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IEA: Steps must be taken now toward carbon capture and storage

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AEP suspended the first commercial-scale demonstration of retrofit carbon capture technology with on-site geologic storage in 2011 due to lack of regulatory incentive. AEP suspended the first commercial-scale demonstration of retrofit carbon capture technology with on-site geologic storage in 2011 due to lack of regulatory incentive.
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Governments need to re-energize their deployment of carbon capture and storage in 2013, the International Energy Agency started the new year by saying.

"For the IEA, carbon capture and storage is not a substitute, but a necessary addition to other low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency improvements," according to Juho Lipponen, head of the agency's Carbon Capture and Storage Technology Unit. "Fossil-fuel CCS is particularly important in a world that currently shows absolutely no sign of scaling down its fossil fuel consumption."

The agency has for several years pursued an information campaign urging action that would limit climate warming to 2 degrees Centigrade. A carbon capture and storage roadmap it published in 2009 in support of that target sees CCS making one-fifth of the needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The roadmap outlined a deployment trajectory of 100 projects worldwide by 2020 and 3,000 by 2050.

But high cost and lack of incentive policies are delaying deployment, the agency said in a Jan. 1 media release.

An example of that dynamic is AEP's high-profile CCS demonstration project at the Mountaineer plant outside New Haven that was suspended in 2011.

The utility company was hailed for plans to expand its small, successful CCS validation project at Mountaineer into the first commercial-scale demonstration of retrofit carbon capture technology with on-site geologic storage. But the failure in 2010 of U.S. cap-and-trade legislation that would have placed limits on greenhouse gas emissions made it difficult for the company to find industry partners and to achieve regulatory approval to recover some of the costs in rates.

"For places where this would have been the least-cost technology, it may not be available when you'd need it and you'd need to use second-best technologies," Howard Herzog, senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, told The State Journal at the time.

To redevelop momentum, governments need to get policy in place and move forward on storage site screening and development, the IEA's Lipponen said, to smooth the way for new CCS installations.

"But perhaps the most critically important short-term issue is to develop practical incentive policies," the agency wrote.

The Global CCS Institute lists more than 70 large-scale CCS facilities in various stages of development worldwide. Their completion will help perfect technology, the IEA said, and demonstrate the value and safety of CCS.