Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carbon sequestration in power plants

Amidst all focus on carbon taxes and cap-and-trade approaches to control carbon emissions, carbon sequestration has hitherto taken a back-seat. Now the Virginia based Mountaineer power plant in the US is all set to become the world’s first coal-fired power plant to capture and bury deep inside earth some of the carbon dioxide it churns out. The hope is that the gas will stay deep underground (around 8000 ft), squeezed into tiny pores in the rock by displacing the salty water there, for millennia rather than entering the atmosphere as a heat-trapping pollutant.

The success of this experiment assumes significance in view of the fact that the overwhelming majority of power plants are coal or fossil-fuel based and retrofitting them could prove far more feasible than building brand new, cleaner ones.

Opponents claim that the cure could turn out far worse than the disease. They point to the possibility of pollution of water suplies (the carbon dioxide could mix with water underground and form carbonic acid which could leach poisonous materials from rock deep underground that could then seep out) and the substantial energy consumption in the process ofcapture and sequestration itself.

Update 1
See also this post.

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