A proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant in the United States will capture far less than the 95% of carbon dioxide emissions its backers claim, concludes a new analysis released this week by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
A full life cycle assessment of the proposed CCS retrofit at New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station “shows 90% or higher capture is a myth,” IEEFA writes in a release. It “estimates the overall carbon capture rate from both the power plant and the mine that provides its coal would be no more than 72%, and could be significantly lower,” even though “companies continually promise a capture rate of 95%.”
Moreover, project proponent Enchant Energy “acknowledges there is little investor interest in its carbon capture project and it will be asking for US$1 billion from the federal government” to get the job done, IEEFA says.
IEEFA is hosting a webinar today at 1:00 PM Eastern to go over the analysis in more detail.
The San Juan project is a retrofit to be bolted on to an existing power plant, not a new installation, and it’s meant to capture emissions from a coal-fired power plant, not oil or gas—so the process is somewhat different from approaches now in development in the Canadian fossil industry.
But IEEFA says its findings are applicable to other types of carbon capture projects. That conclusion reinforces concerns that the Trudeau government has agreed to a generous subsidy for a technology that still isn’t ready for prime time after 30 years of development—even though more proven, less expensive alternatives are readily at hand.
The institute says this is one of the first studies to look at a carbon capture scheme across its full life cycle—in this case, from extraction to final electricity production. It concludes that:
• Even if Enchant hits its 90% capture target for the power plant, methane emissions from the associated coal mine will bring CO2-equivalent emissions capture down to 68%. That will leave the Farmington, NM-based energy supplier touting a “low-carbon” project that still emits the equivalent of nearly three megatons of CO2 per year.
• If the power plant hits a more realistic target of 65 to 75% carbon capture, the life cycle capture rate will fall to between 49 and 57%.
“The findings in this study can reasonably be applied to other carbon capture projects, including those from other coal plants, from gas-fired plants, and from proposed blue hydrogen projects,” said report co-author David Schlissel, IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis. “The Enchant project also highlights the limited investor interest in carbon capture, with the company already acknowledging that it is seeking $1 billion from the [U.S.] federal government to underwrite the projects.”