New Report: Carbon Capture and Sequestration a Pipe Dream

Have you been feeling a little cynical about the “clean coal” lobby's claims that we can simply and neatly bury our greenhouse gas emissions and forget about them?

A comprehensive, in-depth report was released yesterday by Greenpeace International called “False Hope: Why Carbon capture and storage won't save the climate.” The bottom line, as I've written here on DeSmog before, is that the timeline is just too long for Carbon Capture and Sequestration to have the desired affect on greenhouse gas emissions.

The likeliest year we will see any commercially viable CCS will be 2030. And that's pie in the sky according to Oil-giant Shell who “doesn't foresee CCS being in widespread use until 2050.”

Here's some of the facts from the Greenpeace report, these make great crib notes sheet when you're out and about in the “clean coal” blogosphere:

CCS cannot deliver in time to avoid dangerous climate change.
The earliest possibility for deployment of CCS at utility scale is not expected before 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not expect CCS to be commercially viable until at least 2050.

CCS wastes energy
The technology uses between 10 and 40% of the energy produced by a power station. Wide scale adoption of CCS is expected to erase the efficiency gains of the last 50 years and increase energy consumption by one-third.

CCS is expensive
It could lead to the doubling of plant costs, and an electricity price increase of 21-91%.

“Capture Ready” coal plants is greenwash
CCS is being used as an excuse by power companies and utilities to push ahead with plans to build new coal-fired power plants branding them as “capture ready.” Promises to retrofit are unlikely to be kept. Retrofits are very expensive and can carry such high efficiency losses that the plants become uneconomical.

Storing carbon underground can have unintended consequences
The world has no experience in the long term storage of anything, let alone CO2. A 2006 United State Geological Survey (USGS) filed experiment showed there is every chance that carbon dioxide will behave in ways that are totally unexpected. The researchers were surprised when the buried C02 dissolved large amounts of the surrounding minerals responsible for keeping it contained.

CCS is environmentally risky
Environmental risks include:

  • Reservoir leakage: the slow long-term release of C02 from storage sites
  • Sudden catastrophic leakage (remember when 1,700 were killed at Lake Nyos, Cameroon in 1986?)
  • Escape of C02 and associated substances into shallow groundwater

The full report and the executive summary are attached.

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It just boggles my mind that anyone who purports to care about the planet would put down any project or research that is working to save it. Just this week, developers of a new carbon sequestration project in Wyoming announce they will begin operations next year. So who’s dreaming now?

That anyone would want to dump billions into continuing to do what got us in the hot water in the first place!

The department of energy pulled out of the only clean coal test project the US has due to massive cost increases. Something like $2 billion to make one single plant.

By the time ya’ll figure out how to do this it will be too damn late, we can’t wait until 2030 to stop pumping this shit into the air.

And let’s just say, miracle of all miracles we can build a system to sequester all the coal greenhouse gas in the next 10 years, tell me, coal industry front group Dave, how much are we going to be paying for your clean coal then?

Actually, a Roadmap put together in 2005 by the U.S. Energy Department found that generating electricity in 2025 using carbon-capture technology will be equal to the today’s cost of new power generation without carbon capture. Here’s more information about the roadmap:

Alright David, we all know who pads your wallet ( so before you hop on the defensive and launch into the usual pro coal diatribe, lets look at the facts.

Small scale projects will continue to be built all over the world to TEST the capacity for carbon capture and storage.

But plans don’t equal realized technology. In fact projects are proposed and canceled all the time. FutureGen is a perfect example of this. Facts remain; government and industry agree that integrated carbon capture AND storage technology will not be made commercially available for at least a decade, and in the meantime renewable alternatives exist.

CCS remains an expensive, inefficient, risky technology that the coal industry is using this as an excuse to get new projects online. Coal can never be clean, stop kidding yourself.