Carbon Capture and Storage Gets First Try-Outs Around the World

By Eliza Strickland | April 13, 2009 6:15 pm

smokestackIn large industrial experiments across the globe, factories and power plants are trying to capture the carbon dioxide that streams out of their flues in order to bury it deep underground. Researchers believe the greenhouse gas will stay put for thousands of years and therefore won’t contribute to global warming, but the costs and long-term effects of the procedure are still unclear. The experiments currently underway are expected to determine whether carbon capture and storage will allow nations to continue burning fossil fuels for energy without ill effects.

In France this month, the first retrofitted power plant will begin to use its new carbon capture and storage technology. The system used by the natural gas-burning power plant will transport and store 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year in the nearby depleted gas field at Rousse – once the biggest onshore natural gas field in Europe, but which is now almost empty [The Guardian]. The carbon dioxide will flow through existing pipelines that once brought natural gas to the power plant. While the first new power plant using carbon capture and storage opened last year in Germany, some environmentalists say that the French plant’s retrofit is an important example of how existing industries can be adapted to a future that requires clean energy.

In China, the country’s largest coal producer is launching its first carbon capture experiment at a new $3.5 billion coal-to-liquids plant in Mongolia. With China still dependent on coal to meet the bulk of its energy needs, carbon capture and storage has been identified as a crucial element in the country’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, currently believed to be the highest in the world [Reuters].

The United States has lagged behind somewhat in large scale carbon capture and storage experiments since the Bush administration canceled the over-budget FutureGen project last year. But President Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu, has signaled that he may revive at least part of the FutureGen project. Meanwhile, the agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland is beginning a test project that will capture carbon dioxide emissions from a corn mill in a rock formation 8,000 feet deep. The company got $66.7 million comes from the Energy Department to fund the bulk of the experiment.

However, not all environmentalists are sold on the technology, and Greenpeace is campaigning against the Archer Daniels Midland project.  “It is complete hubris to believe we can sink carbon dioxide into the ground and think there will be no leakage,” said Carroll Muffett, a Greenpeace deputy campaigns director. “We see carbon capture as a serious distraction from real solutions. It’s certainly not where public money should be going” [Los Angeles Times].

Related Content:
80beats: Obama & Chu Push Ahead With Clean Coal Projects Despite the Cost
80beats: World’s First Really Clean Coal Plant Gets a Try-Out in Germany
DISCOVER: Can Clean Coal Actually Work? Time to Find Out.
DISCOVER: Can Coal Come Clean?
DISCOVER: The Key to Safe and Effective Carbon Sequestration

Image: flickr / wburris

  • Nick

    Stupid stupid stupid.

    Turn that carbon into fiber and nanotubes and SELL IT FOR PROFIT.

  • Paul

    I agree this is all a waste of money Carbon Dioxide is a necessary gas for plant growth. Levels have been way higher in the past and the planet did not turn into Venus. Doesn’t everyone understand that a slightly warmer planet is a good thing. Do you know how tough life will get if it gets colder?

    Absolutely insane.

  • Frank Rossi


    A slightly warmer planet is one without an icecap, which leads to a catastrophically warmer planet.

    We won’t become Venus, but a slightly warmer planet will (and is) causing desertification, famine, wars over water, displaced populations,
    and a host of other wrongs.

  • greg

    Paul and Frank you’re are both right, in a way. CO2 is a natural, necessary gas, and also a slightly warmer planet does mean, eventually, a very warm planet. In my opinion, and apparently not many others, the real problem is the question of planetary stability vs. human population. We need to talk about this more. The planet is and will continue to change, however if we do not control our numbers this whole thing, Earth, will fall apart.

  • Jenn

    What about peak oil? Come up with technologies so that we can keep burning fossil fuels, but what about the technologies we’re going to need when THEY RUN OUT, which they CURRENTLY ARE…??

  • Steve Wahls

    My son Ike came home from school talking about the misinformation being spread around schools in the USA as if it is proven fact. I’m sorry it just makes me want to puke. When I was growing up the scientists were worried about the impending Ice age, that was BS too. Now we need to blame humanity for this fairy tale. Well I want to post my point and I’m not even going to make up my own ka-ka. I’ll just use the evidence the weirdo’s provided me. I grew up in central Illinois and I’ve seen the evidence and it’s undisputable. Huge swings in temperature are a natural phenomenon on earth they have been forever and forever will be. These things happened long before man harnessed fire. Go to this site and read what I’ve known all along.
    I suppose it was caused by aliens right? Because it just couldn’t be a natural occurring phenomenon on earth. And it happened before we invented fire. Hell we weren’t even monkeys according to the weirdo’s. Damn it was hot!!! Oh and checkout the Mammoth!! Damn it was cold!!!

  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    If it is possible to capture and sequester carbon, is it possible to capture and release it outside of our atmosphere?

  • Brian Too

    There’s some serious money ($2B CDN total) being spent in Alberta on CCS projects. 4 projects have signed Letters of Intent.

    Some of the projects are going for straight underground injection, some are using the CO2 to pressurize oil fields and increase production from them. Not sure how I feel about the latter–seems a bit like circular logic, quite honestly.


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