Friday, March 21, 2008

Carbon Capture Caprice

The value of carbon capture and clean coal as an alternative to nuclear energy proved to be a winning argument for the Dutch, but the Guardian takes a far dimmer view of its use in Britain.

The government says that the [carbon capture] demonstration project will take "at least 15 years" to assess. It will take many more years for the technology to be retro-fitted to existing power stations, by which time it's all over. On this schedule, carbon capture and storage, if it is deployed at all, will come too late to prevent runaway climate change.

The article admits that carbon capture is feasible and most of its component technologies are in use, though not especially effectively.

Frankly, though, author George Monbiot (really, the British government) underestimates industry. If carbon capture technology proves truly effective, then those 15 years will melt away to many fewer - there's a very strong motivation to find solutions to carbon emission issues and a large industry that wants badly to do so. There's also the bread-and-butter issue of the wrenching change many, many workers would face if the coal industry in Britain (and elsewhere, too, of course) started to crater. 

Those on the nuclear side of the fence may feel a bit like pointing and laughing at their coal brethren. While they may well want to turn up the volume on a technology that's available now, technologically proven and ready for expansion, it's unnecessary, especially in most of Europe, to do that. 

So now, it's coal's turn - wish it well. The more clean energy there is in the world, the better.

1 comment:

Rod Adams said...

Mark:

The difference between technical feasibility and commercial scale implementation is HUGE. By most estimates, CCS systems would consume between 15-30% of the energy output of a coal fired power plant, thus increasing the fuel cost of operation in addition to all of the other costs of the enormous chemical plants that would need to be added to each of thousands of large coal plants.

Even if the CO2 were separated from the exhaust, captured and pressurized, you are then faced with finding a secure place to store it. For many plants there are hundreds or even thousands of miles of transport needed to reach a suitable geologic formation for storing massive (tens of thousands of tons per plant per day) quantities of gaseous waste.

Those pipelines would be carrying an inert gas, so, unlike natural gas pipelines, the necessary compressor stations would not be able to consume some of the product, they would need outside energy supplies.

No - the challenges of CCS are not something that will be overcome anytime in the next few decades. There is really no appetite for actually implementing these systems. The talk about CCS is just that; it is talk designed to obscure the environmental hazard of continuing to burn billions of tons of coal each year.