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Policy certainty crucial to growth of CCUS technologies

Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies will become increasingly important as fossil fuels are expected to meet the bulk of global energy demand for decades to come, but major players in the sector need policy and regulatory certainty

Panellists speaking at the CCUS: Making a difference in time? session told WEC 2013 delegates that such certainty is crucial to allow for the long-term investments necessary to make the technologies feasible.

Mike Gibbons, chairman of UK National Member Committee of the World Energy Congress, described carbon capture as a way to “have your cake and eat it too”. He added that it is a simple fact that many countries, particularly those with emerging economies, will continue to rely on carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting fossil fuels for decades to come. “In some countries, CCUS is the only way they’re going to have a low-carbon future,” he said.

However, Peter Oosterveer, group president of energy and chemicals at Fluor Corporation, sounded a note of caution. “This is not a silver bullet,” he said. “This is part of the solution.”

Still, views are divided about the merits of carbon capture. Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told the panel session: “Some view (CCUS) as a way to mitigate CO2 emissions. Others view it as an expensive science project.”

CCUS proponents say the technologies have the potential to transform CO2 from a waste product that fuels global climate change into a raw material that can be used to fabricate more cost-effective polymers and plastics. Brad Page, chief executive of Australia’s Global CCS Institute, said China is rapidly embracing the technology, moving in the last two years from a position below the top 10 carbon-capturing nations to second place, just behind the US.

Page and other industry leaders admitted it is still a tough sell to convince the market that CCUS is cost effective, citing an absence of consistent and predictable public policy. “Political leaders think in terms of political election cycles of about five years, and capital investors think in terms of 20 years,” Page said. “That mismatch in time horizons fundamentally affects the ability to come to an investment decision.”

Page added while there are still residual liability issues for storage captured carbon, legal and regulatory frameworks can be worked out to deal with the issue.

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