Offshore CCS and ocean acidification: a global long-term probabilistic cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation

Public fear over environmental and health impacts of CO2 storage, or over potential leakage of CO2 from geological reservoirs, is among the reasons why over the past decade CCS has not yet been deployed on a scale large enough so as to meaningfully contribute to mitigate climate change. Storage of CO2 under the seabed moves this climate mitigation option away from inhabited areas and could thereby take away some of the opposition towards this technology. Given that in the event of CO2 leakage through the overburden in the case of sub-seabed CCS, the ocean could function as buffer for receiving this greenhouse gas, instead of it directly being emitted into the atmosphere, offshore CCS could also address concerns over the climatic impacts of CO2 seepage. We point out that recent geological studies provide evidence that to date CO2 has been safely stored under the seabed. Leakage for individual offshore CCS operations could thus be unlikely from a technical point of view, if storage sites are well chosen, well managed and well monitored. But we argue that on a global longterm scale, for an ensemble of thousands or millions of storage sites, leakage of CO2 could take place in certain cases and/or countries for e.g. economic, institutional, legal or safety-cultural reasons. In this paper we investigate what the impact could be in terms of temperature increase and ocean acidification if leakage occurs at a global level, and address the question what the relative roles could be of on- and offshore CCS if mankind desires to divert the damages resulting from climate change. For this purpose, we constructed a top-down energy-environment-economy model, with which we performed a probabilistic Monte-Carlo cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation with on- and offshore CCS as specific CO2 abatement options. One of our main conclusions is that, even under conditions with non-zero (permille/year) leakage for CCS activity globally, both onshore and offshore CCS should probably – on economic grounds at least – still account for anywhere between 20 % and 80 % of all future CO2 abatement efforts under a broad range of CCS cost assumptions.

van der Zwaan B. & Gerlagh R., 2016. Offshore CCS and ocean acidification: a global long-term probabilistic cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation. Climatic Change 137(1):157–170. Article.

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