Monday, April 27, 2009

Carbon storage an impossible dream

Given my postings earlier this week I was fascinated to read Paddy Mannings G-BIZ column in today's Age. The column is developed around the concerns of Graham Brown aged 57, a former coal miner of 20 years. Some quotes give a flavour:

''He says most people working at the coal face know CCS is "just not do-able. It's never going to get off the ground. The technology's so expensive that it's not going to be economical."

The main problem is the sheer volume of carbon dioxide that needs to be captured and stored. Brown explains it this way: for every tonne of coal burnt there are 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of carbon to store. A tonne of carbon is about 500 cubic metres, as a gas at sea level at room temperature.

Now, say coal-fired power stations in Australia emit 100 million tonnes of carbon each year. The Government hopes CCS will trap 20 per cent of those emissions. If the gas is compressed 500 times, that's 20 million tonnes a year.

Transporting 20 million tonnes of highly compressed gas is no mean feat. "Look at the infrastructure that needs to be in place to get 80 million tonnes of coal to port," says Brown. "Moving gas is a different kettle of fish to moving coal … because it's got to be stored in an intrinsically safe way — either pipe or trucks or trains".

In other words CCS is a pipe dream!!

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