The carbon capture and storage revolution

2015-02-03 10:53 by Anja Reitz

The opening of the world’s first power plant to capture its carbon dioxide has started an exciting new phase of activity for the UK CCS Research Centre. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for power plants is just another stage in cleaning up fossil fuel use. This began with capturing dust, then acid rain gases – oxides of sulphur – and most recently oxides of nitrogen. Carbon dioxide does not cause local or regional problems in the same way as these pollutants, so the politics and regulation are more complex, but the general principle of adding a clean-up process once the need is considered to justify the cost is familiar in the electricity generation sector. Also familiar are the stages in how the clean-up technology is perceived, going from ‘science fiction’ through ‘impossibly expensive and complex’ to ‘major investment but necessary’ and finally ‘obviously just a routine part of any power plant’. CCS is now in early stage 3 and we are working hard to get it to stage 4 as quickly as possible.

The growing number of working CCS power plant projects is the key to making progress. The province of Saskatchewan, Canada, with a population of just over 1 million people gained the distinction of being first in the world to operate a commercial power plant with carbon dioxide capture when its Boundary Dam 3 power plant was officially opened on 2 October. In Saskatchewan the electricity utility, SaskPower, is a ‘Crown Corporation’, owned by the province. It can therefore take a long-term view on investment and give weight to the benefits of securing local jobs through continued coal mining and an extended life for Saskatchewan oilfields, using carbon dioxide injection to recover more oil, in contrast to the simpler, but less rewarding, approach of paying a similar price to buy natural gas for power generation.


Source: Adjacent digital politics limited, 27 Jan 2015

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