Carbon Capture, or "Clean Coal"
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This is a technology which is not taken seriously by anyone I know in the energy industry.

It is politically incorrect to point this out, but it is in no-one's long-term interests to pursue a technology which doesn't work.

It's in the same class as 'perpetual motion machines' or 'burning water because it contains hydrogen'.

However, adopting carbon capture, the details of which are described below, is now official UK policy... - soon, we will all be paying for it .......

So - here we go:-

'Carbon capture' is a technology which could, according to its proponents, enable power stations to 'capture' the fumes resulting from combustion and store them underground in, for example, disused gas fields, or perhaps deep in the oceans.

We are not talking here about the noxious gases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but carbon dioxide, which is formed when any fossil fuel is burned and which is part of the 'carbon cycle' of which we are part.

The reason for doing it is of course 'climate change'. Man's influence on climate is unproven, but who needs evidence?

The Scottish Government, and Westminster, plan to implement carbon capture (unproven on a commercial scale anywhere in the world) on all new coal-fired power stations.

A new research paper evaluating the technology was published recently in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering by Christine Ehlig-Economides of Texas A&M University and Michael Economides of the University of Houston.

They concluded that the technology for underground storage was not feasible at any cost. The volume required for storing the carbon dioxide even from a relatively small 500 MW plant was so enormous as to make the plans unworkable. Burying the emissions from a full-size commercial power station would require underground storage roughly the size of a small US state.

If these calculations are correct, there is no point in carbon capture.

    Some years ago I wrote a paper myself on 'zero emission power' (carbon-capture's other name) for a company involved in power generation. Like most scientific work carried out in this country, it was not 'peer-reviewed' (except by my boss). One of my conclusions, which made it into the final report, was the following:

    ......It is possible to produce electricity from fossil fuels without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but the technologies are astronomically expensive. In many parts of the world coal is the main source of energy; it is cheap and reliable and economies depend on it. No country is going to negotiate away the profitability of its industry by taking away its coal-powered generation and replacing it with 'Carbon Capture' at several times the price.

It seems I was wrong. It's now official UK policy. We have enough coal to deliver the energy we need, but EU rules say we cannot burn it without Carbon Capture.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband last week gave the go-ahead to take the project to the next stage "to demonstrate that carbon capture can work on a large scale" at Longannet.

Perhaps it would be more sensible to wait for some results before announcing that the process is either feasible or cost effective.

A spokesman for Ayrshire Power said that the company remained determined to deploy carbon capture.

20 Mar 10


    A Canadian study concludes that it is technically possible to inject huge amounts of carbon dioxide underground in Alberta, but that the cost would be enormous. (Mar 2010).

    The manager for the Wabamun Area CO2 Sequestration Project (WASP) said that the study shows carbon dioxide storage to be possible but not practicable without a dramatic increase in the tax the Alberta government is currently collecting from large carbon diioxide emitters. It would have to be around $50-$60, up from $15.

    The Alberta government has committed $2 billion towards commercial-scale carbon capture / storage projects. Its target is to capture and store 50 million tonnes of carbon annually by 2020 and 139 million tonnes by 2050.

    The WASP study suggests that storing carbon dioxide will cost around $3 per tonne, but the cost of capturing it at an industrial facility, pressurizing it and transporting it to the injection sites will be an order of magnitude higher.

    The study was initiated by the University of Calgary. Two councils paid for it, and were backed by the provincial and federal governments and industry. They said that 500 million tonnes of CO2 could be stored in a 5,000-square-kilometre area west of Edmonton.

    This amount is roughly equivalent to the emissions over a 15-year period from Alberta's centrally located coal-fired power plants.

    It is generally agreed that more research is required before starting a commercial-scale operation.

    In separate studies, American scientists have looked at the possibility of undersea storage. They have observed the interaction of liquid CO2 with seawater in the deep ocean. It seems that the liquid is relatively stable at these pressures; it does not turn back into a gas but forms a 'hydrate' with water. Work continues, but as yet there are no conclusions.

      Australia's focus for 'slowing climate change' - the planned storage of power-station carbon dioxide emissions - has been dismissed by a US study (quoted above) as 'not feasible at any cost'.

      The Rudd and Bligh governments have made carbon capture and storage (CCS) - under which planet-warming emissions from power stations would be removed and stored underground permanently - their biggest single direct investment in new technologies to 'fight global warming'. This assumes that humans can influence the climate. (Incidentally there has been no increase in global temperature since about 1995. For the figures, see temperature-data).

      The Rudd government is spending $2.4 billion on CCS projects and is putting $100 million a year into the Global CCS Institute it created last year. The Bligh government is spending $102.5 million on the ZeroGen CCS project near Rockhampton and other CCS projects.

    ND, Habitat21.

    Parts of the second article have been summarised from a much longer piece in "The Calgary Herald"

    For the curious, the reasons why carbon capture doesn't work are described here.

    FOOTNOTE......Chris Huhne, who was in charge of energy policy during 2011-12, made the following comment about Carbon Capture....“If there was a completely unlimited resource then we may have been able to surmount the technical problems at Longannet".

    As I've said before: you couldn't make it up.

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