Regarding Carbon Capture from Coal (and other places)
The following was my complete response to Bob Williams Bnet article about carbon capture as it relates to coal.
Click here to view Bob’s article.
Its painful to watch and listen to these hot issues play themselves out. What someone is really looking for is something that doesn’t and never will exist…which is a way to keep using more and more energy, to make more and more stuff and keep everything as usual without anyone ever really having to face up to the reality of it all.
Carbon capture (cc) while possible is a red herring. The promotion of the idea appeases the public by giving them what I coin as “environmental hope”. Whether anyone believes cc is viable or not it is irrelevant because it serves to divert attention from other environmental problems that have real solutions that could be easily handled with technologies and other strategies right now. Our governments are not really interested in solving the real problems by promoting practical and viable ideas because these would continue to reduce demand on energy and materials. While this is truly what is needed in terms of the environment, it doesn’t fit into the equation of greed and the illusion of wealth, which is really the real agenda.
Carbon and coal are “inseparable” therefore, if carbon capture is adopted as a viable means of greening energy production it becomes a new layer of energy consuming technology in and of itself. Everyone pays for it and it becomes entrenched in power production to maintain the environmental quality standards. I understand its not cheap and since lots of money is flowing into into R and D for it, we’ll see lots of players lining up at the trough. I do hope something good and viable and feasible comes out of it. It would be great if coal could be made cleaner, if coal is something we need to use on such a large scale. But with carbon capture technology we will use even more coal to get the same electrical power generation. This equates to even more coal extraction projects, open pit mines, etc.
Here is a quote taken from a government of Canada publication regarding the problem I have just stated indicating innefficiencies that increase fuel use by up to 40%:
“All technologies as applied to energy generation effectively reduce efficiency, increasing the amount of CO2 created (and therefore necessary to capture) per unit of energy produced. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that the increase in energy required to capture the CO2 is between 10% and 40% depending on the technology; the natural gas combined cycle requires the least and pulverized coal requires the most.(4) Capturing CO2 is the most energy-intensive phase (and therefore the largest contributor to CO2 releases and costs of energy production) in a complete carbon capture and storage mechanism.”
(Tim Williams, Science and Technology Division
10 March 2006)
Furthermore, it could increase the cost of energy by over 90%. Again this is taken from another research paper prepared for the Government of Canada:
“Overall, it is estimated that capturing, transporting and storing the CO2 from a new gas- or coal-fired power plant would increase the cost of electricity generated by that plant by between 37% and 91%. This translates into a CO2 mitigation cost of US$30-91/tonne, making CCS a comparatively high-cost method for mitigating carbon emissions, at least for the time being. The IPCC report warns that because there is “relatively little commercial experience with configuring all of these components into fully integrated CCS systems at the kinds of scales which would likely characterize their future deployment,” these cost estimates are highly uncertain.
(Frédéric Beauregard-Tellier,Economics Division,13 March 2006)
Canada is very interested in carbon capture for use in Alberta Tar sands. I’m not sure how dirty the enery from the tar sands are compared to coal but I know its giving Canada a bad reputation on the global energy market. Once again though, while a nice thought, carbon capture merely adds to the already expensive process of getting fuel from this resource. I don’t have the exact figures at hand but the current cost to produce a litre of fuel from tar sand is roughly insane give or take a few idiots. I can’t imagine proposing anything that would add to the cost…that would be crazy!
Even if all the carbon was captured, the millions of hectares of nature consumed by stripping the earth will never be returned in our lifetime. The air will still contain other contaminants that escape the process and contribute to health problems. Finally and unfortunately, I think the effort is being promoted for the wrong reasons while mascarading for the right ones, therefore it is designed to deliver a facade of benefits while changing very little for the better.
People will likely label me pessimistic but revisit what I have said in 5 years from now and you will see what I mean without me having to write a text book about it.
Link to reading from the Alternative Power Blog: Carbon capture and storage “being oversold as a panacea”