A drastic increase in most countries’ carbon prices, to something above US$100 per tonne, will be the price of entry for anyone banking on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a technological fix for the climate crisis while turning a profit for its providers, Greentech Media reports.
(And of sudden, possibly unexpected interest to Canadians, the analysis gives no indication that a projected carbon price of C$170 per tonne in one country will be enough to drive global development of a technology that still isn’t ready for prime time.)
“There is scant likelihood of scaling carbon capture technologies to meaningful levels without a radical increase in carbon pricing around the world,” Greentech writes. That’s after a report from the International Energy Agency in September that cited CCS and its variant, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), as “critical” to achieving climate goals.
Citing the Global CCS Institute’s facilities database, Greentech notes that only 21 large-scale carbon capture plants are currently in operation around the world. While “plans for more than 30 commercial facilities have been announced in the last three years,” according to the IEA, “that’s hardly going to stop climate change.”
And the capture that CCS technologies are currently capable of is not close to what’s needed. Greentech reports that the self-described “groundbreaking” deal between direct air capture firm Climeworks, technology developer Carbfix, and Icelandic geothermal asset owner On Power will be a facility capable of capturing an annual 4,000 tonnes of CO2, in a world where fossils “emitted 36.7 billion tonnes of CO2 last year.”
Setting aside the yawning gap between 4,000 and 36.7 billion, CCS at scale “will need to have a clear financial incentive,” writes Greentech, with “difficult-to-abate industrial processes such as the manufacture of steel or cement” requiring a carbon price of more than $100 per tonne.
“That’s not great news for carbon capture as things stand today,” Greentech wrote December 7, just days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released his country’s updated 2030 climate plan. “Of the fewer than 40 global carbon pricing initiatives listed on the World Bank’s dashboard, only three outside of Europe show prices above $20 a tonne.”
And the number with per-tonne prices above $100? “Only one scheme in the world, in Sweden.”