Aviation sector is hoping, unrealistically, that future “carbon capture & storage” will solve its CO2 problems

There is a presumption in all future climate scenarios, aiming to get to “net zero” by 2050 (or whenever) that “negative carbon technologies” will have to be used. It will be essential to try to remove some of the CO2 from the global atmosphere.  Obviously, a more effective way to keep global CO2 to a lower figure would be to stop emitting it, over the next decade or two decades. But governments and businesses, including the aviation sector, are not keen on doing that; it would be bad for business.  Even the most optimistic forecasts for the amount of carbon that could be captured by DACCS (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage) would only be a tiny % of annual emissions, let alone the millions of tonnes emitted in the past. The technology is expensive and uses a great deal of energy. So far, the only carbon capture that has been profitable has been pumping the captured CO2 into depleting oil and gas fields, in order to get out more oil and gas (totally negating the purpose of capturing the CO2 in the first place). Aviation will want people to believe in the future magical abilities of this tech – people need to be very sceptical indeed.  Beware dangerous greenwash.



‘For us, it is not a solution’: Enel CEO skeptical over the use of carbon capture

NOV 25 2021

By Anmar Frangoul (CNBC)

“There is a rule of thumb here: if a technology doesn’t really pick up in five years … you better drop it,” Starace says.

The CEO was speaking after Enel published a strategic plan for 2022-24 and laid out its aims for the years ahead.

The CEO of multinational Italian energy firm Enel has expressed doubt on the usefulness of carbon capture and storage, suggesting the technology is not a climate solution.

“We have tried and tried — and when I say ‘we’, I mean the electricity industry,” Francesco Starace told CNBC’s Karen Tso on Wednesday.

“You can imagine, we tried hard in the past 10 years — maybe more, 15 years — because if we had a reliable and economically interesting solution, why would we go and shut down all these coal

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has described carbon capture and storage as a suite of technologies focused on “capturing, transporting, and storing CO2 emitted from power plants and industrial facilities.”

The idea is to stop CO2 “reaching the atmosphere, by storing it in suitable underground geological formations.”

The Commission has said the utilization of carbon capture and storage is “important” when it comes to helping lower greenhouse gas emissions. This view is based on the contention that a substantial proportion of both industry and power generation will still be reliant on fossil fuels in the years ahead.

Enel’s Starace, however, seemed skeptical about carbon capture’s potential.

“The fact is, it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for us so far,” he said. “And there is a rule of thumb here:  If a technology doesn’t really pick up in five years — and here we’re talking about more than five, we’re talking about 15, at least — you better drop it.”

There are other climate solutions, Starace said. “Basically, stop emitting carbon,” he said.

“I’m not saying it’s not worth trying again but we’re not going to do it. Maybe other industries can try harder and succeed. For us, it is not a solution.”

Carbon capture technology is often held up as a source of hope https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/20/climate-crisis-and-carbon-capture-why-some-are-worried-about-its-role.html in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, featuring prominently in countries’ climate plans as well as the net-zero strategies of some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

Proponents of these technologies believe they can play an important and diverse role in meeting global energy and climate goals.

Climate researchers, campaigners and environmental advocacy groups, however, have long argued that carbon capture and storage technologies prolong the world’s fossil fuel dependency and distract from a much-needed pivot to renewable alternatives.

Plans to increase shareholder dividends

Starace was speaking after Enel published a strategic plan for 2022-24 and laid out its aims for the years ahead. Among other things, Enel will make direct investments of 170 billion euros ($190.7 billion) by 2030.

Direct investments in renewable energy assets that Enel will own are set to hit 70 billion euros. Consolidated installed renewable capacity, or capacity that is directly owned by Enel, is expected to reach 129 gigawatts by 2030.

In addition, Enel, which is headquartered in Rome, said it had brought forward its net-zero commitment — a goal which relates to both direct and indirect emissions — to 2040, having previously been 2050.

On the fossil fuel front, the group wants to exit coal generation by the year 2027, with its exit from gas generation taking place by 2040.

Enel also said that, between 2021 and 2024, shareholders were “expected to receive a fixed Dividend Per Share … that is planned to increase by 13%, up to 0.43 euros/share.”

During his interview with CNBC, Starace was asked about Enel’s higher dividend forecast and the wider debate about how one could be invested in so-called “sin stocks” — in this instance, big polluters within the energy space — and still get good returns, particularly on the dividend side of things.

“It’s all about risk rewards,” he said. “And at the end of the day, I don’t see anything wrong with an increasingly risky business [being] … forced to increase dividends if you want to attract investors.”

“What we’re trying to say is there is a breaking point, there is a point in which the risk becomes unbearable no matter what dividends you want to distribute, and that is approaching,” he said.

“So in our case, what you need to do is get out of this risk, get out of the carbon footprint and also make sure that when you put the word ‘net’ in front of zero, this ‘net’ doesn’t become some kind of a trick around which you don’t decarbonize, really, your operations.”

