May 9, 2014

Does carbon capture (CCS) make sense?

No.  Two new Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) plants are demonstrating that CCS is extremely expensive.

The first is in Saskatchewan. It's expected to cost $1.2B, and have a nominal capacity of 110MW. The second, in Mississippia, is called Boundary Dam. Bounday Dam will cost about $5 (up from the initial estimate of $2.4B) for a capacity of 565MW.

If we assume an average utilization of 75% (a little higher than the industry average) we get an overall cost per average Watt of $12.25. If we assume 7% interest and a 30 year life, that gives us a cost for capital alone of 11.3 cents per kWh.

These plants are selling their CO2 output for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), but that's not scalable to a large number of plants: the market for EOR could absorb only two or three percent of coal CO2, and long distance movement of CO2 for this purpose would be very expensive.

The article suggests that the IPCC is pushing for biomass with CCS, but I strongly suspect it makes much more sense just to grow biomass and bury it, rather than trying to capture the carbon with CCS. That's after we move to low-CO2 generation first, of course - it's always easier to just not emit CO2 than it is to capture and sequester it.