Friday, 19 March 2010

Experts claim carbon capture plans ‘not possible’

academics say space needed for storage has been underestimated
By Tim Pauling
Published: 18/03/2010
Plans to inject carbon dioxide gas into the ground to mitigate the greenhouse effects of fossil fuel power plants is not possible “at any cost”, according to leading petroleum experts.
Two Texan academics have concluded that the space needed to store the CO has been vastly underestimated and that the underground reservoir needed for one commercial power station would have to be “enormous, the size of a small US state”.
Longannet power station has been chosen by the government as one of two sites to pioneer carbon capture technology. If successful, it could herald the start of a new industry storing CO under the North Sea.
The idea is to strip the carbon out of greenhouse emissions and inject it into old oil and gas fields.
But a paper in the Journal of Petroleum and Science, by Christine Ehlig-Economides and Michael Economides, claims the amount of underground reservoir space needed is five to 20 times more than previously estimated. “Our very sobering conclusion is that underground carbon dioxide sequestration via bulk COinjections is not feasible at any cost,” they say.
But supporters of carbon capture pointed out that the paper by the professors at Texas A&M University and the University of Houston was just one of many on the issue.
Aberdeen Central MSP and Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “The American academics seem to have come to a very pessimistic conclusion. I don’t think their level of pessimism is borne out by the work so far done in Europe.”
Dr Sam Gardner, climate change policy officer at WWF Scotland, said: “We welcome research on carbon capture and storage (CCS) that helps to improve our understanding of what is potentially a critical technology in a global transition to a low-carbon energy supply.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “There is no solution to climate change without a solution to coal. Coal is the most abundant, least expensive but most polluting fossil fuel and CCS is the only technology capable of cutting fossil fuel emissions by up to 90%.
“Our current estimates suggest the UK continental shelf has sufficient capacity to store UK CO emissions from fossil fuel power stations for 100 years or more.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Independent research looking at the opportunities for carbon capture and storage in Scotland clearly shows we have a vast capacity to capture safely and store emissions from industrial coal-fired plants for the next 200 years.”
Meanwhile, the UK Government has awarded Scottish Hydro Electric owner Scottish and Southern £6.5million towards the cost of a £21million pilot plant to clean emissions from coal-fired power stations at Ferrybridge, near York.