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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Trapping Carbon from Coal-Fire Plants

News on the technology front:

Trapping Carbon, Freeing Coal, SciAm blog:  There is a lot of carbon in the ground. For eons, life forms ranging from microbes to Homo sapiens have trapped the element as part of their fundamental molecular makeup... Some of that carbon has been recycled into descendant organisms and soil, and some has been transformed by temperature, pressure and time into coal, natural gas and oil--the fuels of our modern economy. Keeping that carbon safely underground to fend off climate change is one of the current goals of modern industry and has given rise to a seeming oxymoron: clean coal. The idea is to burn the coal but capture the carbon that the burning produces and pump it back underground.

It sounds simple. But millions of dollars have been spent--with the promise of billions more--in the thus far vain pursuit of a technology that can capture a diffuse gas (carbon dioxide), concentrate it and render it suitable for transport. Now the R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, stands on the threshold of becoming the first coal-fired power plant to test both the capture and storage of the leading greenhouse gas...

[T]his would be the first time the CO2 was pumped underground simply to store it--as much as 7,000 feet beneath the surface and safely away from the atmosphere and oceans. Powerspan plans to have its capture and compression technology in place by next year; Batelle will drill a test well shortly thereafter if all goes well. Then, if the geology and technology work, pumping could begin by the end of the decade. Because there is no cheap, reliable and easy to build alternative to coal-fired power plants--particularly in the U.S., China and India, where it is most needed--such carbon capture and storage represents a critical technology fix for the pollution that is warming our world. ...

    Posted by on Saturday, June 17, 2006 at 09:06 AM in Economics, Environment, Oil | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (4)

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