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What to do with CO2

By Paul Robinson - 22 May 2014 11:44:0 GMT
What to do with CO2

Union Wood at Ballygawley, Ireland is one example of the few remaining ancient examples of carbon storage that covered the planet. We've lost tw0-thirds of the forests already. In sourcing new ideas to combat global warming, artificial carbon storage has hung on as an expensive but feasible alternative, but it's probably time to burn the idea like the paper tiger it is; Forest image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The failure of carbon capture (CCS) schemes is often put down to the giant finances needed for start-up. With fracking and carbon capture still most popular in political thinking, the need for scientific investigation is obvious. The failure of 2 British projects by EON and Scottish Power and several others in Europe and the US leads to one conclusion. Capture Power's White Rose and Shell's Peterhead projects followed in 2013 and 2014, but completion by 2020 is highly unlikely.

The carbon targets that nations are supposed to achieve by 2050 may be reached using carbon capture, but the direct routes using renewable energy sources could prove to be more feasible. More money will be needed from central finances for nuclear and CCS funding, while renewable energies tend to be more self-supporting. To save cost, the CCS plants are "clustered" around transport and storage hubs. This would save up to 75% of developing infrastructure.

The whole CCS technology was created in efforts to correct the imbalance caused by 515 gigatonnes of carbon we have released into our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. At the moment, we look likely to be able to double that. But temperatures will certainly rise above the critical 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures. Industrialists see the potential of 545 gigatonnes of carbon storage like a green light for more burning.

However, the IEA World Energy Outlook conclusions as recently as 2013 thought CCS was a distant objective, although it still thought is was essential to avoid further global warming. In Canada, at a cost of $1 billion, Saskatchewan will be the very first large-scale CCS operation. Saskatchewan, is unfortunately the site of CO2 "leakage" from earlier attempts at carbon storage. This raises the natural response that we don't have any real evidence that the gas stays put, after this huge expense. Only the US and the United Arab Emirates seem likely to finalise any other projects in the near future Funding in Canada has been encouraged unfortunately by the prospect of yet more oil to be forced to the surface by injecting the carbon dioxide into wells. The direct route of avoiding our fossil fuel use is rarely connected with CCS. Perhaps the whole idea is a political dinosaur, doomed because of this perpetual connection with coal, oil and gas. Perhaps it's a paper tiger, too!

The Carbon Brief's blog has been giving space for CCS and related news with greatly balanced views that have enlightened us in - The Carbon Brief. We questioned the future of CCS ourselves a few years ago in Is CCS kaput? electricity.