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Interview: Kamel Bennaceur, Chief Economist

Date: 09/01/2009
Location: Paris

Recently returned from a two-year secondment at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Kamel Bennaceur outlines the options for energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

What is the outlook for climate change?

Analysis by the IEA and several other organizations reveals some alarming probabilities. For example, in the absence of major changes in energy policies, the existing energy mix would lead to a very large increase in energy related CO2 emissions by 2050. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for such a scenario indicate that the world's average atmospheric temperature will rise not by 2-3 degC, as has been popularly communicated in recent years, but by as much as 7 degC. Needless to say, the consequences of such a change could be catastrophic and affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Coal-fired power plants are now the main source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, nearly three-quarters of the total power sector emissions and, in the absence of binding targets for emissions from major economies, the proportion of coal in the energy mix will continue to rise. If the world's energy habits and policies do not change, the emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants are expected to increase from 11.4 Gt of CO2 in 2006 to 18 Gt in 2030 (45% of the total).

What option do we have to reverse this emissions trend?

The options are many, and none can be ignored if we are to succeed in what amounts to an energy revolution. That revolution will involve combining more efficient use of energy in the residential, transportation, and industrial sectors with the use of lower-emission (decarbonized) energy sources. Options in the power sector include increasing energy efficiency, switching from coal to gas, using renewable or nuclear energy, and implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Climate change 

Contribution of emissions reductions options 2005–2050 (source: IEA 2008). This shows the potential impact of a major change in the energy portfolio under the IEA’s BLUE scenario, which aims at a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. The top curve represents the emissions in the business-as-usual scenario.

How can CCS help?

According to the IEA, CCS could potentially provide 19% of the CO2 emissions abatement required. At present, there are only four large scale CCS projects, which inject more than 1 Mt of CO2 into storage reservoirs each year. To fulfill the CCS promise, CO2 storage volumes must increase a thousand-fold by 2050.

The oil and gas industry, with its knowledge of subsurface sciences, can effectively demonstrate that, with the appropriate level of site assessment, wellbore isolation, monitoring, and verification, the injected CO2 will remain contained for long periods within the formation layers that have been targeted.

Schlumberger has provided subsurface expertise for CCS projects since the beginning of Norway’s pioneer Sleipner project in the mid-1990s. In 2005, the Schlumberger Carbon Services group was created to focus on CCS-related technologies and expertise. Unique in the service sector, the group is now involved in nearly every large-scale CCS prospect in the world.

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