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Swedes abandon CCS

The Swedish energy giant Vattenfall has decided that carbon capture and storage is a dead duck and will wind up its research efforts in the area.

The state-owned giant had been investing in this technology for more than 10 years, with plans for a power plant equipped with CCS in 2016.

Capturing and liquifying CO2 coming from carbon combustion to later store it underground was meant to curb greenhouse effect gas emissions, but its costs and the energy it requires make the technology unviable.

This really does put a question mark over the direction taken by Ed Davey, who is hosing down oil majors with money in an attempt to keep them working on the technology. It's the 1970s all over again - ministers pick winners while the public watches them sink without trace, all the time wondering if it would have been better simply to have burnt the cash in a power station, which at least would have generated something useful.


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Reader Comments (38)

A really interesting news item but I don't think

It's the 1970s all over again - ministers pick winners while the public watches them sink without trace …

is quite right. It only becomes the same - potentially a lot worse - when half-baked CCS is mandated as part of fossil fuel powered electricity generation. For the moment it's a research topic and I have less problem with government keeping the researchers on that topic than I do with its gross meddling with the energy market in other ways eg subsidies for offshore and onshore wind.

May 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Anybody with an IQ greater than can be measured on the fingers of one or even two hands knows that CCS is a non-starter - unaffordable, too risky and unnecessary. If idiots like Davey are prepared to give taxpayers money away, then some company will take the money, make a profit and eventually show CCS for what it is.

May 7, 2014 at 9:48 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

'CCS' has been gifted undeserved credibility by an over-promoted sixth former disguised as a cabinet minister. It's rank stupidity to suggest such impractical nonsense could make any discernible contribution to reducing global temperatures in any meaningful way whatsoever. Away with the fairies stuff. Nothing less.

May 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

Cheshirered: "Away with the fairies stuff." I agree with you (and with the Bish and Phillip) that it is fantasy. The danger for me is not the loss of taxpayer money in yet another unproductive direction, because it's going to be a fairly minor sum in the overall scheme of things. It's the perpetuation of fantasy as a major plank of public policy, as Robin Guenier has argued so powerfully. Davey and the rest have to come to their senses and fast. Ideas like CCS aren't helping.

May 7, 2014 at 10:03 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

CCS has for a long time been an excuse to maintain carbon-intensive infrastructure with the pretence of retrofitting it in the future, and thus forgoing the opportunity of investing into renewable energy. Slowly as the evidence of its unfeasability starts to mount, we can start to think about better solutions for reducing carbon emissions.

May 7, 2014 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Pearson

Fred Pearson: Or we can forget about the pretence of reducing carbon emissions globally - for pretence is what it is, as Robin Guenier has shown beyond doubt. So let's get real. It's not going to happen. We have to adapt to whatever comes - including the certain benefits of greater fertilisation from more CO2. The situation is that simple. We need politicians with the guts to say so.

May 7, 2014 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake: Politics is the art of the possible. I'm glad that you acknowledge that climate change will have dire effects that require adaptation, but I find it surprising you would believe someone to have "shown beyond doubt" that carbon emissions cannot be reduced.

May 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Pearson

Its a given that ministers are nit-wits, so no surprise Davey talks tosh. The hand up the dummy always used to belong to the Civil Service. What on earth has happened to it? Or do the Civil Service know that ideas like CCS are daft, but there is another agenda which compels the promotion of such ideas? If so, what?

May 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Fred Pearson

"Slowly as the evidence of its unfeasability starts to mount, we can start to think about better solutions for reducing carbon emissions."

Please don't think I'm nitpicking - but who exactly does "we" refer to in the above?

May 7, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

Re: Fred Pearson

> I'm glad that you acknowledge that climate change will have dire effects

He did no such thing.

I am currently adapting my home to handle the change in climate from winter to summer. This means doing thing like changing the curtains for lighter ones and digging out the fans. The change is neither dire nor catastrophic and the adaptations required are minimal but necessary for my comfort.

Just because you adapt to handle change does not mean that that change is dire.

May 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Fred Pearson:

Richard Drake: … I'm glad that you acknowledge that climate change will have dire effects that require adaptation …

I don't expect the effects to be dire. We have been winning the battle over extreme events since 1920 and I expect that to continue. More CO2 has one certain effect and it's beneficial - increasing crop yields. Some further mild warming will also be beneficial. But whatever happens we have to adapt - that's part of the human story. Let's drop the 'dire', be thankful for the wondrous benefits fossil fuels have made possible and move forward with intelligence and hope.

May 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Phillip Bratby
It's interesting that, as a generalisation, the same people who are against fracking are in favour of CCS.

May 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The CCS nonsense has been around for a lot longer than Ed Davey at least in Scotland where nowadays we're the last to abandon a bad idea. As I understand it, one unstated reason for the otherwise puzzling enthusiasm for the technology is that pumping gas underground can significantly increase the yield of an oil field. Especially off-shore, costs are prohibitive but, if politicians can be persuaded to coerce the public into subsidising it in the name of planet saving, why not give it a shot?

