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Renewable Vibes > News > Enviroment > If the global spend on carbon capture since 1970 had been allocated to wind and solar energy instead, it could have resulted in a greater reduction of CO2 emissions.

If the global spend on carbon capture since 1970 had been allocated to wind and solar energy instead, it could have resulted in a greater reduction of CO2 emissions.

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has been generating a lot of hype lately, but the reality is that it is still ineffective, inefficient, and expensive. Despite the attention it is receiving, the problems associated with CCS have not changed, and there are still better alternatives available. The potential for CCS to make a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions is still minuscule, which is why we are revisiting old articles on the topic.

One recent example of the hype around CCS is the $68 million investment received by Carbon Engineering in 2019 from fossil fuel majors for its air carbon capture solution. This triggered a series on Carbon Engineering by CleanTechnica, exploring its approach and why it is not a serious solution to global warming. This series led to a question about the total global investment in carbon capture and sequestration and what it has actually achieved.

It is difficult to find accurate data on the amount of money spent globally on carbon capture schemes. However, by analyzing press releases and making some approximations, it is estimated that around $7.5 billion has been spent in the past decade. The Global CCS Institute, an organization dedicated to reporting on and promoting CCS, conveniently avoids discussing the capital costs of these schemes in its reports.

The Global CCS Institute maintains a database of “large-scale” carbon capture facilities, but most of these facilities do not actually track the amount of carbon that is sequestered. Instead, they only measure the annual potential for sequestration. In reality, there are only three facilities in the world that exceed a million tons of carbon sequestration per year, which is insignificant when considering the scale of the problem.

Furthermore, of the 19 “large-scale” plants, only four of them do not pump CO2 into oil wells for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). When CO2 is used for EOR, only 10% of it is actually sequestered, as 0.9 tons of CO2 is returned when the resulting oil is burned. This means that the majority of CO2 in carbon capture schemes is being used for EOR purposes, further diminishing the effectiveness of CCS.

The only country that seems to be taking CCS seriously is Norway, but even its efforts are relatively trivial. Its Sleipner and Snøhvit CO2 Storage facilities have been operating for 1-2 decades and have sequestered about 30 million tons of CO2. Comparatively, wind and solar energy are displacing roughly 35 times more CO2 every year than the entire history of CCS.

To put things into perspective, global oil and gas revenues in 2017 alone were about $2 trillion. Governments have been subsidizing a significant portion of the costs associated with carbon capture, but even assuming a generous 25% coverage, CCS only consumes about 0.03% of the annual budgets of the oil and gas industry. This raises questions about the seriousness of their commitment to addressing climate change.

Currently, there is approximately 600 GW of wind generation capacity globally, displacing about 1,800 million tons of CO2 annually. In addition, there is 400 GW of utility-scale solar capacity, displacing another 1,200 million tons of CO2 annually. Together, wind and solar are displacing roughly 35 times more CO2 every year than the entire global history of CCS.

Every year, the world is adding approximately 100 GW of new wind and solar capacity, which will displace roughly 300 million tons of CO2 annually throughout their lifetimes. Over the course of 30 years, this adds up to roughly 9,000 million tons of CO2, over 100 times the total global carbon capture history. And the operational and maintenance costs of wind and solar are much lower than those of CCS.

In conclusion, carbon capture and sequestration is a minor player in the fight against global warming. It is clear that wind and solar energy are far more effective in reducing carbon emissions. The hype around CCS is largely driven by the fossil fuel industry, which is investing significant amounts of money in order to maintain social license to continue extracting oil. The IPCC’s reliance on carbon capture and sequestration as a solution to climate change is questionable, considering its limited effectiveness.

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