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A Roadmap for U.S.-China Collaboration on Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Nov 4, 2009
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Center for American Progress and Asia Society, together with its partners Monitor Group and Dr. S. Julio Friedmann from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, released a new report, "A Roadmap for U.S.-China Collaboration on Carbon Capture and Sequestration." The report provides a framework for long-term bilateral cooperation in the development and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, and sets out the benefits of the job creation opportunities and consumer savings that result from a cooperative pathway.

Read full report here

Carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, is a process that mitigates global warming emissions by separating and capturing carbon dioxide from large point sources of emissions, such as coal power plants, and storing it away from the atmosphere by several means, including underground sequestration. The report identifies three areas of cooperation on CCS.

1. Sequester pure CO2 streams from existing Chinese industrial plants. China has approximately 100 industrial facilities producing pure streams of CO2 that are vented straight into the atmosphere. There is also a vast documented capacity of geological storage across China. This makes geological sequestration projects an ideal focal point for near-term collaboration. This phase would consist of five jointly-funded geological sequestration projects in China that can easily capture this source of carbon. Each project would cost $50 million to 100 million, with a U.S. share of $20 million to $40 million. Together, these five sites could sequester 10 million to 15 million tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to taking 1.7 million to 2.5 million cars off the road.

2. Invest in research and development for retrofitting existing power plants. Much attention has been placed in both countries on producing a new generation of integrated coal-fired electricity plants which combine power production, capture of CO2 and sequestration. But even with successes in this new technology both countries will maintain huge fleets of existing plants in the short to medium term which must be retrofitted for capture and sequestration of CO2 as well. Under the auspices of an already planned U.S.-China joint clean energy research center, we propose a strategy for research, development and deployment of a series of pilot facilities for CCS retrofits for existing coal power plants.

3. Catalyze markets for CCS. In order to mobilize private capital for the plants envisioned in step two, public funds must be invested to stimulate public-private partnerships. This stage of the roadmap focuses on the development of financial incentives for companies to invest in cooperation initially through government-backed public finance structures that serve as a bridge to market mechanisms such as a carbon offset regime that includes proven CCS facilities and the creation of a global market for carbon abatement.

The report argues that cooperation in these three areas with China could accelerate CCS deployment in the United States by five to ten years.

"The United States stands to gain more through collaboration with China than through the independent pursuit of developing CCS technologies," said John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. "The impacts on U.S. job creation and consumer savings, especially in states heavily reliant on coal for electricity, would be substantial and more than compensate for American investment in this roadmap."

According to the report, a proven CCS sector would create 127,000 jobs, including those in manufacture of equipment and construction of infrastructure, in the United States by 2022 under a business-as-usual scenario. A five-year acceleration of CCS deployment as a result of U.S.-China collaboration increases that figure to 430,000. A 10-year acceleration in deployment could create as many as 940,000 new U.S. jobs by 2022.

Collaboration will also quickly help lower the cost of CSS deployment in the United States and such savings will be passed on to the American electricity consumer. The report estimates that a five-year acceleration of CCS deployment in the United States would lead to $5 billion in savings while a 10-year acceleration would lead to $18 billion in savings. "A rapid deployment program for CCS is needed if we are to address our continued dependence on coal while tackling climate change," noted Dr. S. Julio Friedmann, leader of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Carbon Management Program, and technical adviser to the roadmap. "This roadmap lays out a proposal that accelerates both the demonstration and commercialization of sequestration safely and economically. Because of how the Chinese use coal in industry, there are real opportunities for large-scale projects there at very low cost."

"Unless the United States and China find a way to collaboratively come together to confront the challenge of climate change, there is little likelihood that a global remedy can be found," said Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director for the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations. "At this critical moment, when a summit is about to take place in Beijing, it is critical that Presidents Obama and Hu quickly join hands in finding new and joint ways to work actively together. This roadmap presents one important starting place that we hope will become part of just such a new Sino-U.S. collaboration. "

"Creating both environmentally meaningful, and economically viable CO2 management solutions will require leadership and investment on the part of both the United States and China," said Scott Daniels, senior partner and sustainability practice leader at Monitor Group. "This roadmap charts a course to break the financial barriers to private capital flows into commercial-scale CCS, and help set the economic conditions that will motivate more aggressive emissions policies across both nations, and the rest of the world."