Bill change recommended to allow CEFC to fund CCS

A Bill to remove the prohibition on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) investing in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies has received parliamentary support.

Currently, the CEFC Act prohibits the CEFC from investing in CCS technologies, nuclear technology or nuclear power.

CCS prevents carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere when fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are used.

The process captures CO2 at a power station or industrial facility such as a steel, LNG or cement plant and stores it in deep underground geological structures.

The Federal Parliament Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee has recommended the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 (CEFC Act) be amended to allow investment in the CCS technologies.

“The committee supports amending the CEFC Act to remove the prohibition on the CEFC investing in CCS technologies as proposed by this bill,” Senator Jonathon Duniam said in the committee’s report.

“Fundamentally, the committee supports the bill because it considers the public interest would be better served by a more technology-neutral approach to energy policy.

“CCS is a proven low-emission technology. In the committee’s view, the prohibition on the CEFC investing in CCS technologies is arbitrary and inappropriate given the expert advice that a wide range of technologies is needed to achieve the emissions reductions required under the Paris Agreement.

“A more technology-neutral approach to the CEFC Act will ensure that the widest possible range of cost-effective low-emission solutions can be considered by the CEFC, noting that it would still be for the CEFC to decide, independent of government and with commercial rigour, whether to invest in any suitable projects involving CCS.”

In its submission to the inquiry, the Global CCS Institute highlighted existing international CCS projects and argued that additional projects are needed to address emission reduction targets.

“CCS is already curbing greenhouse gas emissions around the globe, with more than 220mn tonnes of anthropogenic carbon dioxide safely and permanently injected deep underground,” the submission said.

“There are currently 17 large-scale CCS facilities operating globally, with five more in development.

“These facilities are capturing and storing 37 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, the equivalent of removing eight million cars from the road each year.

“However, this is not enough. To make deep, rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and meet Paris climate change targets at least cost, CCS must be deployed swiftly and at scale.”

The Australia Institute argued in its submission to the inquiry that CCS technologies “are not low-emission”.

“[CCS technologies] do not reduce the emissions being produced by the energy source,” the submission said.

“Rather, they use significant energy, itself a source of emissions, to capture and store some of the emissions from the plant, rather than reducing them.

“The ultimate effectiveness of CCS in reducing the quantity of greenhouse emissions that enter the atmosphere relies on long-term monitoring of any location used to sequester the emissions.”

The Minerals Council of Australia welcomed the recommendation the Bill be passed by Parliament.

“CCS is not an experimental technology, with leading examples in North America already operating in conjunction with coal-fired generation,” MCA executive director Greg Evans said.

“The addition of a technology-neutral approach to the CEFC ambit will strengthen Australia’s capacity to achieve lower emissions at lowest cost and remove a distortion introduced during the creation of the CEFC.

“Australians want power that has 24/7 availability with reduced emissions and is affordable, safe, secure and reliable, which can be offered by coal through commercially-available HELE technologies able to cut CO2 emissions of coal-fired generation by up to 40 per cent compared with the oldest technology in place.

“Coal now has an even lower emissions pathway, with further reductions in emissions by up to 90 per cent through the addition of CCS.”