The French authorities are pleased with the starting today of the first world installation of CO2 capture on top of a power station, within the framework of the European project CASTOR. Here, in Esbjerg, in this coal power plant, the demonstration is made that there is a very strong link between the CO2 Capture & Storage and the future of coal.
The use of coal and lignite is indeed at a crossroads.
– On one side, coal supplied 24.4% of total primary energy supply and is used to produce 40.1% of world electricity and 70% of steel. For China, India, the United States, Russia, Germany, and Denmark in particular, it is an essential and vital energy.
– Moreover, after the recent episode of price hikes, coal improved its price competitiveness compared to gas. We then observe a switch from gas to coal. It was on the headlines of the Financial Times. Its reserves are vast and are well distributed on any continents. Coal usage thus appears favorable in terms of both competitiveness and energy safety.
But, its high carbon content also makes it the biggest CO2-emitter per unit of electricity produced. Then its impact on climate change is worrisome and it explains also partly the rise in the price of the CO2 certificates in 2005. Tackling the challenge of limiting those emissions is thus absolutely vital if we want to avoid the dramatic consequences of climate change. Techniques have imperatively to be developed so as to make it possible to decrease CO2 emissions.
CO2 Capture & Storage is one of those. It permits to decrease by 80 to 90 % the CO2 emissions related to the electricity production with natural gas or coal. Here, we see the first world installation of Capture. Today, we make a significant step in this direction and we show that we can progress quickly on the way of the industrial optimization of this process, much more quickly than some said.
With other elements deployed elsewhere, France and the European Union has acquired the know how of the whole chain of Capture, Injection and geological Storage of CO2. All these elements can now quickly be assembled. The results of this first world project will benefit others. Beyond, the use of coal, the production of electricity generated with natural gas is concerned as well as the production of synthetic fuels and many industrial sectors.
The energy sector is thus carrying innovations and technological ruptures, which will contribute to a significant degree to the reduction of CO2 emissions while limiting our energy dependence with respect to hydrocarbons. We can only be pleased that we, European, collectively, are progressing. It is for us essential, with other large countries, to make the necessary research and innovation efforts on the matter. It is necessary to examine and specify now the next stages of research. In a very concrete way, at the European level, France works so that technologies related to the climate change are financed within the Seventh EU Framework Program (FP7) for Research and Technological Development in course of finalization. We await much also of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.
France is actively present in this industrial sector. Teams have worked for more than 10 years. They are well represented today, in particular by Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) which leads the European research program CASTOR. International partnerships were mobilized to achieve this project and they remain essential to go forward. They concern as much States, research entities than corporations. Moreover, our new Agency for Industrial Innovation can finance CCS projects within a European orientation. This Agency is also present today here. France is thus quite ready to be a major player on this subject, clearly open to international collaborations.
To finish on a diplomatic note, the recourse to fossil energies in power production, could become sustainable taking into account climate change, if and only if the major technological jump that is achieve today is fully integrated in all the power stations of the world so as to make them become « really and completely clean », i.e. with CO2 Capture & Storage. It is the same for Industry. We developed this message in the French memorandum for revitalizing European energy policy with a view to sustainable development, released on January 24th, 2006.
But, a large deployment of CO2 Capture & Storage does not depend only on technology availability. We need also a global regulatory framework, which imposes it to the operators, while taking into account its induced overcosts. It is thus not only a European challenge, it is also a worldwide one. It is essential that all countries are part of the effort of its deployment, according to their economic and technical capabilities and their development needs. We will not be able to ask the developing countries such as India and China to reduce their CO2 emissions, if in parallel are not provided financial and technical solutions, to reach that point. It is an objective the United States are pursuing with their Asia-Pacific partnership. Even in they did not even ratify the protocol of Kyoto, they will sell their future know-how and their techniques with the developing countries on the corresponding fields.
There is thus as much an international competition, where speed is key, as much as a technological and industrial race. With this first unit of Capture at Ejsberg, Europe has an edge. It must seek to preserve it. This inauguration is ideally placed in the agenda with the beginning of diplomatic negotiations on the regime of the Convention on Climate Change, for the period starting after 2012.
The Capture of CO2 in any power stations is no more a Utopia. It is a formidable hope so that humanity can tackle the vital challenge of climate change.