May 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Fred Pearson
(Chandra MkII?)
To paraphrase something said by Bob Carter quoted by BH in the subsequent item to this.

Such dire consequnces only exists in the virtual reality imagined by computer models.

May 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Fred Pearson (10:16 AM): you have quite a remarkable ability of twisting what someone says into something quite the opposite. Are you an aspiring politician, or a lawyer?

Richard Drake did NOT “…acknowledge that climate change will have dire effects…”; neither did he say that he believed that carbon emissions cannot be reduced. What he said was that, whatever happens, we can adapt: as summer approaches, I shed my winter coat – i.e. I adapt to the change. As for the reduction in carbon emissions, all the attempts by (Western) governments have merely been to shift the location of the emitter (moving industry to other countries), not to reduce total emissions. Yet they call it “reducing emissions”, when it quite clearly is not; hence, RD’s description of it as a pretence. Carbon emissions could be reduced, but need they be reduced? Now, that is another question.

May 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

it would have been better simply to have burnt the cash in a power station, which at least would have generated something useful.

and it's "sustainable".

May 7, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

The ability of ministers and politicians to pick losers should never be underestimated. The bigger problem is allowing them to do so with national energy policy.

What so few of them understand, is that the process is as perilous to the country as allowing ministers and politicians to decide the monetary policy of the Bank of England. It is something Gordon Brown never really grasped.

May 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

why not give it a shot?

May 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Because, dave, It facile. Where will the gas go? How and when will you cork the whole, will you be allowed the burn the fossil fuels released by the process. It's stupid, expensive and useless.

May 7, 2014 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Fred Pearson gives us a refreshing look at a true believer: Immune to facts, twisting what other say, using the latest trade name for AGW and of course the irrational, ignorant and deceptive hatred of carbon. He has it all in one snarky package.
something about his reactionary hatred of carbon makes me wonder if, for some true believers, climate obsession, and its attendant hatred of carbon is not some sort of misanthropic loathing that hates the very molecules we are made of?

May 7, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Fred, now you've accepted the engineering lunacy that is CCS, perhaps you can help us work towards demonstrating this is the case to those with influence in energy policy.

Welcome aboard!


May 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial


something about his reactionary hatred of carbon makes me wonder if, for some true believers, climate obsession, and its attendant hatred of carbon is not some sort of misanthropic loathing that hates the very molecules we are made of?

Though not falsifiable in the Popperian sense this is I think a really important insight. At the heart of all this - including the horrid co-option of 'denier' - there's blind hatred of the ordinary man and woman. Only the elite are worthy - the 'anointed' in Thomas Sowell's deliberately creepy term. But even they are made of carbon. Clay feet.

May 7, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

May 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Fred Pearson

I am the “someone” to whom Richard Drake referred. And he didn’t say that I had "shown beyond doubt" that carbon emissions couldn’t be reduced. No doubt they could – in theory. My point is that, in practice, global reduction isn’t going to happen and to claim otherwise is pretence.

Do you disagree? If so, perhaps you’d like to join this Discussion.

May 7, 2014 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

A Carbon Capture device already exists with many advantages

Solar powered
Very efficient recycling CO2 and storing Carbon for 100s of years
Low maintenance
Easy to install
Almost free to purchase
Blends in with its surrounding Landscape
No restriction on location (but unfortunately not very portable)
Provides a habitat for wildlife
Provides fuel
Provides building material
Provides natural farm produce
Looks great
Free patent
Provides a ready made children play area

The name of this device is called a tree.

May 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

..too simple to be true ?
and eventually what happens to the CO2 in that tree ?
- Trees temparily store CO2 when the are alive, however if you get a forest fire they release it. (and BTW cumulatively more radio-active dust than coal or nuclear power does ..but don't panic)
- also if they die & rot they can emit large amounts of CO2, however if you are lucky it will get trapped in the soil or even better swampy peat.
- If you plant a regenerating forest in an area where less vegetation used to exist, then you have added a net sink (as long as the whole lot never burns down)
.. It all has this "have your cake & eat it attitude" that greens seems to have, that they can have a big life with 5 kids and a people carrier and buy stuff that makes them "green". In reality no solution is going to be as good as not consuming in the first place.
- However the cost benefit analysis depends on what CO2 sensitivity is .. I haven't seen any proof could be zero
..Also what's the difference if 1 European offsets and 1,000 Chinese/Indians don't bother ?
+ strong chance that FUSION is coming soon CCS would be worthless if you can use a fully controllable zero CO2 power source.

- I very much doubt that renewables like wind/solar are actually carbon neutral if you follow them all the way through the cycle.

May 7, 2014 at 2:48 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Fred Pearson

>I find it surprising you would believe someone to have "shown beyond doubt" that carbon emissions cannot be reduced.

I find it surprising that anyone might think they can (assuming that by 'carbon' you really mean CO2).

