A controversial method to remove harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere will be debated at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week.
Opponents and supporters of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will descend on the capital to listen to the latest research on the system.
CCS claims to be able to take carbon dioxide produced by industrial processes out of the air and then store it in mature oil and gas reservoirs or saline aquifers.
Gerd Leipold, international executive director at environmental watchdog Greenpeace, will voice his concerns that CCS, which is yet to be put into practice, should be avoided as it will encourage the continued use of fossil fuels and divert investment from clean energy technologies. “A combination of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and demand-side management could meet our energy needs without compromising either economic development or the environment,” he said.
However, supporters of CCS say it has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases without halting development while offering more investment opportunities. The carbon dioxide can also help increase oil recovery.
Iain Wright, carbon dioxide project manager at BP Alternative Energy, said: “Carbon dioxide capture and storage is a technology that could cost-effectively solve 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas problem.”
He said the remaining problem, which contributes to global warming, could be solved by other technologies that already exist, such as energy efficiency. He cautioned deployment of industrial-scale CCS projects might be premature and called for “a set of regulatory and fiscal conditions to manage some of the risks and remove barriers to investment”.
A 2007 study by the American National Academy of Sciences found worldwide carbon dioxide emissions increased three times between 2000 and 2004, as compared to the 1990s. Researchers said the increase was due to rapid growth in population and in per capita gross domestic product.
The study added developing countries contributed a significant share – 40 per cent – of the growth in emissions during that period.
Not all environmentalists are opposed to CCS. Friends of the Earth’s former director Sir Jonathon Porritt supports the technology and has submitted a paper to the summit. “Carbon capture and storage has the potential over the course of the next 20 years or so to store away hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere,” he said.
“Most environmentalists remain very nervous about CCS, but I just don’t see how we can achieve the necessary reduction in carbon dioxide concentrations without a massive international commitment to CCS.”
The European Union has studied CCS and found it to be well developed and tested, but cautioned it would need to be adequately adapted for large-scale use.
Sam Nader, director of Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Carbon Management Unit, said the Gulf might be the ideal place to debut the CSS technology.
Leading financial and investment groups will attend the summit on Monday and Tuesday to gauge the investment opportunities presented by CCS and other future energy technologies.