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Climate implications of CCS

Environ. Sci. Technol. (2012)

Given the ongoing reliance on coal as an energy source for electricity production, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology — which separates CO2 and other gases so that they can be stored preventing their emission into the atmosphere — seems to be an important part of the route to low-carbon electricity generation, at least in principle.

To investigate whether this may be true in practice, Roger Sathre and Eric Masanet from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, California, USA, investigated the long-term energy and climate implications of different implementation strategies for CCS in the US coal-fired electricity fleet of power stations.

Assuming continued large-scale use of coal for electricity generation, they find that rapid implementation of CCS technology could reduce cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions (CO2, CH4 and N2O) from US coal-fired power stations between 37 and 58% by 2100. But that cumulative radiative forcing would be reduced by only 24–46%, due to the front-loaded time profile of the emissions and the long atmospheric residence time of CO2. The study demonstrates the time-dynamic nature of the potential climate benefits and energy costs of different CCS deployment pathways, highlighting opportunities and constraints to successful CCS implementation.


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Brown, A. Climate implications of CCS. Nature Clim Change 2, 644 (2012).

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