15 March 2007

Sequestration considerations

Albertans 'willing to pay' to fight climate change

A plan to pipe and store massive amounts of carbon dioxide underground could cost as much as $5 billion, Environment Minister Rob Renner said Wednesday. The announcement came as Carbon sequestration is a major component of the government's plan to deal with the threat of climate change. PM Stephen Harper was in Edmonton last week to announce funding that would help pay for such a project. The multi-billion-dollar cost would cover more than an extensive pipeline network linking the province's carbon emitters to gas dumping grounds ranging from old oil wells to coal beds and deep saltwater aquifers. Much of the cost will be incurred in actually stripping the carbon dioxide from emissions. In many cases, that will mean expensive retrofits to coal-fired power plants, refineries, upgraders and chemical plants whose smokestacks currently belch the gases into the air. The innovations would help push the province towards "zero-emission coal" generation, which Premier Ed Stelmach's throne speech mused about last week.

Renner unveiled the government's plans to update its climate change blueprint in the coming months, but only after it seeks Albertans' input from 10 public consultation meetings across the province between late March and late April. The government's position that all Albertans, and not just large emitters, need to put a greener foot forward in the climate change fight garnered praise from the oil and gas industry. Environmental groups, meanwhile, charged the government is dragging its heels in crafting a true environment plan. Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, questioned why the government is further delaying on its climate change plan. "I'm wondering how much of it is a recognition their (greenhouse gas) regulation is so weak that they need to build public confidence," Raynolds said. However, Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the province's public consultation is key to moving the conversation beyond just one involving government and industry. "If we're going to get to the heart of this, end-use (public) consumption has to be a bigger part of this debate," Alvarez said. "It's not just an industry issue. Every single Albertan is an energy consumer." Opposition parties immediately assailed the consultation as a "public relations exercise" designed to stall for time while the government determines what to do on climate change.

Renner said the government's newly introduced greenhouse gas legislation, which requires large industrial emitters to meet 12% emissions intensity reductions (carbon dioxide per barrel of oil), will drive up industry costs, which will ultimately be passed on to the taxpayer. The minister said he's seen a rough number of the additional costs and promised it to the media, but his staff later said those numbers haven't yet been calculated. Renner also revealed that plans to capture carbon dioxide and build a pipeline that would ship CO2 from Alberta's northern oilsands to the western sedimentary basin could cost as much as $5B -- far above earlier estimates of $1.5B. A final climate change plan will be released by the fall.
(Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal 070315)

Well, I imagine most of this $5 billion will come from us, the taxpayers, through government subsidies. I assume the corporations that run and build these plants will not have to pay a whole lot to retrofit their own technologies, since the government is their bitch. They'll justify raising rates to the consumers (taxpayers) because of the huge costs involved, when they are actually getting the upgrading all paid for by the taxpayers anyways. What a great scam that is?

Underground carbon storage backed

A panel of scientists yesterday urged the US to speed up efforts to store carbon gases underground to keep coal use viable in the face of growing concerns about global warming. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a report that coal, the dominant fuel for electricity in the US and China, will remain an attractive energy source if greenhouse emission issues can be resolved. The report, The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World, assumes that some limits will eventually be imposed on carbon dioxide (CO2), most likely in the form of a cap or tax on emissions. Coal has been blamed by environmentalists as a major culprit in global warming because of its high level of CO2 emissions. But it supplies about half the electric power needs in the US and two-thirds of energy needs in China, since it costs less than most alternatives and both countries have ample domestic supplies. The study concluded there are no scientific obstacles to the use of "carbon capture and sequestration," or burying CO2 in underground geologic formations. The report maintained that the US government-funded "clean coal" programs are vastly underfunded, and called for three to five subsidized coal-fired plants that would capture and store all carbon emissions. Such technology will add about 50% to the wholesale cost of electricity and roughly 25% to the retail costs, the panel concluded. This would still allow coal to compete with other energy sources such as nuclear energy and natural gas, assuming that carbon emissions are limited or taxed.
(National Post 070315)

Despite the fact that sequestration would lessen the EROEI of coal power generation even further, technology to make the process more efficient might balance out the extra energy required for sequestration. At any rate, everyone is starting to look at the greenhouse gas problem very seriously, which is a very good thing. It's unfortunate that we have to continue to look at coal as a reliable energy source despite its shortcomings, but we really don't have any choice at this point in time.

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