managed to transpose it into their national legislations. 

Other legal and regulatory barriers are essentially comprised of a number of complex issues including property rights, liability, monitoring and verification, etc. To overcome many of the legal and regulatory issues that come up throughout the CCS process, international regimes will have to be placed alongside domestic and regional (i.e. European Union) regulatory regimes, making regulation of CCS effective both horizontally (between different regimes covering different issues) and vertically (between different types of national, regional, and international laws).


About the Author

Marko Maver is a doctoral student in international environmental law at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Mr. Maver’s research focuses on the legal aspects of carbon sequestration. His Master of Arts dissertation, Carbon Capture and Storage: An Analysis of the Barriers to the Development and Deployment, describes the economic, social, and political barriers to the development and deployment of CCS technologies.

Photograph: Chopsticks on a Plate by Zsuzsanna Kilian, Budapest, Hungary.

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