A response to Lawrence Solomon’s article on carbon capture

Eric Beynon and Marlo Raynolds

September 1, 2009

Mr. Solomon’s article illustrates a lack of understanding of the potential of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as one of the tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

“Anyone serious about dealing with greenhouse gas emissions and has done research and analysis on the solutions, knows we need a complete portfolio of actions including the appropriate and safe application of carbon capture and sequestration,” according to Eric Beynon of the Integrated CO2 Network ICO2N and Marlo Raynolds of the Pembina Institute.

ICO2N has undertaken a significant amount of research on CCS technology, analysis of economic models for development and the best way for establishing an integrated carbon capture and storage network in Canada. This is not unproven technology and a great deal of work is being done to ensure our understanding of this important technology is comprehensive on every front.

The Pembina Institute views CCS as one of a number of technologies that can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the scale required to combat dangerous climate change. There is no single solution to addressing climate change and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure accurate information on all the tools available to us.

Here are some key points from ICO2N¹s research to consider in assessing the merits of Mr. Solomon¹s opinion:

  • Throughout recorded history, no earthquake has ever been powerful enough to cause an instantaneous release of oil or gas from a sandstone sediment layer. And since the CO2 would be held in place by the very same impermeable cap rock that has held oil and gas under the earth through millions of years and countless earthquakes, sequestered CO2 would not be in danger of release due to seismic activity.
  • Any system for carbon capture and storage would have stringent guidelines and monitoring systems to ensure the safety of people, integrity of systems and protection of the environment.
  • Underground storage of CCS will be 800 metres to 2 kilometres underground, far below drinking water sources at less than 300 meters underground.
  • Many things can be dangerous, but natural gases are already deep underground and not leaking to the surface now. The 1986 Lake Nyos tragedy was a natural occurrence not dissimilar to mud slides, floods and tsunamis that occur in other parts of the world.
  • CO2 capture and storage is not a new or untested idea. CCS is a technically viable and environmentally safe means of reducing greenhouse gases.  The subsurface is an effective trap for CO2 and other natural gases and large scale trials provide strong evidence that industrial volumes of CO2 can be stored successfully.
  • There are many CCS projects of varying sizes already underway around the world and underground storage of CO2 has been underway for more than a third of a century in the United States. The safety records of existing CCS projects across North America and around the world are exemplary.
  • In Canada, EnCana¹s Weyburn project, which has been monitored by the International Energy Agency, has successfully stored over 13 million tones of CO2 in Southern Saskatchewan over the past nine years.
  • Norwegian energy company, Statoil, an early leader in CCS, has pumped over ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide beneath the bed of the North Sea over the past decade without incident.
  • Suitable sites for CO2 storage are chosen after rigorous analysis of their quality and capacity and are typically either depleted oil or gas reservoirs or deep saline formations.
  • Niels Peter Christensen, chief geologist at Swedish energy company Vattenfall, says he understands the public¹s concern about unfamiliar technologies, but believes it is misplaced when it comes to CCS.
  • We suspect that any CCS project that is currently dispersing CO2 into the atmosphere is not doing so as part of a long term strategy, but rather an interim method while public understanding and education on CCS storage is undertaken.

Media, scientists, environmental groups and industry have an important role to play in ensuring accurate information is provided on the various new technologies to address CO2 emissions.  A suite of technologies will be needed to address climate change and although CCS is not without its challenges, industry is working with science and technology experts to make it a viable solution for Canada.  An informed public will assist with forming policy and providing objective input on projects or programs.

Eric Beynon
Director, Strategy & Policy
Integrated CO2 Network – ICO2N
http://www.ico2n.com <file://localhost/C/temp0/www.ico2n.com>
Phone 403.269.6285
Cell: 416.995.5843

Marlo Raynolds
Executive Director,
Pembina Institute
http://www.pembina.org <http://www.pembina.org/&gt;
Phone: 403-269-3344 ext. 113
Cell: 403-607-9427

Read Lawrence Solomon’s original article.

This entry was posted in Climate Change, Costs, Benefits and Risks, Energy Probe News. Bookmark the permalink.

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