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Environment

Sequestering CO2

Pressure grows for greater haste in setting up trial projects at coal-fired facilities

by Jeff Johnson
November 3, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 44

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Credit: Øyuind Hagen/StatoilHydro
At the Sleipner field in the North Sea, CO2 from natural gas production gets injected deep under the seabed in one of the world's largest sequestration projects.
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Credit: Øyuind Hagen/StatoilHydro
At the Sleipner field in the North Sea, CO2 from natural gas production gets injected deep under the seabed in one of the world's largest sequestration projects.

THE International Energy Agency (IEA) and the nonprofit think tank World Resources Institute (WRI) have recently issued proposals and pleas to speed up R&D projects that capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Coal-burning power plants generate more than 20% of the world's CO2 and a growing percentage of its electricity, and they are increasingly becoming targets of efforts to cut global CO2 emissions.

The two organizations released separate comprehensive reports that offer overviews and provide guidelines to spur development of technologies that capture CO2 at a power plant, transport it, and inject it deep underground. The reports address project financing, regulation, environmental impacts, monitoring, liability, and public input.

IEA notes that globally only four full-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects exist today, and none of them captures CO2 from a coal-fired power plant. To combat climate change due to CO2 emissions, the agency recommends that 20 large-scale CCS projects at coal-fired power plants be in planning by 2010 and in operation by 2020.

Similarly, Sarah Forbes, lead author of the guidelines from WRI, says, "We need at-scale, 250-MW or larger demonstration projects now." WRI developed its guidelines through workshops and information from 88 stakeholders representing government, business, community groups, and academia. WRI is now drawing up similar CCS guidelines specific to China.

The two reports stress that delay will cause CCS to cost more and be harder to implement while allowing more coal-fired power plants to be built without CCS technologies.

Forbes and Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of IEA—which is a part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development—also emphasize the need to create a global solution.

"The window of opportunity is closing for the global community to cost-effectively address climate change," Tanaka says in a statement. "CCS technologies must play a key role, but they must be proven in the next decade."

The reports are available at www.wri.org and www.iea.org.

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