Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This Blows Holes Through the Tar Sands and "Clean Coal"

Remember CCS, "carbon capture & sequestration", the solution that allows safe, limitless exploitation of fossil fuels? It's more than a myth, it's a lie.

Whenever Big Coal and the Alberta oil patch face tough questions about carbon emissions they immediately wave the carbon capture & sequestration flag and assure critics that, very soon, any day now, they'll be capturing those carbon emissions and sequestering them safely underground where they'll never harm the planet or mankind. A new report shatters the myth of CCS and leaves its proponents looking utterly deceitful.

A Guardian article published on Sunday says the CCS myth is unrealistic, unviable and based on deeply flawed assumptions.

A new research paper from American academics is threatening to blow a hole in growing political support for carbon capture and storage as a weapon in the fight against global warming.

The document from Houston University claims that governments wanting to use CCS have overestimated its value and says it would take a reservoir the size of a small US state to hold the CO2 produced by one power station.

Previous modelling has hugely underestimated the space needed to store CO2 because it was based on the "totally erroneous" premise that the pressure feeding the carbon into the rock structures would be constant, argues Michael Economides, professor of chemical engineering at Houston, and his co-author Christene Ehlig-Economides, professor of energy engineering at Texas A&M University.

"It is like putting a bicycle pump up against a wall. It would be hard to inject CO2 into a closed system without eventually producing so much pressure that it fractured the rock and allowed the carbon to migrate to other zones and possibly escape to the surface," Economides said.

The paper concludes that CCS "is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions, although it has been repeatedly presented as such by others."

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association, which lobbies for CCS, notes, "..that Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, had been injecting CO2 into an old reservoir on the North Sea Sleipner field for some time as a successful experiment in carbon storage. But Economides says the Sleipner scheme involved a million tonnes over three years, while one 500mW commercial station would need to absorb and store 3m tonnes annually for 25 years.Economides, who admits he veers towards being something of a climate change sceptic, says the oil and coal industries see these schemes as potential solutions so they can keep on doing what they have been doing in the past, but "CCS is the last refuge of the scoundrel," he said. "

Economides says, "...vested interests are protecting a new concept foisted on the world by geologists without proper thought.

"I was a [practising] petroleum engineer for many years and soon realised that geologists did not understand flow and the laws of physics, against which you can't argue."

I suspect the University of Houston team are correct in dismissing CCS as a con. The fact that the CCS "miracle" has been repeatedly promised for so many years yet still remains the uncertain subject of pilot, small-scale demonstration projects speaks for itself. Worse still, when you look behind the Alberta government's CCS smokescreen you discover, in the fine print, that their ultimate "target" is to capture and sequester an underwhelming 20% of Tar Sands CO2 in any case - if such a plant ever materializes.

The Houston University report guts every excuse and false promise held out by the supporters of the Athabasca Tar Sands whether from Big Oil or its political backers, Tory and Liberal. The Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, has already foolishly placed himself on record as a wholehearted supporter of the Tar Sands. Maybe it's time he did a little reading, learned of the magnitude of all the environmental threats posed by this mad venture, and carefully but deliberately climbed down from that perch.


LMA said...

Oh great, that's all we need - fractured rock and leaking CO2!

At this point, I have no idea what the REAL environmental policy of Ignatieff is.

He is "inspired" by today's conservation agreement for significant areas of the Boreal Forest and responds as follows:

"It epitomizes what I have been saying all along - that you can successfully protect our natural resources while at the same time protecting jobs, and all in a way that will help make Canada a world leader in the future green economy"

But wait, he also supports the destruction of the Boreal Forest in Tar Sands extraction, and wants Canada to be a world leader in the production of dirty oil.

He may be able to rationalize his way out of this dilemma, but I can't.

The Mound of Sound said...

Methinks Mikey is talking shite.