Monday, May 18, 2009

Carbon capture and storage 'being oversold as a panacea'

The Hill Times, April 13, 2009

But critics and experts say there are geological risks, it's a waste of taxpayers' money and the 'economics are deadly.'

By Bea Vongdouangchanh

Carbon capture and storage of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is still 12 to 20 years from being commercialized, but it's being oversold as a panacea and a silver bullet, however, it's a waste of taxpayers' money, there are geological risks to storing carbon dioxide underground and the economics "are deadly," say experts and critics who believe the federal government should be investing in other environmental solutions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Jack Century, a Calgary-based retired petroleum, minerals and environmental geologist with more than 50 years of experience in the industry, told The Hill Times last week that carbon capture and storage (CCS) procedures—burying greenhouse gas emissions—could cause induced earthquakes or "micro seismicity" which risk CO2 leakage. He said injecting any gas or liquid into the ground without very carefully studying the geology could become a hazard.

"If you're not careful, you can inject it higher than the natural pressures in the reservoir you're injecting into," he said, noting that if the reservoir is over a fault line or very close to one, it could cause an earthquake. "It isn't just earthquakes that are a problem, but it's when you start injecting fluids into the earth and you don't know what you're doing, you can start small seismic events, we call them micro seismicity and they can cause fractures, and the fractures themselves can interfere with the reservoir and violate the integrity of the reservoir and cause leakage. It doesn't become a hazard in terms of earthquakes but it becomes a hazard in terms of escaping liquids and you don't know where they're going to go."

..........Even CCS proponents admit that carbon dioxide injected deep underground could find its way back to the surface after an earthquake or via groundwater channels."

Mr. Nikiforuk is a fierce critic of CCS, saying, "Creating an energy intensive burial system to hide a problem that could be solved by conserving fossil fuels is morally bankrupt. CCS is a last-ditch survival effort that defies economics and shirks logic."

"The economics of CCS are deadly," he said.

"NDP MP Linda Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona, Alta.) said "it's a waste of taxpayer money" to invest in CCS. "If it's not a proven technology to safe-keep it, then the public should not be bearing the liability," she said last week."

"It's true that this technology will not be effective everywhere. It can only work in places where it's matched with the right geology. Co2 is a very dangerous gas, and there have been stories about natural leaks of carbon dioxide that have caused death, so its very important that this technology is monitored and regulated very closely," she said, adding that CCS is "very expensive" which means governments will not pay for CCS projects entirely.

The Hill Times