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How credible is NITI Aayog's proposal on decarbonising of industrial emissions?

Counterview Desk
Letter to the vice-chairman and members of the NITI Aayog, New Delhi, with copy to the Union Ministers for Coal & Mines, Power Minister, Environment and Finance Minister, and the Prime Minister, by Shankar Sharma, well known power and climate policy analyst, has contested the NITI Aayog's view that Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCS) has a critical role to play for the country for fighting climate change. 
Quoting expert sources from abroad, he says in a representation, the global experience so far on CCS is that the associated technology has not been fully encouraging.


This has reference to a news item, NITI Aayog proposes decarbonising of industrial emissions, on the issue of decarbonisation of industrial emissions.
The news article says that the associated report of NITI Aayog has mentioned that Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCS) has a critical role to play for the country. In this context, it has to highlighted that the global media reports have indicated that the experience so far on CCS is that the associated technology has not been fully encouraging because of very high associated costs, considerable energy consumption in the overall process, and the huge uncertainty in keeping the captured Carbon from leaking to the atmosphere. These media reports also have indicated that there are hardly any successful operation of CCS across the world, and that most of the pilot projects have failed, despite massive subsidies.
In this larger context, it is essential that NITI Aayog undertakes due-diligence in thoroughly examining the CCS experiences from around the world, carefully study how this concept can be relevant/ harmful to Indian scenario, and develop a suitable mechanism to ensure that the technology to be implemented is highly efficient, cost-effective without subsidies, and that the captured Carbon will remain underground and/or prevented from leaking into the atmosphere permanently.
"Howard Herzog, a Senior Research Engineer in the MIT Energy Initiative, says that CCS projects have used 90 percent efficiency as a baseline target1 for decades because a system needs to remove at least that much CO2 to be worth the investment to build and install it, and also because 90 percent is an achievable goal.Yet meeting ambitious climate targets with this technology will require a leap forward in CCS efficiency. Consider that untreated exhaust from a coal-fired power plant can contain 300 times as much CO2 as the Earth’s atmosphere, which means capturing 90 percent of the CO2 still leaves a lot behind. Even if CCS could remove 99 percent of the CO2 from coal plant exhaust, what is left would still have a CO2 concentration equal to or higher than the atmosphere."
"According to the Global CCS Institute, in 2020 there was about 40 million tons CO2 per year capacity of CCS in operation and 50 million tons per year in development. In contrast, the world emits about 38 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, so CCS captured about one thousandth of the 2020 CO2 emissions."
"Unless such (Carbon) leakage can be kept below 1 percent over 1,000 years, new research predicts CO2 storage will not stop climate change."
Gary Shaffer, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Concepción in Chile says: "It may be a useful thing to carry out this carbon sequestration, but there are dangers, and the best thing would be to decrease emissions in other ways that make it unnecessary,"
It is also reported: "Billions of dollars are committed to research and deployment of CCS globally, but the commercial operation of equipment on all the nation's (in the US) coal plants could be decades away."
An IPCC report on the topic says: "Retrofitting existing plants with CO2 capture is expected to lead to higher costs and significantly reduced overall efficiencies than for newly built power plants with capture. The cost disadvantages of retrofitting may be reduced in the case of some relatively new and highly efficient existing plants or where a plant is substantially upgraded or rebuilt."
On the basis of so many credible reports on CCS, it would be unwise to consider implementing the technology to Indian scenario without adequate due diligence and wider consultations.
Knowledgeable critics say that concept of CCS could be mis-used to legitimize the continued use of fossil fuels, as well obviating the commitments on emission reduction; because there is uncertainty whether CCS technology can reduce CO2 emissions to the necessary extent to be of any impact on Climate Change, or whether it just perpetuates the use of fossil fuels.
Various alternatives available to our country in minimising the Carbon emission from our economy should also be diligently considered in place of CCS technology. Since the implementation of this technology (CCS/CCUS) at all coal power plants and other industrial sites will take many decades, and since there is a critical need to halve the total CO2 emission by 2030 as compared to the emission level in 2005, this technology with credible uncertainties, risks and costs should not be proceeded with in a haste, before all the necessary guarantees can be ensured.
Adequate assurances to the public on all the issues raised above, in the form of a comprehensive official report, will be the minimum the NITI Aayog can do in this larger context.



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