Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and removing of carbon dioxide from Earth's atmosphere. These reports, prepared for the Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Regulator, provide an assessment of Australia's carbon sequestration potential, and how technical innovation can lower the price of carbon sequestration to reduce barriers to uptake. Highlighting the opportunities capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide can play in helping Australia reach net zero emissions.
The report, led by CSIRO's Towards Net Zero Mission and CarbonLock Future Science Platform, brings together scientists with expertise across a range of nature-based and engineered sequestration technologies, to look at their sequestration potential, barriers to uptake, and co-benefits.
The report finds that nature-based technologies such as permanent plantings, plantation and farm forestry, and soil carbon currently provide significant potential; as does Australia's vast geological storage capacity. Biochar, mineral carbonation and DAC have significant sequestration potential but are associated with higher costs; these are areas where investment into research to bring down the unit cost associated with capture could increase national sequestration potential.
This report will inform an Insights Paper on carbon sequestration being published by the Climate Change Authority, which will help inform the advice to government on Australia's 2035 emissions reduction target.
Download Phase 1 Report:
- Phase 1 Australia's carbon sequestration potential report (full report) PDF (12 MB)
- Phase 1 Australia's carbon sequestration potential (accessible text) TXT (677 KB)
The 'Sequestration cost reduction workshops report' details the methods, outputs, and analysis from a series of workshops held to gain expert advice on how technical innovation can lower the price of carbon sequestration ($/t of sequestration) and reduce barriers to uptake.
All investigated sequestration approaches have technical innovation options that can lower the cost. The less mature technologies (such as direct air capture, biomass/biochar and mineral carbonation) have greater potential for cost reduction and accelerating uptake. Innovations in blue carbon could reduce costs by around 40% on current costs. Innovations in planted vegetation sequestration could result in approximately 10 to 30%.
Good opportunities exist to lower the costs of mineral carbonation sequestration, a technology at an early stage of development. The early stage of technology makes cost reduction estimates more difficult and less precise. For ex-situ approaches (e.g. treatment of reactive mine tailings), these could decline by around 40 to 70% from current costs. Innovations for in-situ approaches (reaction with rock formations) could lower costs by 10 to 50% of the current cost of around $37 per tonne. The report findings do not constitute a formal review, an economic analysis, or the final word on any of the sequestration technologies reviewed, which in some cases, are changing rapidly.
This is the second phase of a larger investigation into carbon sequestration, together these two reports will help the Climate Change Authority provide advice to government on Australia's 2035 emissions reduction targets.
Download Phase 2 Report:
- Phase 2 Sequestration Cost Reduction Workshops Report PDF (16 MB)
- Phase 2 Sequestration Cost Reduction Workshops Report (accessible text) TXT (351 KB)
Notes from the authors
Readers of these reports should understand their limitations and time frames, as stated in the report, namely:
- There are important differences between estimates of technical, economic and realisable potential. The report provides estimates of technical and economic potential but more work is needed to inform realisable potential.
- Available estimates of sequestration potential cannot be summed to provide an indication of national potential. This requires understanding the realisable potential, which takes into account the trade-offs between the social, environmental, and economic uses of shared resources to provide a more conservative estimate of sequestration that is achievable under real-world conditions.
- Sequestration potential is distinct from the potential for carbon credits. Although the generation and trade of credits in carbon markets are mechanisms to support realising sequestration potential, there are many other enablers.
- Sequestration potentials are made for discrete dates (variously 2035 and 2050). No assumptions about the projected pathways to delivery are made.
- The report does not provide estimates of additional economic potential sequestration that could be unlocked due to the cost reduction potential, and this is left for future studies to undertake.
- All cost reduction figures should be taken as indicative, or "ballpark", and used more as a means of ranking or prioritising action to drive down the technology cost rather than for formal evaluation of costs of implementation.
- It should be noted that at time of writing the spot price for one tonne of carbon is $35.50.