European regulatory and financial support has allowed it to push ahead with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. But the technology is facing economic hurdles and criticism from environmentalist, who say CCS is being used to justify building inefficient coal-fired power stations, BusinessWeek reports.
European companies are at the forefront of CCS development. If they can perfect CCS coal power plants, which represent two-fifths of the global energy mix, other industries could use the technology to reduce their emissions. Oil refineries and steelmakers, for example, could reduce their CO2 emissions by an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent using CCS.
However, the economic climate is not yet ripe for CCS; taking the technology from pilot projects to industrial scale could add 30 percent to 60 percent to the cost of generating electricity.
Apart from financing issues, CCS also faces criticism from the environmental community which would prefer a policy response that de-emphasizes fossil fuels in favor of renewables. Some people also question whether CO2 can be stored safely underground for the long term.
In September, Vattenfall inaugurated a pilot coal-fired power station that it touts as “almost emissions-free.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $1.3 billion CCS investment plan under the restructured FutureGen program.