New Report on Carbon Capture and Sequestration Says a Flaw in the Theory May Deflate Clean Coal Claims

According to a new study published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) by Michael Economides of the University of Houston and Christine Ehlig-Economides of Texas A&M University, clean coal is unlikely to prove a real solution to carbon emissions because the process of carbon capture and sequestration won’t prove feasible.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been pointed out to us that many of these claims made by Dr. Economides may be overinflated or just plain spurious- a retort posted by NRDC here which we take very seriously.  Because we don’t believe in just throwing blog posts down the memory hole, we want to give this big caveat, and watch for a further discussion on CCS from us.)

Proponents of coal have touted CCS as the future of coal in supporting efforts to combat global warming, but the technology remains unproven and has long faced skepticism.

CCS involves capturing the carbon dioxide given off during combustion and injecting it  in either liquid or “supercritical” state into an underground rock formation to contain it from being disperse into the atmosphere.

The new study says that proponents of CCS have underestimated the amount of reservoir space required because the volume of carbon dioxide to be stored cannot exceed more than 1% of pore space, and perhaps much less, rather than the 1-4% used in most calculations.  Specifically, the report states that:

“This will require from 5 to 20 times more underground reservoir volume than has been envisioned by many, and it renders geologic sequestration of CO2 a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions.”

The mistaken calculations are due to the assumption that the CO2 can be injected into a reservoir formation at a constant pressure, the authors say. But in fact, pressure will vary, affecting the rate of injection. Excessive pressure could fracture the formation, says the study.

“In applying this to a commercial power plant, the findings suggest that for a small number of wells the area extent of the reservoir would be enormous, the size of a small U.S. state,” the authors say.

Several government-sponsored experiments in CCS are underway in various countries, including the U.S. The New York Times reported last week on a project in Germany that has been injecting carbon into a sandstone reservoir for the past 22 months and is attempting to monitor any leakage.

Note: Michael Economides, is the editor in chief of Energy Tribune and is a self-declared skeptic of global warming.


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