Hot air freight
20 Apr 2009 - Bruno Prior
Carbon-capture and storage (CCS) is already one of the biggest political lies around. The Government is poised to grant permission to the development of several coal-fired power-stations, so long as they are "CCS-ready". They don't actually have to do any capturing, just be capable of having the carbon captured. My car is capable of having the carbon captured. It's doing it that means something. This is just a fig-leaf, to allow the Government to permit installations that they know are important to our future energy-security. I wouldn't have a problem if they'd just be honest. It's the attempt to greenwash it that makes me want to vomit.
One of the many problems with CCS is that it is energy-intensive, which means it reduces the net efficiency of power stations (possibly by as much as one-third), which means that you have to use a larger amount of fossil fuels for the same amount of power supplied to the grid. Not exactly a smart response to over-dependence on fossil fuels.
But that's not wasteful enough. Now, the Sunday Times reports, they are not just looking at capturing and liquefying the gas and sticking it in the ground (crossing their fingers that the acidic, pressurised, liquid CO2 doesn't dissolve the rock and leach out). No, that would be too simple. Now they are looking to capture it where there is nowhere to store the liquid CO2, and stick it on boats to travel halfway round the world (or whatever distance it is from Japan to the Middle East), to store in spent oilfields.
They won't be able to use existing tankers, because these ships' tanks will have to be kept cooled and pressurised. That will need energy (i.e. fossil fuels), not just at loading, but all the time the ship is in transit. And it's not obvious what return-loads they would share. So, in the name of reducing our carbon footprint, we will have boats sailing halfway round the world and back to bury a gas that will probably leak out again, and for which we don't have remotely enough storage capacity to last more than a few years, before the process becomes redundant.
Naturally, CCS is hugely popular with policy-makers the world over. In the UK, Labour, Tories and LibDems are racing each other to bid up the number of projects that should be backed. The EU is throwing money at multiple "demonstration" projects in many different countries (isn't the point of demonstration projects that you only have one or two and then go commercial?). And Obama thinks it is the magic bullet.