CCS advocates should come clean

Bill Browne, researcher, The Australia Institute


I RESPOND to Antonios Papaspiropoulos’ letter to the Gippsland Times, where he writes that it is “Economics 101” that “the more you do, the cheaper it becomes”.

The rule for carbon capture and storage in Australia has been that it doesn’t ever get done, so when is it going to get cheaper?

Last year, The Australia Institute’s research found that the federal government has already distributed $1.3 billion dollars to CCS-related projects, and has nothing to show for it.

There are still no large-scale CCS operations in Australia.

That report assessed the Gorgon CCS project in WA as “ready”, which turned out to be too generous.

It has since been revealed that CCS injection from Gorgon has been delayed (again) — meaning that up to eight millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted instead of stored, prompting an investigation by the Environmental Protection Authority.

The CarbonNet project is another good example of CCS failing to meet expectations.

When it was originally funded by the Rudd government, CarbonNet was meant to be operational in 2015.

The deadline was then pushed out to 2020.

Now Mr Papaspiropoulos’ employer, the Global CCS Institute, gives an operation date for CarbonNet of “2020s”.

In July, the head of gas for international power company Engie said that: “we do not believe that CCS is a mass-scale solution. It might have opportunities here and there but not on a big scale. It won’t be accepted by the local population and it is too expensive to do it offshore”.

Engie operated Hazelwood coal plant until it shut down — so they know what they are talking about.

There may be a small place for CCS for industrial processes like cement production and steel making — and Gippsland might be the right place to store carbon dioxide.

But advocates for CCS should be honest with local communities about how the technology struggles despite massive taxpayer subsidy – and how often CCS dreams have been expensive flops.

Climate change needs real and ready solutions, and so far CCS has not provided them.