Carbon Capture and Sequestration (or Storage, if you prefer), thankfully shortened to CCS, is often postulated to be one way of reducing emissions. The idea is simple. Capture the CO2 from fossil fuel emissions and store it deep underground. People who haven’t looked at it in depth tend to like it. The Stern Review, a celebrated report on the economics of climate change, considers it “essential”. People who have looked at it in depth do not.
“A two-month-long natural gas leak that has caused local evacuations and Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions in southern California is highlighting the need to better control methane emissions from United States oil and gas production and storage.
“…The effect of the leak on the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions is comparable to adding 7 million cars to the road, says Timothy O’Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program in California.”
“…The gas is under enormous pressure – some 3,000 pounds per square inch. Southern California Gas initially tried to pump brine down the well in an unsuccessful attempt to counteract that pressure. The company is now drilling the first of two relief wells that must reach more than 8,000 feet below the surface to allow workers to seal off the leaking well. The second well, which the company has said it plans to begin sinking next month, is a backup. If all goes well, the relief well should be finished by March or April, the company estimates.”
CCS is an expensive way to prevent carbon from being emitted. It is also energy intensive. Outside of a couple of pilot plants, there aren’t many that are up and running commercially. One in Saskatchewan seems to be the exception to the rule.
And what would happen to our atmosphere and indeed our climate if we hid a bunch of CO2 underground and the storage tank leaked?
A lot of the first generation solutions to climate change have proven problematic. Biofuels seem to generate more CO2 than is useful. Wood chips have various problems associated with it as a replacement for coal. Palm oil has triggered deforestation and mass relocation of people. Ethanol from Brazil seems a good idea, but ethanol from the U.S. does not. Offshore wind seems to be about as foolish an idea as possible, expensive, high risk, high maintenance and unsightly.
CCS, with its high costs and higher risks, seems fated to join this list of makeshift answers that were throw at the climate change issue, following the dictum ‘We must do something. This is something. We must do this.’
On the brighter side, that type of plant is ideally suited for use as a movie set for the next Terminator movie. Here are some mice built to the same level of specifications and about as functional.