Carbon capture and storage gaining ground worldwide

Carbon capture technology is gaining ground, but it will take commitment from developing and developed nations for it to help reduce climate change, an industry group said in a report issued Friday.

Twenty large-scale carbon capture projects are in operation or under construction around the world — up from 16 in 2012 — showcasing the opportunities available for catching waste carbon dioxide from large sources, such as power plants, and moving it to storage sites underground, according to the Global Carbon Capture Institute.

However, the total number of large-scale projects around the world, including those in the development phase, declined to 65 this year from 75 in 2012. The leading nations for carbon capture projects are the United States, which has 20, and China, which has 12.

One of these projects is in Houston’s backyard: a 75-megawatt natural gas generating unit at NRG Energy’s W.A. Parish power plant in Fort Bend County.

About 70 percent of the projects in operation use captured carbon dioxide to push more oil out of wells. This enhanced oil recovery has proven to be the most lucrative use of captured carbon in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a proposal requiring new coal-burning power plants to include the capture technology, but has said it will not extend the requirement to existing power plants.

Electricity generation accounts for 40 percent of U.S. emissions, according to the EPA.

But while carbon capture technology is marketable in the United States as an oil production tool, developing nations will need it to achieve sufficient emission reductions to slow the pace of climate change, the report said.

By 2050, more than 70 percent of the carbon capture must come from these nations, the report estimates.

Developing countries are expected to contribute more than 90 percent of the growth in energy demand by 2035, so they are key to reducing the potential global damage of carbon emissions.

China and Brazil have been leaders in recognizing the need for carbon capture, with several projects in development.

China  included carbon capture systems in its most recent five-year plan, and the Brazilian oil company Petrobras has begun a carbon capture project at its  Lula Oil Field.