Report on US-China collaboration on carbon capture and sequestration

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Julio Friedmann, in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, the Asia Society Center and with partner Monitor Group, today released the report, “A Roadmap for U.S.-China Collaboration on Carbon Capture and Sequestration.”

The report provides a framework for long-term bilateral cooperation in the development and use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies, and sets out the benefits of the job creation opportunities and consumer savings. In addition, CCS offers a potential pathway for helping achieve the scientifically required reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions that energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energies are unlikely to meet on their own.

CCS is a process that separates and captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial and power plant flue streams, then compresses the gas and stores it underground, most likely in geological formations. The process essentially captures the greenhouse gas emissions before they enter the atmosphere and stores them underground. The report identifies three areas of cooperation on CCS.

Cooperation on sequestration pure CO2 streams from existing Chinese industrial plants. Approximately 100 industrial facilities throughout China are producing pure streams of CO2 that are vented into the atmosphere unabated. The vast capacity of geological storage across China points to geological sequestration projects as an ideal focal point for near-term collaboration. This phase would consist of five jointly funded geological sequestration projects in China that can easily capture this source of carbon. Each project would cost $50 million to $100 million, with a U.S. share of $20 million to $40 million. These five sites could sequester 10 to 15 million tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to taking 1.7 to 2.5 million cars off the road.

Invest in research and development for retrofitting existing power plants. Much attention has been placed in both countries on producing a new generation of integrated coal-fired electricity plants, which combine power production, capture of CO2 and sequestration. But even with successes in this new technology both countries will maintain huge fleets of existing plants in the short to medium term, which must be retrofitted for capture and sequestration of CO2 as well. Under the auspices of an already planned U.S.-China joint clean energy research center, the report proposes a strategy for research, development and deployment of a series of pilot facilities for CCS retrofits for existing coal power plants.

Catalyze markets for CCS. In order to mobilize private capital for the plants envisioned in step two, public funds must be stimulated to encourage public-private partnerships. This stage of the roadmap focuses on the development of financial incentives for companies to invest in cooperation initially through government-backed public finance structures that serve as a bridge to market mechanisms such as a carbon-offset regime that includes proven CCS facilities and the creation of a global market for carbon abatement.

“A rapid deployment program for CCS is needed if we are to address our continued dependence on coal while tackling climate change,” said Friedmann, leader of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Carbon Management Program and technical adviser to the roadmap. “This roadmap lays out a proposal that accelerates both the demonstration and commercialization of sequestration safely and economically. Because of how the Chinese use coal in industry, there are real opportunities for large-scale projects there at very low cost.”

The report argues that cooperation in these three areas with China could accelerate CCS deployment in the United States by five to 10 years.

Collaboration also will quickly help lower the cost of CSS deployment in the United States and such savings will be passed on to the American electricity consumer. The report estimates that a five-year acceleration of CCS deployment in the United States would lead to $5 billion in savings while a 10-year acceleration would lead to $18 billion in savings.

According to the report, a proven CCS sector would create 127,000 jobs in the United States by 2022 under a business-as-usual scenario. A five-year acceleration of CCS deployment as a result of U.S.-China collaboration increases that figure to 430,000. A 10-year acceleration in deployment could create as many as 940,000 new U.S. jobs by 2022.

“The United States stands to gain more through collaboration with China than through the independent pursuit of developing CCS technologies,” said John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “The impacts on U.S. job creation and consumer savings would be immense and more than compensate for American investment in this roadmap.”

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

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