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Carbon Capture And Storage Defends Itself From GAO Audit: ‘Millions Lost’

w a parish electric generating station

Carbon capture and storage proponents are out to correct the record after a Government Accountability Office audit released last month detailed how the Department of Energy invested hundreds of millions of dollars in CCS demonstrations that failed.

The watchdog looked at the $1.1 billion DOE has put toward 11 carbon capture demonstrations, only three of which were built and only two of which remain in operation today, and recommended Congress impose more oversight or risk exhausting more taxpayer dollars on projects that never reach commercial viability.

But pro-CCS groups say the shortcomings had more to do with a want of policy support surrounding the demonstrations, not the technology itself, and emphasize the success of the two remaining industrial facilities.

Eight of the CCS projects to which DOE provided nearly $684 million in funding were for coal power plants.

Just one was built, at the W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station (pictured) in Texas, but it shut down in 2020 after just three years of operation due to economic factors related to coal.

Jessie Stolark of the Carbon Capture Coalition cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from the topline results in the reporting, saying that the higher costs of capturing emissions from coal plants contribute to the projects’ failures, but that the costs of capturing emissions from industrial facilities are lower.

“It is important to understand that capturing CO2 from power plant flue gas costs significantly more than from hydrogen production and ethanol fermentation,” said Stolark, who is public policy manager of the 90-member strong pro-CCS business group.

Stolark added that CCS failures within the power sector show there was too little additional policy report beyond cost-sharing.

“As a result, these projects were unable to secure necessary private financing at a time when natural gas prices were falling and anticipated federal climate policy never materialized,” Stolark said.

By contrast, two of the three industrial CCS projects examined in the GAO audit — one at an Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facility in Texas and the other an Archer Daniels Midland ethanol production plant in Illinois — remain in operation today, success contrasted with the difficulties facing power plant projects.

Stolark notes further the projects that failed were under development before 2018, when Congress expanded the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and storage, suggesting it will help draw in better financing.

Where CCS stands now: CCS has been one of the few energy and emissions technologies to receive bipartisan support.

The bipartisan infrastructure law authorized $2.54 billion CCS demonstration projects between fiscal years 2022-2025 but an attempt to do even more for the technology, including increasing to $85 per ton the credit for the carbon stored in salt storage facilities as Democrats’ Build Back Better Act would do, remains stalled.

CCS also remains subject to the ire of some liberal climate hawks, who oppose it on the grounds that it allows for continued production and use of fossil fuels.

Read rest at Examiner

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