The Obama Administration announced on Thursday that it has invested $84 million to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a method of gobbling up carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants before they enter the atmosphere and storing the emissions underground.
On the one hand, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz purports that CCS will help control climate change by allowing the country “to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible.” To DOE, CCS is a “next-generation” clean coal technology, an “all-of-the-above approach to develop clean and affordable sources of American energy.”
On the other hand, the technology “hasn’t yet proven to be practical, affordable, scalable, and ready to be ramped up rapidly,” according to Climate Progress’ Joe Romm. The technology requires a “staggering” amount of CO2 injection to make a difference as a climate solution, Romm has said, citing a Businessweek report claiming the emissions from just one coal-fired plant would require an underground storage space the size of a major oil field.
What’s more, a report released just three days before DOE’s investment announcement found a correlation between 93 earthquakes at a Texas oil field and the fact that there had been large-scale CO2 injections there. The earthquakes generally had Richter scale magnitudes of three and larger.
The findings complement 2012 research from the U.S. Geological Survey which found a strong link between earthquakes and injections of wastewater into deep underground wells. In addition, research by Stanford University in 2012 warned of a “high probability” of earthquakes triggered by large-scale CCS, calling it a “risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The investment announced Thursday will support 18 different projects to research technologies that will “improve efficiency and drive down costs” of CCS technology, DOE said. Specifically, the projects will look at CCS methods for traditional, combustion-based coal plants and gasification-based electric power plants that break down coal into synthetic natural gas.
Since Obama took office, DOE has invested $6 billion in clean coal technologies to mitigate the effects of fossil resources, according to the department’s release.
The list of CCS projects that will be funded by the DOE’s investment can be found here.