Greece seen helped by CO2 storage, if prices surge

OSLO (Reuters) - Greece could save billions of euros by 2050 by capturing and storing greenhouse gases from its coal-dependent economy, assuming a surge in penalties for emitting carbon, an environmental group said on Wednesday.

Norwegian group Bellona said Greece had good storage potential for greenhouse gases as part of measures to slow climate change, for instance in depleted oilfields in the Aegean Sea and away from earthquake zones where leaks could happen.

Bellona, in its first national report on carbon storage, estimated that Greece could spend a cumulative 50.6 billion euros ($66.58 billion) to capture and store 28.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2050, more than half Greece’s current emissions.

By contrast, no use of the technology could end up costing Athens about 16 billion euros more, or a cumulative 66.3 billion euros bill by 2050 mainly to pay penalties for emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The scenarios, however, assume that the cost of emitting carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will surge to 50 euros a metric ton by 2030 and to 90 by 2050 as part of a widening assault on global warming.

Carbon dioxide emissions now trade on a European Union market at about 14 euros a metric ton. U.N. talks in Mexico this month on a wider deal to rein in carbon emissions made scant progress on long-term goals for 2020 or 2050.

Bellona defended the 2050 price, saying it was below past estimates such as by UBS, Barclays and the British government. A British Treasury report last week suggested a jump to 70 pounds ($108.8) a metric ton by 2030.

Greece could benefit from early action because of its high dependence on coal and high-polluting lignite, a brownish fuel halfway between peat and coal, Bellona said. Three new lignite-fired power plants are planned in west Macedonia.

The United Nations has said that capturing and storing greenhouse gases, from fossil-fueled power plants or factories, could contribute as much as renewable energies toward slowing climate change in the 21st century if carbon prices rise.

But many pilot projects are suffering delays.

Eivind Hoff, director of Bellona Europa, predicted that European Union funds would be available for Greece to set up demonstration projects, despite austerity cuts. Taxes or feed-in tariffs could encourage wider use of carbon capture and storage.

Among long-term options was to adapt tankers carrying liquefied natural gas to Greece from Egypt and Algeria, which now make the return voyage empty. In future, they might take the carbon and store it in sites in Egypt or Algeria.

“If you can have double-purpose transport it would be an interesting opportunity for the Greek shipping industry,” Hoff told Reuters.

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