Thursday, January 21, 2016

Carbon Capture Plans Need Urgent Aid

An illustration of how post-combustion capture of carbon would work at a conventional coal-fired power station. (Image Credit: CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Governments may no longer be investing in the capture of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  But a new study says that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

It argues that the world just needs to think harder and spend more to make the technology work because, to contain climate change, it may prove the only realistic and affordable way to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Many governments appear to agree, and include carbon capture and storage in their plans to keep the world from dangerous climate change.  But, at the same time, many are abandoning many trials that are needed to make it work.

David Reiner, senior lecturer in technology policy at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, argues in the new journal Nature Energy that stopping trials is foolish.

Effective answer
In a world addicted to fossil fuel energy, but threatened with catastrophic climate change driven by the greenhouse gas emissions from those same fossil fuels, he says that one effective answer would be to capture the carbon dioxide before it gets into the atmosphere, and then store it.

He writes that the only way to find out how to do this is to spend billions on a range of possible attempts at carbon capture and storage (CCS), and then choose the best one.

“If we are serious about meeting aggressive national or global emissions, the only way to do it affordably is with CCS,” Dr Reiner says.  “But, since 2008, we have seen a decline in interest in CCS, which has essentially been in lock step with our declining interest in doing anything serious about climate change.”

Just before the UN climate change summit in Paris last December, the UK government canceled a £1 billion competition to support large-scale demonstration projects.  Since 2008, other projects have been cancelled in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.

But oil companies have for two decades been testing the approach on a small scale, and energy scientists have been working on imaginative solutions to what promises to become a global crisis in which the same energy technologies that fuel global economic growth also threaten to change the global climate and impoverish billions of people.

While every aspect of carbon capture and storage poses puzzles – such as whether power-generating stations make the capture efficiently, and where the gas could be safely stored − chemists have dreams of actually exploiting captured carbon dioxide to create new wealth and drive economies in cleaner, greener directions.

But research costs money.  Solar and wind power can be tested on a small scale.  To make CCS work, engineers and scientists and power-generating agencies have to think big.  One single demonstration plant could cost $1 billion.

Read more at Carbon Capture Plans Need Urgent Aid

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