Carbon Capture Takes Center Stage In 2012

For two reasons, 2012 will be a milestone for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies, marking the beginning of its practical utilization.

In December, the next step of the ongoing international climate change talks will be hosted by Qatar, which, with Saudi Arabia, has long pushed to have CCS included among approved technologies for carbon reduction under the European Union cap and trade scheme. (CCS can be used to make electricity cleaner, not only from coal, but also from heavy petroleum residues.) At last year’s talks, they finally succeeded, with more details to be hammered out in December.

carbon capture sequestration storage

image via Shutterstock

And secondly: the very first U.S. power purchase contract was just signed for coal power with CSS from a coal plant. It will also sell the carbon dioxide. (Perhaps this kind of CCS should be called Carbon Capture, Sequestration and Sale (CCSS) because one way to make CCS more cost effective is not merely store the carbon dioxide, but to sell it.)

CPS Energy of San Antonio signed a deal to buy the coal power from the 400-megawatt (MW) Texas Clean Energy Project in Midland-Odessa, that will have only 10 percent of the CO2 emissions of other coal-powered plants, because it will capture carbon dioxide in an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant. This will run on a gas squeezed out of coal, instead of burning it, and can separate the CO2, along with other pollutants in the process.

Most of the captured carbon dioxide—83 percent of nearly 2.9 million metric tons each year—will be pumped into the nearby West Texas Permian Basin oil field to ease out the last of the oil. CO2 can be sold to oil drillers for this purpose. The remainder will be sold to manufacture urea, also a valuable industrial material.

The project received $450 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Division, as well as $211 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for a total government investment of $661 million toward the cost of building a $2.4 billion plant (see Government To Fund Carbon Capture Projects).

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.

    • An inconvenient truth about chemical CO2 capture is that it would double consumption of fresh water in thirsty Texas.u00a0 Another is that underground storage will endanger the groundwater.u00a0 Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) by injecting CO2 into depleted oil fields will not be enough to accommodate the CO2 we need to get rid of once we capture it, although the oil companies have been successful in getting a lot of money from the government for their EOR.u00a0 The lifetime emissions from just one coal plant would need the pore space of a giant oil field, and there aren’t many of those.

    • Gerald Wilhite

      From the evidence I’ve seen cAGW is still just scientific speculation. To be a legitimate hypothesis, the cAGW concept must be stated in a manner that includes a method that others can repeat and use to to determine is its ‘falsifiablility”. To my knowledge, no one has set forth such a testable hypothesis. All I’ve heard is alarmist projections derived from computer models that even proponents admit are crude and highly suspect. These models fail miserably in simpler ‘hindcast’ tests. To make matters worse, the empirical data sets used by these computer models have not been made available to independent researchers. Many  have been somehow been lost, spoiled, or misplaced. 
      Meanwhile, for the past 15 years or so man-made CO2 has increased and temperatures have stayed flat. This is in embarrassingly sharp contrast to IPCC predictions.
      In the spirit of constructive skepticism that is the hallmark of sound science, I offer this: If you are convinced that the cAGW hypothesis is valid and demands an immediate solution, here is a simple cheap idea for CO2 sequestration. Why don’t we simply acquire and use the piping and pumps already in place in ‘depleted’ natural gas “fracking” wells? Then simply reverse the fracking process and pump CO2 back in the ground, replacing the natural gas that has been removed with CO2.
      In the United States and much of the rest of the world the technique of fracking to recover natural gas has unlocked an enormous low cost supply of relatively clean energy.  My advice to anyone involved in the research and development of ‘green’ energy new concepts or technology is think about updating your resume. Why? Past projections used to determine the economic viability of renewable energy are now virtually worthless.