“We’re saying we’re going to be zero carbon, which means we’re not going to emit carbon and we will, therefore [not] … need to plant trees to offset that carbon.”

Starace acknowledged, however, that trees would be required over the next centuries to remove carbon left in the atmosphere due to historic emissions.



Article explaining some of the many problems potentially caused by trying to capture and store CO2

Carbon capture and storage: Problems at depth


Outcut from the graphic "Not airtight"


Problems with Carbon Capture (Re-use) and Storage:

  1. Very energy intensive process to capture, isolate and store the carbon
  2. Many of the pilot schemes have achieved little in the past few years
  3. The process is very expensive, unless the CO2 is sold to another company
  4. CCS has only been profitable when it has enhanced oil recovery (EOR)
  5. CCS could be profitable if the CO2 is sold to greenhouse operators, or other industries that need the gas (or to horribly gas animals such as pigs before slaughter) – putting the gas back into the atmosphere.
  6. The CO2 might be used to (very expensively and using a lot of energy) make novel forms of jet fuel, putting the CO2 back into the atmosphere.
  7. If the carbon is just to be permanently stored underground, and no profit it to be made from selling it, the cost will have to be paid by governments (ie. taxpayers). Will future economies, facing the climate and ecological crises, be able to afford this?
  8. It would need a huge amount of renewably generated electricity (eg. in Iceland from geothermal power) so that electricity cannot be available to other users.
  9. It can never account for more than a tiny % of the total CO2 in the atmosphere.
  10. Few places have the ideal geology for permanent storage, with the right rocks below and capping, impervious rocks above. So the gas may have to be transported large distances.


Fund carbon offsetting and removal to reach net zero

By Ted Christie-Miller
December 08 2021, 12.01am, The Times

Cop26 cemented our need for both carbon offsetting and carbon removals. But the jury is still out on the former and the public are overwhelmingly in favour of the latter. The government and businesses need to act now to encourage quality in the carbon offset market and drive investment into carbon removal technologies.

At the landmark Cop26 conference last month, carbon offsets — otherwise known as carbon credits — were made a permanent fixture of the fight against climate change.

A carbon offset, or credit, is a reduction or removal of emissions of a tonne of carbon dioxide made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. These can be achieved by tree-planting, forest protection, cookstove projects, renewable projects and engineered carbon removal, to name a few.

Institutions, businesses and even individuals can buy these credits, in essence contributing to carbon projects and offsetting their own emissions.

This is roughly what the carbon market is. The changes to Article 6 in the Cop26 negotiation on carbon markets solidified this market as a key device to reduce and remove carbon emissions.

This may sound straightforward, but this solution will only work if the quality of the offsets are assured — and the public agree. A report from BeZero Carbon, which used polling from Stack Data Strategy, finds that a third of people (32 per cent) only support carbon offsetting if the quality of the offset is guaranteed.

The polling also shows that two in three people (68 per cent) are unsure of how they feel about carbon offsetting and as little as one in ten people (13 per cent) think that carbon offsetting is very effective.

At present, it is difficult to determine the quality of a carbon offset. Analysis from BeZero Carbon has found that there is a 27 per cent correlation between price and quality in the carbon market. No market should work like this.

It means that you might spend money on something that looks good but doesn’t do what it sets out to do: to remove or avoid carbon.

On top of this, many people don’t even know what a carbon offset is. Just 45 per cent of respondents know what the term means. The lowest recognition of any demographic was in 18-24 year olds with just one fifth (21 per cent) of respondents knowing what carbon offsetting means.

This is particularly surprising given that young people tend to be one of the demographics most concerned about climate change, as recent polling from the Office for National Statistics shows.

To shift this, there needs to be a concerted effort by governments and businesses to communicate the benefits of the carbon offset market and to assure the quality of the credits.

That being said, people are hugely in favour of carbon removal. This is the action of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere either through trees or through engineered carbon dioxide removal and geological storage.

The overwhelming majority of people want to see investment from the government (86 per cent) and businesses (87 per cent) in this practice.

The experts tend to agree with the public on this. The Climate Change Committee’s recent analysis forecasts that one sixth of emission reductions needs to come from carbon removals by 2050.

Goldman Sachs’s new report out this month said that as much as 15 per cent of emissions reductions in carbon-intensive industries will come from just one removal technology: direct air capture.

But investment levels are woeful at present. Just £100 million invested in tech-based removals by the UK government to date, compared to the £3.5 billion+ recently pledged by the US.

In comparison, the UK has invested nearly double that amount into sustainable aviation fuels which isn’t even a net zero technology, at best it will only decarbonise aviation by up to a third. A step change is urgently needed to fulfil the public’s wishes and invest in carbon removal.

We are at a critical point. Alongside efforts to reduce carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy, offsetting and carbon removals are a crucial part of the UK’s net zero toolkit, but they are poorly understood and under-invested in.

Government and businesses must act boldly and at a pace to build trust and legitimacy in the voluntary carbon market if it is to succeed as a solution to tackling climate change.


IEA report:

Report extract

A new era for CCUS