The Guardian • Issue #2060


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2060

Chevron’s website sings the praises of carbon capture and storage: “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a proven technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). It’s critical to a lower carbon future and essential to achieving the net zero goals of the Paris Agreement….

“We’re proud that the world’s largest CCS system designed to capture carbon emissions is located at our Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Barrow Island.”

CCS involves the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes, its transportation and then its injection into underground geological formations.

While it might be the world’s largest such project, Chevron’s use of CCS can hardly be called a success story. The Gorgon gas project off the coast of Western Australia near Pilbara was given approval to use CCS on condition that the company stored four million tonnes of CO2 per annum. Chevron received a taxpayer gift of $60 million towards its $3 billion development of CCS.

It managed to sequester 2.7 tonnes in its first year of operation after considerable teething problems. The next year that had fallen to 2.2 million, and in 2021-22 to 1.6 million – less than half its condition of operation. At the same time the gas project expanded rapidly to make the most of global shortages. Rising emissions and declining storage of CO2 has seen Gorgon become the largest industrial emitter of GHGs at 8,318,842 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2-e).

Advocates of CCS often point to two projects in Norway as successful examples. However, a report from the independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) raises serious questions about the security and stability of the two fields at Sleipner and Snøhvit where CO2 is injected under the sea. Three years after commencement of CCS at Sleipner, it had unexpectedly risen from a lower-level injection point to a shallower level.

“At Snøhvit, problems surfaced merely 18 months into injection operations despite detailed pre-operational field assessment and engineering. The targeted storage site demonstrated acute signs of rejecting the CO2. A geological structure thought to have 18 years’ worth of CO2 storage capacity was indicating less than six months of further usage potential,” the report says.

The author of the IEEFA’s report Grant Hauber says that the two Norwegian projects “cast doubt on whether the world has the technical prowess, strength of regulatory oversight, and unwavering multi-decade commitment of capital and resources” to keep C02 permanently sequestered.

So much for the “gold standard” of CCS! The only sure way of cutting GHG emissions is to halt gas projects.

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