The Cost of Carbon Capture

While we can ponder whether “clean coal” is an oxymoron, the carbon capture technologies that some power companies are starting to consider are very expensive.

The Oil Drum quotes an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change carbon capture and storage report that says carbon capture technology can add a cost of “1 to 5 cents dollar per kilowatt-hour.” The article says the difference in costs depend on the type of power plant, the technology used, the method of storage, and transportation distances.

Referring to a DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory report, Debra Kahn at points out that most modern coal technology without carbon capture can cost between $554 per kilowatt to $1,841 per kilowatt. But “with carbon capture, the costs nearly double,” Kahn writes.

And those high expenses are one of the biggest problems when it comes to getting the technology implemented in coal plants. The Oil Drum summarizes the expenses for carbon capture and storage:

While the idea of carbon dioxide capture and storage seems excellent, the costs are a large hurdle that might cancel this option altogether. Only with continued political support will this technological mitigation option for climate change become viable.

Like most technology, bringing down the costs of carbon capture technology will need a lot of investment and time.

The Oil Drum notes that the European Union wants to have 12 carbon capture and storage projects in place by 2015, which will take 5 billion euros. “The expectation is that this development will lead to significant cost reductions, making the technology affordable by 2020.”

Kahn points out that this week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee will meet to look at cost effective and efficient ways of making coal cleaner, including carbon capture.