Moody’s Investor Service predicts that the US coal industry will continue a “sharp decline.” That is, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) is deployed.
The technology involves capturing carbon emissions from power plants (and other producers), and then burying the emissions underground. Through proper monitoring, the buried emissions can remain there for tens of thousands of years. If done at scale—burying billions of metric of carbon dioxide by 2050—the technology can help avoid catastrophic climate change.
CCS has been in commercial use since the 1970s to boost production of depleted oil and gas fields—when emissions are injected underground, they can essentially force previously hard-to-reach fossil fuels out of the ground. In recent decades, CCS has also been used for climate-change mitigation by countries like Norway, Canada, and the US. Many international bodies, such as the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believe the technology is vital to hit climate goals.
What does that have to do with coal? Well, today (Jan. 25), Moody’s published a report (paywall) saying:
Even if the cost of coal were to fall to levels competitive with natural gas, environmental concerns will still ensure the coal industry’s steep decline. The US, Europe, and China are shifting their fuel mixes away from coal and towards cost-competitive, often subsidized, alternative fuels.
Deploying CCS at scale cannot stop the decline of the coal industry, but it can slow it down.
Technology barriers for large-scale deployment of CCS have been mostly overcome, but policy support and investment have been lacking.
The world will continue to burn coal for decades to come, especially in the developing countries. That, if nothing else, makes development of CCS vital for hitting global climate g