Carbon capture and storage technology has barely left the trial stage — let alone be proven as safe or effective at commercial scale. But according to a new report from Emerging Energy Research, the industry could be “well-positioned” for commercialization by 2016 if demonstration projects go well and government funds come through. EER reports that countries relying heavily on energy from coal are dumping cash on the cause — ramping up to as much as $70 billion per year by 2030 — in hopes of getting a jump on the learning curve between now and 2014.
Who’s at the front of the line to benefit from this growing investment (much of it through stimulus packages) in the U.S., western Canada, Europe and Australia? None other than the six global supermajors: BP (s BP), Chevron (s CVX), ConocoPhillips (s COP), ExxonMobil (s XOM), Shell (s RDS-B) and Total (s TOT), according to EER. This is not only because carbon regulations, natural gas price volatility and potential capacity shortfalls loom large in their futures and business-as-usual simply won’t cut it. It’s also because they already own the tools of the trade. As EER explains:
[T]he oil and gas industry is uniquely positioned to lead the sequestration industry forward — bringing with them a large number of potential storage assets, reservoir-engineering strengths, and carbon capture capabilities developed through their global natural gas processing and refinery operations.
To be sure, a commercial-scale carbon capture boom is not without barriers. EER identifies a number of them, including the high costs of capture, long-term regulatory uncertainty and liability. But there’s another critical uncertainty: Does it actually work?