ACT Party backs carbon capture technology that's failed overseas to try reducing emissions

Energy analysts say New Zealand is at risk of investing in a carbon removal strategy that is expensive and ineffective, instead of pursuing measures that will reduce emissions.  

ACT, a Coalition party, wants to encourage carbon capture and storage - the practice of removing carbon dioxide emitted from industrial processes and injecting it into the ground. 

The technology isn't new. For about 50 years, the oil and gas industry has been separating carbon dioxide from fuel when it's extracted and injecting it into depleted reservoirs to get the last remaining oil and gas out of those respective oil and gas wells.  

As the climate change movement gained momentum, the oil and gas industry gave the practice a rebrand - carbon capture and storage - injecting Co2 underground to stop it from polluting the atmosphere.  

Energy finance analyst Kevin Morrison said it was a clever move by the industry.  

"They're trying to think of ways of keeping in business, so they've gone from denying climate science to saying, 'Oh look, we're part of the solution.'  

"They go round as if it's a given, as if it works - it doesn't."  

Now the gas industry and other high emitting sectors in New Zealand are calling for regulatory reform to allow carbon capture projects to be built - and they have the support of the ACT Party.  

ACT energy spokesman Simon Court said some New Zealand businesses are already planning to undertake carbon capture.  

"Carbon capture is a high priority for businesses that would otherwise have to pay for their emissions under the Emissions Trading Scheme."  

But Morrison said decades of research overseas shows carbon capture and storage projects are far more likely to fail than succeed.  

"It's had 50 years and it's failed to live up to any of the promises that its proponents have voiced."  

In Western Australia, the much-touted Chevron Gorgon carbon capture project has failed to reach its promised storage level since it started operating in 2019 - reporting a sharp drop in the amount of CO2 stored underground.  

According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, geological movement led to the suspension of the Snohvit project in Norway and forced operators to seek alternative storage at great cost.  

Experts have said the risk of CO2 leaking out is higher here in New Zealand, which is prone to earthquakes.  

But Energy Industry Aotearoa chief executive John Carnegie said it's worth a try.  

"We need to get over our fixation on the fuel and refocus on the task at hand which is reducing our emissions."  

Court said there is "no pathway where petrol, diesel, gas are not part of the energy mix".  

"They're going to be part of the energy mix well past 2050."  

The gas industry argues it's needed to back up renewable energy in peak times but Morrison said electricity companies in Australia are investing in batteries to do that job.  

Efforts to reduce emissions should be going into things like introducing high standards of energy efficiency into housing policy, Morrison said.  

"The money should really be going into reducing demand but that's not what the energy industry wants."