Version classiqueVersion mobile

Is there a future for Carbon Capture and Storage in Poland ?

Michal Drabik

I. Introduction

Texte intégral

The author would like to thank Professor Giacomo Luciani for his guidance and advice, as well as Paula Mendez Keil for her editing assistance and support.

1The Earth is facing a climate challenge: the average temperature of the planet is rising. In an effort to prevent the, potentially dreadful, consequences of such an increase, governments have undertaken various initiatives aimed at limiting the increase in temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. In order to achieve that goal, CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions must be significantly reduced.

2However, the task is not easy. It requires large investments and worldwide cooperation. A variety of different measures must be undertaken since no single solution is efficient enough to sufficiently mitigate the amount of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere. What complicates things even further is the fact that the demand for fossil fuels, especially in developing countries, is still on the rise (GCI, 2013, 1).

3There are many ways to reduce GHG emissions. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is one of them (Bradbury, Greenberg and Wade 2011, 4). It is an appealing one because it allows one to reconcile the rising demand for fossil fuels with the need to reduce CO2 emissions (EC 2013, 3-4). In other words, it helps lowering emissions without “annihilating” air-polluting industries.

4That last feature of CCS is of utmost importance keeping in mind that 40 per cent of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions are attributed to fossil fuel-driven electricity generation (GCI 2013, 1), while another 25 per cent comes from equally vital branches of the economy, such as “iron and steel production, cement making, natural gas processing and petroleum refining.” Since there are very few alternatives for cutting emissions from the above-mentioned sectors (SBC Energy Institute 2013, 3), CCS, with its potential for reducing emissions from large-scale point sources without jeopardizing their future, appears to be a truly worthwhile option (GCI 2013, 1).

  • 1 World Nuclear Association, “‘Clean Coal’ Technologies, Carbon Capture & Sequestration,” http://www. (...)

5However, appealing as it may seem, CCS is actually facing many difficulties, which, at present, effectively obstruct its commercial application. First of all, CCS is not only a very expensive technology, but it also reduces the efficiency of the plants that utilize it. Secondly, due to the fact that it relies on, and thus prolongs the use of, fossil fuels, it is not perceived as being unambiguously “eco-friendly.” Thirdly, not being “a simple, single technology, but a novel combination of techniques and different industry practices […] [CCS] lack[s] any iconic visual elements,” such as, for instance, “friendly windmills or benign solar panels” which would help to “sell” it to the public (Prangnell 2013, 2). Therefore, in the current state of affairs, once the technology is introduced to people, they tend to focus on the risks it carries and additional costs it entails. Consequently, with all of the above taken into consideration together, the future of CCS appears far from bright. In fact, having lost its initial politician-driven momentum for development,1 “CCS is now at a crossroads” (EC 2013, 22).

6Indeed, the current data concerning CCS “achievements” is by no means impressive. Despite relatively large (around $1.5 billion in 2011) investments in research and development (R&D), and the fact that CCS technologies have already been proven technically feasible and ready for application, there are only a few large-scale projects worldwide. These capture and store a mere 23MtCO2 per year. That is roughly equivalent to avoiding emissions of only 3.8GW of coal-based electricity (SBC Energy Institute 2013, 2).

7In other words, CCS projects have been progressing much more slowly than is required to mitigate climate change. “With […] a forecasted 52MtCO2/year in operation by 2017, the IEA’s recommended pathway towards decarbonization appears out of reach” (SBC Energy Institute 2013, 2).

8CCS’ failure to develop as fast as expected comes, to a large extent, from its reputation of being a dangerous gamble (Rochon 2008, 5). Having serious concerns about its actual feasibility, costs, safety, and the liability that its application may potentially entail, neither are state decision-makers keen to bear political responsibility for promoting it, nor are prospective investors willing to take the risk of financing it.

9In such difficult circumstances, Poland, as well as other European countries, has to make a decision soon on whether or not to adopt CCS technology. It is not to suggest that the burden of fighting against climate change is borne to some disproportionate extent by European states. It is, rather, to point to the fact that since the European Union (EU) adopted the so-called CCS Directive, European governments must, within a limited time frame, take a stance on CCS.

10Member States are not obliged to use this technology in particular. Austria, for instance, has already decided to prohibit underground storage of CO2 on its territory (UfU; SiteChar 2012, 4). Yet, if countries choose to opt for CCS, they have to follow certain precise guidelines. Besides, rejecting CCS is by no means a safe choice. On the contrary, in the long run, it can actually prove to be quite problematic.

11As the EU is strongly committed to achieving certain climate-protection goals, each Member State has particular emission-limits it must meet. Furthermore, those limits are becoming progressively stricter with time. Therefore, at the end of the day, the decision to not utilize CCS technology may leave a state with a dreadful choice between closing its most polluting industrial plants and paying significant financial fines for not complying with EU environmental policy standards.

12Due to the fact that Poland is a coal-based economy, with hard coal and lignite accounting for nearly 95% of its energy output,2 the former choice is by no means a viable option. Poland does, and in any foreseeable future will, depend on coal. And yet, the above statement notwithstanding, CCS still encounters great difficulties in Poland.

13Nowadays, neither politicians have any interest in advocating its implementation, nor do people consent to host CO2 storage sites in the vicinity of their homes. While adoption of CCS technology in Poland may prove to be necessary in the future, major stakeholders, such as the government or potential project developers, are focusing on short-term benefits, thus giving them priority over long-term goals.

14Consequently, this paper focuses on the socio-political dimension of the issue in question, and takes a stance that chances for prompt large-scale application of CCS technology in Poland are very low. To put it more resolutely, I argue that with anything short of an EU imposed obligation to do so, Poland will not adopt CCS on a commercial scale in any foreseeable future.

15In the second part of the paper I present the methods that I used to analyze the issue. The third part explores the subject of CCS in the European Union. The fourth part discuses the likelihood of wide-scale implementation of CCS in Poland. Lastly, the fifth part summarizes the paper and presents concluding remarks.


1 World Nuclear Association, “‘Clean Coal’ Technologies, Carbon Capture & Sequestration,” (accessed 20 November 2014).

2 ZeroCO2.No, “Poland,” (accessed 20 November 2014).


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search