Carbon capture and storage unlikely to cut emissions from ‘abated’ oil and gas

Reliance on carbon capture and storage (CCS) could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere between 2020 and 2050, a new report has concluded.


The report from think tank Climate Analytics calculates the additional emissions that could result from continued fossil fuel use excused by a reliance on CCS. The report comes as patent data analysis from Appleyard Lees shows historic highs for capture utilisation and storage technologies.

If carbon capture rates reach 50 per cent instead of the IPCC’s recommended 95 per cent, and upstream methane emissions are not reduced to low levels, this would put 86 billion tonnes of GHG into the atmosphere, states the report.

Furthermore, opening up ‘abated’ fossil fuels risks making the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit unattainable.

“The term ‘abated’ is being used as a trojan horse to allow fossil fuels with dismal capture rates to count as climate action. ‘Abated’ may sound like harmless jargon, but it’s actually language deliberately engineered and heavily promoted by the oil and gas industry to create the illusion we can keep expanding fossil fuels," report author Claire Fyson said in a statement.

The report finds that discussions around ‘abatement’ are creating the false impression that CCS can enable the ongoing widespread use of fossil fuels whilst still meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit. However, scenarios that achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit show a near complete phase out of fossil fuels by around 2050 with only a small amount of fossil CCS.

“We need to cut through the smoke and mirrors of “abated” fossil and keep our eyes fixed on the goal of 1.5°C. That means slashing fossil fuel production by around 40 per cent this decade, and a near complete phase out of fossil fuels by around 2050,” said Dr Neil Grant.

The report was released as governments met at the UN climate summit in Dubai on December 5, 2023 to discuss carbon management. The IEA has regularly downgraded its estimation of the role of CCS in the energy transition, assuming 38 per cent less in its 2023 projections compared to 2021. According to Climate Analytics, this is due to the decrease in cost of renewable energy and the greater potential for alternatives to fossil fuels in industry.

“The false promises of ‘abated’ fossil fuels risks climate finance being funnelled to fossil projects, particularly oil and gas, and will greenwash the ‘unabatable’ emissions from their final use, which account for 90 per cent of fossil oil and gas emissions,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.

Appleyard Lees’ Inside Green Innovation: Progress Report Third Edition reveals that global CCUS patent filings leapt by 86 per cent (from 161 to 296) between 2020 and 2021, outstripping the previous peak in 2011-2012 (175).