CO2 'white elephant'
In criticizing Lawrence Solomon’s “Carbon disaster” (Aug. 15), Eric Beynon of the industry group, Integrated CO2 Network, and Marlo Raynolds of the environmental group, the Pembina Institute, do not deal with the amount of CO2 that would have to be removed by “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) facilities. The quantities of CO2 to be removed are huge.
The United States burns a billion tonnes of coal each year, which produces 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2. If the gas is highly compressed until it has about the same density as water, it has a volume of two and a half cubic kilometres. China also produces 2.5 billion tonnes per year; and India, and Germany and so on.
It is not obvious where we can store this huge volume of gas under such high pressure. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs are mentioned, but many are used by gas companies to store gas in the summer for use in the heating season, which limits the supply of suitable fields. Because of the high pressure required, the gas cannot be placed in shallow oil fields where it will cause small earthquakes as the rocks crack and the gas escapes. The more stringent the safety requirements, the fewer the number of suitable sites.
Messrs. Benyon and Raynolds describe storage at Weyburn Sask. and in the sea off Norway, but each of these two places only store about 1 million cubic meters per year. That means we still need another 2,488 disposal sites of that size for the U.S. and Canada.
The costs are huge. To develop an adequate number of sites would require in the order of 150,000 disposal wells at a cost of about $1.5-trillion. That is only a part of the capital cost of a CCS system that includes recovery and compression plants and extensive networks of pipelines. We also have to burn another 30% of the coal to power this system, which requires another 1000 disposal sites.
CCS is a white elephant.