Is carbon capture the answer?

April 9, 2014

The U.N. is expected to release a study later this week that strongly states world powers are running out of time to slash their usage of high-polluting fossil fuels and stay below agreed upon limits on global warming, according to Reuters.

The 29-page draft says “nations will have to impose drastic curbs on their still rising greenhouse gas emissions to keep a promise made by almost 200 countries in 2010 to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.”

The draft, seen by Reuters, outlines ways to cut emissions and boost low-carbon energy, which includes renewables such as wind, hydro- and solar power, nuclear power and “clean” fossil fuels, whose carbon emissions are captured and buried.

Carbon capture was mentioned in the Reuters article, specifically in regards to the $1.35 billion coal-fired electricity generating plant that Saskatchewan Power will open in Canada this year. The plant will extract a million tons of carbon dioxide a year from its exhaust gases and will be the first carbon capture and storage plant of its kind.

carbon capture

Carbon Capture

SASK Power’s website describes carbon capture and storage (CCS) as “a means of reducing the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to climate change through the capture of carbon dioxide from large sources such as power stations. The captured CO2 is then stored in such a way that it does not enter the atmosphere. After capture, the CO2 is turned into liquid form, transported and either used in enhanced oil recovery or put into deep saline formations where it can be stored for thousands of years.”

The website goes on to address the alleged safety of such storage: “A large body of research, combined with years of industry experience, indicates that CCS is a safe process. Saskatchewan is home to the world’s largest and most extensively studied CO2 storage site — the IEA GHG Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project — where more than 20 million tonnes of CO2 has been safely stored since 2000.”

“This is a very important project – not just for Saskatchewan, but for the world,” says Gary Cooper, site construction manager for SNC-Lavalin, the lead contractor for the project at Boundary Dam. Cooper has been involved in carbon capture projects since 2010.

“This can be used across the world in coal-fire generating plants to produce clean air. And I think that’s a benefit to everybody.”

Of course, The Good Human has previously discussed that carbon capture is not without naysayers, including those who are right to point out that we are not sure what will happen to all that CO2 stored underground for long periods of time. As David Quilty wrote in 2013, “But for the time being, until we are willing to make real substantial cuts in emissions, we need a stopgap measure to slow the release of CO2 into our atmosphere before it tips the scales too far.”

About the Author:

Amanda Leff Ritchie is a Pittsburgh-based writer. You can follow her on Twitter @mermanda.
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Comments (2)

  1. Lois says:

    Sure, let’s keep trying to find ways to allow us to continue to live without making any changes in our lifestyles. I would want to know more about the long term effects of storing the carbon, they said nuclear was safe too but never figured out a safe storage solution for the waste before building the plants.

    • David Quilty says:

      On a mass scale, we will not make changes. Period. A few people will, but on a planet of 7+ billion, it’s not going to happen. All we can hope for now is an extension of human time on the Earth, and this MAY help. It may not. But either way, we (everyone) won’t stop using fossil fuels or polluting, so…