When carbon dioxide (CO2) is captured and stored deep underground, a process known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), it’s supposed to remain there permanently. Although much of today’s emphasis is on moving carbon-capture projects from aspirational to operational, there are long-term challenges to making sure those emissions stay put away for good, even if the odds of a significant leakage are considered remote. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the common risk factors for carbon-capture projects, explain why a site’s post-injection care-and-monitoring period can last for several decades, and detail the leakage risks that project planners must be prepared to handle.
A ton of attention has been heaped on the carbon-capture industry over the past couple of years, from its inclusion in major federal legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to topics such as the federal 45Q tax credit, key projects under development, and detailed breakdowns of the technology involved — major themes discussed in our Way Down in the Hole series. We’ve written a lot about why a vibrant carbon-capture industry has been slow to develop, from limitations under the original legislation and tax credits that weren’t high enough to meet breakeven costs to challenges in scaling up technology and winning over an often-skeptical public, but there are also long-term risks that have helped keep projects from advancing.
It should be said up front that CCS is considered by many to be an effective tool in lowering emissions and is a key element in any plan to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. And while all sorts of new projects and technologies are being developed to capture emissions from industrial sources, it’s important to remember that the oil industry has been sequestering CO2 via enhanced oil recovery (EOR) for about 50 years. (When CO2 is used for some process before it’s stored, such as with EOR, it’s called carbon capture, use and sequestration, or CCUS.)
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