May 7, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I recall reading somewhere many years ago that the atmospheric CO2 content starting falling at the same time as trees evolved and populated large tracts of the globe. Now if trees could talk would they be pleased with us for saving them from self inflicted disaster? A quick google revealed that:trees evolved about 400 million years ago, CO2 over last 600 million years

Some claim that trees were the trigger for ice ages

The Decline of CO2 Levels and the Rise of Deep Roots
Archaeopteris was also the first plant to evolve deep roots. Roots eat away at rocks, burrowing into and dissolving them with acids in pursuit of nutrients. Over an immense period of time the weathered material gets washed into the oceans, where it combines with dissolved CO2 to form sediments that are eventually subducted into the Earth's interior by tectonic activity. This process removed huge amounts of CO2 from the oceans and atmosphere, with profound consequences for the climate. Between the beginning and end of the Devonian, levels of the gas plummeted by up to 95 per cent. Greenhouse conditions vanished, to be replaced by an ice age that at its peak 300 million years ago saw glaciers approaching the tropics.

May 7, 2014 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

It's a £1bn commitment:

Part of the story is that the market will be rigged to recover the costs - just as it is for windfarms. In the mean time, taxpayer money is going in up front to the tune of £100m for engineering design. There's another £125m committed for research.

May 7, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

CCS is such an idiotic idea you always assume someone just keeps mentioning as a joke. It sort of goes along with paying to have your carbon offset so that you can jet to the other side of the world on your eco-holiday. Is there really an industry that plants on your behalf some new trees somewhere to absorb the CO2 you generated and ten guarantees that they will never be cut down or burnt..... ever. I assume they plant some new ones in a 100 years time when one of yours falls over and rots. The insurance to cover this kind of never ending scheme must cost a fortune..... or is it just a load of wishy washy nonsense. I've never actually looked at the details so it may be totally legit and therefore keep your conscience clean.

May 7, 2014 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Genuinely ignorant question here but isn't carbon capture a form of fracking? In a sense?

I mean, the placing of great quantities of a gas under the ground under pressure?

Ref jamspid,

Absolutely, couldn't agree more with your points.

May 7, 2014 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Really sorry but I just can't stop thinking about this:

May 7, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Geologic storage on the scale that is thought to be necessary will require huge new investments in equipment and infrastructure. Some estimates suggest that the amount of infrastructure necessary to perform geologic storage on a meaningful level is equivalent to the existing worldwide infrastructure associated with current oil and gas production. This includes gas treatment facilities for CO2 capture, pipelines and compression equipment for transportation, and more compression equipment, distribution lines, flowlines and wells for injection. Because of the magnitude of investment that may be made, it is also vitally important that any legal and regulatory infrastructure that is developed encourage safe, efficient, and environmentally sound geologic storage projects that balance costs and benefits.

At that rate they'll have real trouble balancing costs and benefits. Here's an insight into the technology of using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery The total CO2 injection in the US over the 35 history up to about 2005 when this was written is slightly more than one year's UK emissions at 600MT.

May 7, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Not only politicians.... Myles Allen, for example, has been a huge fan of CCS:

Myles Allen on CCS

Myles Allen on CCS, again

May 7, 2014 at 9:41 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

CCS - one of the six impossible things Ed Davey believes before breakfast.

Any offers for the other five?

May 7, 2014 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Bit of a long shot, but could CCS be a double-bluff?
By 'pursuing' research into CCS have Davey et al pulled a fast one on the anti-coal lobby? Maintain coal for now, but on a promise - now all-but confirmed as false, that CCS is to be fitted once it's viable.
Or am I giving the eco-goblin too much credit?

May 7, 2014 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

coals needed for making steel
oil and gas are needed for making plastics
and thotium will be our energy, together with fusion

we must think not about how to reduce energy so only our champagne socialist scumbags have a nice easy life, but
we must think how to make 100x more enrgy for the short time we remian on this stone called earth

Our future is in space anyway.
If callmedave and te other dogooders want to throw money out of the window they could invest in s self sustainable moon base. That will help survivers in case there is a serious catastrophe on earth.

May 7, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Sometimes contributors such as Fred serve to remind that the ability to read and write does not denote the ability to reason using available actual facts rather than myths.

May 8, 2014 at 2:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Kendall

Ptw, I, too, long held the notion that space was our future. Now, I think that, unless something truly revolutionary is discovered and developed, the destiny of Man remains on Earth, hence we should take care of it, and use its resources as effectively and efficiently as possible. This means doing what has been done since time immemorial: caring for our present, not worrying about our future.

May 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Well said RR. I was also struck by the need to care for the planet reading Michael Kelly's brilliant Technology Introductions in the Context of Decarbonsiation for the GWPF. Real sceptics aren't the irresponsible ones. We care about the truth of matters like CCS and the wider climate debate because it enables us to show proper respect for the amazing place we find as home.

May 9, 2014 at 8:34 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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