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21 April 2016

CSIRO scientist says world is burying its “head in the sand” over the need for more carbon capture and storage

The scientist in charge of the geosequestration research arm of the CSIRO says the world can’t “bury its head in the sand” over carbon capture and storage (CCS).

At the recent international LNG18 Conference in Perth Dr Linda Stalker says in her interview with Babs McHugh (ABC Radio)  that both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) state large scale deployment of CCS is one of the measures needed to keep global temperatures down.

In the geosequestration form of CCS, carbon dioxide emissions are removed from industrial processes, oil and gas and buried.

Many emissions intensive industries produce carbon dioxide not only from the energy needed for processes, but the manufacturing systems itself. This includes making products like steel, cement, bricks, iron, chemicals and fertilisers.

 

Many environmentalists are sceptical about the benefits and economic viability of the system.

The first post-combustion CCS has been deployed at the Boundary Dam coal-fired power plant in Canada.

It has come under fire for not being cost effective, but Dr Stalker said it had provided valuable real-life data to work with.

“Yes, the costs were high, but they’ve already identified 30 per cent cost savings on the next phase of the activities,” she said.

“And maybe it’s particularly difficult with coal but there’s a lot of other industrial processes where you could get better value, and manage some low hanging fruit options.”

The recently commissioned Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island, off the Western Australian coast, has also commenced the largest CCS project of its kind.

Photo: The Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island, WA, has sent out first shipment. It is the site of the world's largest gas carbon capture and storage project of its kind. (Supplied: Chevron )

Photo: The Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island, WA, has sent out first shipment. It is the site of the world’s largest gas carbon capture and storage project of its kind. (Supplied: Chevron )

Carbon dioxide, which occurs with the natural gas methane, is stripped from the gas before it is liquefied for export and buried in saline aquifers more than two kilometres below the sea bed.

Dr Stalker said CCS had been used in enhanced oil recovery for almost 60 years.

She said in the US, carbon dioxide had a monetary value as it was piped long distances for the same use.

Dr Stalker said research needed to be collated and built upon and was adamant the need for CCS was urgent.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand about what this all means,” she said.

“We have to accelerate our activities in [CCS] rapidly if want to make under 2.5 degrees [climate change levels] in the next 20 to 30 years.”

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Australian Government Department of Education CSIRO The University of Western Australia Curtin University Western Australian Energy Research Alliance