Andrew Forrest criticises use of carbon capture and storage saying it fails ’19 out of 20 times’
Fortescue Metals Group boss Andrew Forrest has criticised “failed” carbon capture and storage technology and said the general population is entitled to feel sceptical about its use.
As the Morrison government moves to award carbon credits to fossil fuel projects that promise to capture and store carbon dioxide, the mining billionaire has told a podcast such projects had failed “19 out of 20 times”.
Speaking to the Good Will Hunters podcast, Forrest pointed to his home state of Western Australia, where Chevron’s CCS facility at its Gorgon liquefied natural gas development failed to meet a requirement to capture and bury at least 80% of the project’s emissions during its first five years.
The federal government has looked to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a means to promote both the expansion of the gas industry and hydrogen production from fossil fuels.
Last week, the energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor announced the government had committed $250m to help design CCS hubs and support research and commercialisation of CCS technology, including identifying viable geological storage sites.
“You know, in my own home state of Western Australia, we have some of the biggest gas developments in the world who’ve been granted permission to develop on carbon sequestration,” Forrest told the podcast.
“And it failed. And that’s quite normal around the world.
“So to suddenly say, well, carbon sequestration, we’re going to wave a wand, it’s going to work reliably. Well, you know that, actually – if you’re a realist – is a bridge way too far.
“It’s good in a soundbite, but it doesn’t work in reality.”
Dermot O’Gorman of WWF Australia, who also appeared on the podcast, said CCS had been used as a delaying tactic for more than a decade, with billions going into a technology that, to date, had failed.
“Going into Climate Cop26, the world needs to be doubling down on renewable hydrogen, which will in the future only become cheaper, whereas fossil hydrogen will undoubtedly get more expensive,” he said.
Forrest and the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull launched a new organisation last month – the Green Hydrogen Organisation – which will advocate for Australia’s hydrogen industry to focus solely on green hydrogen produced from renewable sources.
Forrest is exploring green hydrogen through Fortescue Metals’ green arm Fortescue Future Industries, which is chaired by Turnbull.
Both men will fly to Glasgow for the global Cop26 climate talks in November, where countries will be expected to increase their ambition to make deep emissions cuts by 2030.
Forrest told the podcast it was a “cop out” for heavy emitting companies to put in place net zero targets for 2040 or 2050 in the absence of short-term pledges to greatly reduce carbon emissions.
He said such targets might be suitable for governments but for heavily polluting industries long-term pledges were “really pretty meaningless”.
“All of us need to pick up the challenge right now,” he said.
He also told the podcast that the use of carbon offsets to hit emissions targets was not going to be enough to meet the global climate challenge to keep the average temperature increase below 2C.
Forrest said Fortescue would rely on carbon offsetting in the short term to meet its own targets “because we simply haven’t put the multi-billion dollar investment into place yet”.
Once that occurred he said the company would not use them at all.
“We’re not an advocate of offsets,” he said.
“If you’ve got absolutely nothing else, then certainly look at them, but make sure they’re very sincere because they can be unreliable, and there are scams in the offset industry.”
The energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, declined to respond to Forrest’s comments.
In statements about CCS last week, Taylor said it was an important component of the government’s technology-led approach to reducing emissions.
“Analysis by the International Energy Agency shows that half the global reductions required to achieve net-zero will come from technologies that are not yet ready for commercial deployment,” he said.
“That’s why we’re partnering with industry to accelerate new projects and unlock the emissions and economic benefits of carbon capture technology.
“The IEA and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) both regard carbon capture technologies as essential to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”