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CCS Less Effective Than Thought Say Researchers

February 3, 2015
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By Paul Homewood




Two items of news this week from PEI:


CCS less effective than previously thought, researchers say 


By Tildy Bayar 

Carbon & Capture (CCS) technology may be less effective at mitigating power plant emissions than previously thought, a new US study has found.

In a paper published this week and funded in part by the US Department of Energy, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences concluded that, after carbon dioxide (CO2) is injected into the ground in the sequestration stage of CCS, less of the gas is converted to rock than has been thought – and in fact only “a small fraction” of the CO2 becomes rock.

Researcher Yossi Cohen, the study’s co-author, said: “The expectation was that most of the carbon dioxide would become solid mineral. Our work suggests that significantly less” will be converted.

In the CCS process, CO2 is injected around 2100 metres below the earth’s surface and stored in brine aquifers where a chemical reaction turns it into rock. In modelling this process, the researchers found that only the CO2 that first touched the brine turned solid, producing a “clogging” effect.

“This can basically close the channel,” said Cohen, “and no more material can move farther into the brine, because as soon as it touches the brine, it will become solid.” The CO2 that is unable to penetrate this solid rock will remain gaseous, or it can come into contact with precipitation and dissolve into a liquid state.

“If it turns into rock, [the CO2 is] stable and will remain there permanently,” said Cohen. “However, if it stays in its gaseous or liquid phase, it remains mobile and it can possibly return back to the atmosphere.”

The researchers cautioned that further study is needed in order to establish a success rate for CCS given that each situation is different, and that multiple aspects of the rock will influence how much CO2 can be mineralized.

While the US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that CCS could eventually mitigate up to 90 per cent of power plant and industrial emissions, its progress has been slow and beset by setbacks and lack of funding. This month four of Europe’s leading utilities announced a decision to opt out of a decade-long CCS project, citing prohibitive costs.


How much of the gas will end up escaping into the atmosphere is not known. But it does seem ever more ridiculous that we are wasting billions on a technology that may not work at all, and, if it does, may only make little difference to emissions, at a much higher cost, and more rapid diminution of a limited reserve. All to address a non problem.





The second item concerns the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear plant: 


Hopes expressed by the CEO of French utility EDF, Vincent De Rivaz, that negotiations with Chinese co-investors on the Hinkley Point project would be concluded by the end of March look set to be dashed.
Prior to Christmas Mr De Rivaz had been
bullish about negotiations on the project but the latest news will be seen as a setback as the government will be otherwise occupied with the matter of the General Election over the coming months, once March passes.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s chairperson, Margaret Hodge now believes no deal will be struck by that date and, as feared, the UK’s General Election race will take precedence, setting the nuclear power project back further.
“We don’t think they will have struck a deal by then,” Ms Hodge told the Financial Times. “The National Audit Office have said that it looks increasingly unlikely.”
Tim Yeo, who chairs the energy committee, said any more delays to the scheme would be “extremely worrying” for long term supporters of nuclear power in the UK. “It will be disappointing if it slips to after the election. We do not need yet another element of doubt,” he said.
EDF had originally said it hoped to have a final sign-off from investors, who will put in half of the capital, by the summer of 2014. That timetable was disrupted by a year-long state aid investigation by the European Commission that ended with approval in October.
EDF’s potential partners in Hinkley Point are China General Nuclear Power Corp, China National Nuclear Corp, France’s
Areva, Saudi Electric and several pension funds.
The Chinese energy companies, which are rivals, have been at odds over their precise share of the project. Both have been pushing for a substantial share of the supply chain contracts — a demand that has held up negotiations, although it is now understood to have been met.
Another delay has been the wait for the UK government to verify the final details of state subsidies and a separate infrastructure investment guarantee.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change commented that,“EDF still expects the power station to come online around 2023,” while EDF itself told the FT it was “working hard with the UK government to finalise agreements on Hinkley Point C and is making good progress in all areas with the aim of finalising documents by the end of March 2015”.


In essence, EDF don’t have the funds, or are unwilling to deploy them all, even though the deal is fully agreed with the UK Govt. This is why they are looking for Chinese investors to come on board.

It is unlikely that this will stop the construction going ahead, but it will add to delays already incurred because of the EU intervention last year. Despite DECC reassurances, it seems less likely that the plant really will be commissioned by 2023.

  1. February 3, 2015 7:01 pm

    The bigger issue is the economics. USC coal with CCS is much more expensive than nuclear. The US EPA’s statutorily mandated Regulatory Impact Analysis on its proposed CCS regulations says there will be no impact since no such plants will be built! Details in essay Clean Coal in ebook Blowing Smoke.

  2. February 3, 2015 8:51 pm

    Re CCS:

    As the CO2 contacts the aquifer and precipitates, resulting in blocking the pores to the CO2 delivered later, it is conceivable that they will have to use oilfield technologies to overcome the problem. Can you imagine the headlines if chemicals have to be pumped down under high pressures in order to sort it out? It would be nothing like fracking, of course.

  3. Kon Dealer permalink
    February 3, 2015 10:05 pm

    CCS less effective than thought?
    How can it be less effective than “doe not work at all”?

  4. Green Sand permalink
    February 3, 2015 11:31 pm

    “CCS Less Effective Than Thought….”

    Quite, thought can be very effective in producing wonderful logical conclusions and benefits. Whereas CCS is just a nightmare in search of a dream.

  5. winter37 permalink
    February 4, 2015 10:43 pm

    As I have mentioned before ref.CCS,;a leak of CO2 accidental or deliberate(think terrorism) will be extremely dangerous to human/animal life in the area.
    Escaping CO2,being heavier than air will cling to the ground, and gravitywill take it to the nearest town/village with deadly consequences.Do not dabble Mr. Davey and leave coal alone or your dream will become a nightmare.
    Thanks Green Sand for the words.

  6. manicbeancounter permalink
    February 4, 2015 11:12 pm

    I have a little problem. CCS is totally unproven, and is likely to be hugely expensive. Yet last week the DECC produced a global calculator to demonstrate how cheap it is to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. In the model they have a CCS section for electricity.
    The baseline was 16GW of electricity capacity with CCS in 2050.
    The most extremely ambitious case is 3700GW of electricity capacity with CCS in 2050.
    It will cost just 0.36% of GDP more than the baseline to have CCS on virtually every coal-fired power station on earth.
    Maybe the DECC could pass on how they have solved the problems.

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