More projects aimed at capturing greenhouse gases from power plants and factories were built in 2010, as the focus of the industry shifted from Europe to the US, according to a new report by the Global CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) Institute.
By the end of 2010, 234 CCS projects were active or planned globally, a net rise of 26 from 2009, despite soaring costs and cancellations by European countries including the Netherlands and Finland.
"There is a shift in focus a little bit from Europe to the United States," said Bob Pegler, general manager for Europe at the Global CCS Institute.
The change partly reflected a trend among US projects to improve cash flow by injecting carbon dioxide into semi-depleted oilfields to help extract crude oil, which is currently trading at around $113 a barrel.
CCS aims to capture planet-warming carbon dioxide in fossil fuels, such as from coal-fired power plants or cement factories, and bury it in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or other underground stores.
No commercial-scale projects yet exist.
In October 2010, the Dutch government shelved plans for a demonstration project in Barendrecht after delays and opposition from local people.
In the same month, Finnish energy company Fortum also scrapped a Meri-Pori CCS project due to technological and financial risks.
"The global commitment to carbon capture and storage remains strong," the report affirms. But it also notes that rising costs have discouraged investments at a time of sluggish economic growth in many developed nations.
Recent reviews have suggested CCS costs were "20 to 30% higher than indicated in similar studies undertaken only two to three years ago," it says.
UN studies have suggested that CCS could be as important this century as a shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power in curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.
But the technology has proved controversial with environmental campaigners who believe it diverts funding from renewable energies in the present, while being unable to offer significant emissions savings until 2030, when runaway global warming could already have taken hold.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)