The world’s two most active nations in operating Carbon Capture and Storage projects have signed eight partnership agreements to cut greenhouse gases.

China is the world’s largest coal producer and consumer and the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide emissions. China is also the world’s most populous country and is suffering from high pollution levels due to its unrestrained fossil fuel use. China’s leadership is under a great deal of pressure to both reduce air pollution and to tackle its carbon emissions and they recognise the critical importance that carbon capture and storage (CCS) plays in these efforts. China has been working with the US over the last decade to collaborate on CCS development.

Earlier this month senior delegations from the US and China signed eight partnership agreements to cut greenhouse gasses. The agreements are collaborations between businesses and research institutions to develop demonstration projects and technology sharing.

China is number two in the world, behind the US in terms of active CCS projects. China has 12 large-scale projects according to the Global CCS Institute, with the US having 19. CCS efforts in China are still relatively young and the sequestration numbers are relatively small, as there is not a historical EOR industry like the one that exists in the United States. Existing demonstration projects in China have resulted in the capture of around 270,000 tonnes of CO2 per year with utilisation of more than 120,000 tonnes per year and storage of another 100,000 tonnes per year.

China has substantial geological sequestration capacity. Research by PNNL and the DOE found that China has 2,300 gigatonnes of CO2 storage capacity distributed widely throughout the country. An additional 780 gigatonnes of offshore capacity may also be available for industrialised coastal areas.

China is by far the world leader in deploying advanced coal gasification technologies and they are able to get the complex facilities built far faster with much lower costs than in the US. It is believed that by combining China’s engineering capabilities and cost advantages with western advanced technologies and sequestration experience, the technical and financial challenges to implementing CCS can be overcome. But many barriers remain in China including a lack of clear CCS policy, a price or cap on carbon, funding, and a mature EOR industry.

The need for CCS only grows stronger though. To achieve rapid decarbonisation by the year 2050, it is estimated in a recent report by the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network that CCS must be equipped on 90% of coal power plants and 80% of natural gas power plants in China. This chart from the report illustrates that CCS is a vital component of the overall portfolio of solutions even as renewables and nuclear power are deployed along an aggressive schedule. If fossil fuel use does not fall as illustrated in this scenario, then the need for CCS becomes even more critical.

These recent agreements are an encouraging sign that CCS technology development is slowly but surely moving forward. The US and China are the world’s leaders in this important endeavor. Our two countries are both the leading coal consumers, carbon dioxide emitters, and industrial powerhouses. We both share the burden of responsibility, the wealth, and the technical capability of solving the engineering and financial problems that must be overcome to make CCS successful. We also have the benefit of reaping the rewards in terms of domestic jobs and economic growth, a cleaner environment, and the opportunity to export the technology solutions.