The Gazette (Montreal, Canada)  [Printer-friendly version]
October 26, 2007


Conference explores CO2 storage: Government legislation, funding
needed to expand geological storage of carbon dioxide

By Michelle Lalonde, The Gazette

Capturing carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere and
injecting it deep into the ground might not be the "silver bullet"
solution to climate change, but it will have to be a big part of a
multi-pronged "silver buckshot" solution if the world is to avoid
environmental and economic disaster, an international conference on
climate change was told yesterday.

"The single, clearest message from this conference so far is that we
need to develop every option (to fight climate change), and if we
don't use everything available to us, we will be in serious trouble,"
said Truman T.

Semans, of the PEW Centre on Global Climate Change, one of three
prominent environmental institutions hosting the conference, called
Climate 2050 -- Technology and Policy Solutions at the Palais des

Semans hosted a panel on carbon capture and geological storage
yesterday that invited top academic and business leaders in the field
to explain where the technology is at and what challenges lie ahead.
All of them said the technology is ready, but governments need to move
quickly on legislation and funding to get large-scale carbon
sequestering projects under way in the relatively near future if they
are to have an impact on climate change.

"All indications are that we can do this, we can do it to scale, and
we have to get going quickly," said Brian Williams, manager of British
Petroleum's CO2 Geological Storage unit.

There are a number of existing demonstration projects for carbon
capture and storage around the world, most of them run by oil or gas
companies that have discovered that when CO2 is pumped into older
reservoirs it acts as a solvent and brings otherwise unattainable oil
and gas to the surface.

In fact, for the past seven years, a Canadian company has been running
one of the largest carbon storage facilities in the world.

EnCana Corporation in Weyburn, Sask., has been transporting CO2 by
pipeline from a U.S. coal gasification plant 161 kilometres away in
Beulah, N.D., and injecting it 1.6 kilometres underground, where it
washes up oil from what was an almost depleted oil reservoir.

"This technology will extend the life of this oil field by about 30
years, and has the capacity to store 30 million tonnes (of carbon
dioxide).... That would be equivalent to taking every car in Montreal
off the road for two years." said EnCana's Mark Demchuk.

But the process of separating the CO2 from other emissions is very
expensive, from $60 to $100 a tonne, Demchuk noted. Transportation and
injection are added costs, he said.

Before companies begin capturing and storing CO2 for any reason other
than enhancing their own oil and gas retrieval, governments need to
put a price on carbon emissions, bring in limits for large emitters,
and regulate on standards for safe storage and liability for storage
sites over the very long term, the panel concluded yesterday.

Government and businesses also will have to do a better job of
explaining the technology to the public, Semans said.

"Public acceptance is not entirely there yet. Most of us in this room
know that there are many types of geological storage that are
technologically viable, but it is not known to the vast majority of
policy makers or to society as a whole."

He said environmentalists tend to mistrust carbon capture and storage
because it may take pressure off the need to develop other less
polluting forms of energy sources, such as wind, solar and small hydro
electric projects.

Also, the public has concerns about safety, Semans noted. In high
concentrations, CO2 can be deadly, and natural rapid releases from
lake beds, for example, have been known to kill people.

But BP's Williams noted there are risks with every technology, and
this one merits investment in research and monitoring to reduce that

Some studies have estimated the potential for carbon storage at 10,000
billion tonnes, or 425 years worth of global emissions, he noted.

Copyright The Gazette (Montreal) 2007