Diffusion of flue gas desulfurization reveals barriers and opportunities for carbon capture and storage

Addressing climate change may require rapid global diffusion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). To understand its potential diffusion, we analysed a historical analogy: Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) in the global coal power market. Our findings challenge common patterns: diffusion of FGD is not described by a single S-curve but by multiple steps and does not slow down after materiality. The regulation-driven diffusion of FGD can be fast, especially for retrofit since it does not require new power plants. Owing to the mature size of coal power plants, the diffusion of FGD is driven by unit numbers instead of unit capacity growth. We find that the diffusion of CCS in climate change mitigation pathways, when normalised for economic growth, rarely exceeds the historical maximum diffusion rate of FGD. Our findings suggest that end-of-pipe abatement technology can diffuse fast and to a great extent provided deep, consistent long-term regulatory commitment.

Written by Stijn van Ewijk and Will McDowall

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