Why You Should Care about the Future of Carbon Capture and Sequestration

By: | January 25th, 2014

According to the MIT “Carbon Capture & Sequestration Technologies” program, there are two main types of carbon emission: natural & man-made (anthropogenic), and two types of carbon capture and sequestration: natural and man-made.

Natural carbon capture, in which natural processes in the environment remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, includes forests and plants. The other method is to capture man-made carbon dioxide at its source, such as at power and industrial plants. Captured CO2 is routed to empty oil and gas reservoirs, unminable coal seams, saline formations and the deep ocean.

In a Warming World, Natural Processes Will Not Do the Job

It would be nice if the world “planted its way out of” high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by simply planting trees. Some companies claim they can do just that, however, scientists are still working to quantify how much carbon is sequestered in trees and soils. Another concern is that relying upon natural carbon sequestration may not be permanent enough as forests are not permanent and changing climates, namely significantly higher temperatures, would release carbon from trees.

According to David Suzuki of the Suzuki Foundation there is not enough space on the earth to plant the number of trees needed to offset increasing greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 over the next 50 years. In addition, there are problems with the susceptibility of mono-culture plantations to disease. Suzuki believes the best way to sequester carbon dioxide is to leave it in the ground as oil and natural gas and rely on renewables as soon as they become available.

Carbon Capture & Storage

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), current technologies can capture up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities and store them underground.

The world’s first commercial scale CCS power plants are under construction in Mississippi, USA, and Saskatchewan, Canada, and are scheduled for completion in 2014. The International Energy Agency (IEA) calculates that CCS can achieve a 14% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 thus limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The full report is here.

According to MIT, there are dozens of carbon sequestration projects around the world. Following is a list of pilot CCS Projects:

Power Plant Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Projects

Click on the Projects’ Name to go to its Fact Sheet
Index of Abbreviations are located at the bottom of the page
Click on country name to go to regional financial summary

Pilot CCS Projects
Project Name Leader Location Feedstock Size MW Capture Process CO2 Fate Status
Schwarze Pumpe Vattenfall Germany Coal 30 Oxy Depleted Gas Operational September 2008
ECO2 Burger Powerspan OH, USA Coal 1 Post Vented Operated 2008- 2010
Pleasant Prairie Alstom WI, USA Coal 5 Post Vented Operated 2008-2009
AEP Mountaineer AEP WV, USA Coal 30 Post Saline Operated 2009-2011
Karlshamn E.ON Sweden Oil 5 Post Vented Operated 2009
Jilin PetroChina China Nat. Gas Processing 0.2 Mt/yr Post EOR Operational Since 2009
Lacq Total France Oil 35 Oxy Depleted Gas Operational 2010
Puertollano ELCOGAS Spain Coal 14 Pre Recycled Operational September 2010
Shidongkou Huaneng China Coal 0.1Mt/yr Post Commercial use Operational 2011
Brindisi Enel &Eni Italy Coal 48 Post EOR Operational March 2011
Buggenum Vattenfall Netherlands Coal 20 Pre Vented Operational May 2011
Ferrybridge SSE UK Coal 5 Post Depleted Oil Operational November 2012
Mongstad Statoil Norway Gas 0.1Mt/yr Post Saline Operational May 2012
Plant Barry Southern Energy AL, USA Coal 25 Post Saline Operational August 2012
Callide-A Oxy Fuel CS Energy Australia Coal 30 Oxy Saline Operational December 2012
Aberthaw RWE Wales, UK Coal 3 Post N/A Operational January 2013
Jingbian Yanchang China Chemicals 40 Kt/yr N/A EOR 2013
Big Bend Station Siemens FL, USA Coal 1 Post Vented Planning
Polk Tampa Electric FL, USA Coal 0.3Mt/yr Post Saline Planning
Compostilla ENDESA Spain Coal 30 Oxy Saline Planning

Abbreviations used:

Oxy = Oxyfuel Combustion Capture
Pre = Pre Combustion Capture
Post = Post Combustion Capture
EOR = Enhanced Oil Recovery
EGR = Enhanced Gas Recovery
Saline = Saline Formation
Depleted Gas = Depleted Gas Reservoir
Depleted Oil = Depleted Oil Reservoir
TBD = To Be Decided

For a list of Commercial EOR Projects please visit MIT’s CCS Project Database.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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