All those useful holes under the North Sea

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

According to the Telegraph the other week, the UK (that might mean Scotland) will be quids in because of all the empty(ish) oil and gas wells under the North Sea – just right (and almost ready) for the CO2 that will need to be sequestered away for the good of us all once carbon capture technology can be made to work [i] efficiently and [ii] economically.

The T says that the latter is almost there:

Carbon capture has long been dismissed as a pipe-dream. But as so often with technology, the facts on the ground are rapidly pulling ahead of a stale narrative.  The Canadian utility SaskPower has already retro-fitted a filtering system onto a 110 MW coal-fired plant at Boundary Dam, extracting 90% of the CO2 at a tolerable cost.  It used Cansolv technology from Shell.

"We didn't intend to build the first one in the world, but everybody else quit," said Mike Monea, the head of the project.  "We have learned so much from the design flaws that we could cut 30% off the cost of the next plant, but it is already as competitive as gas in Asia," he said. The capture process uses up 18% of the power - a cost known as the "parasitic load" - but it is less than the 21% expected.

All this will be seen as bad news by the keep it in the ground lobby who think that it's unused oil and methane rather than CO2 that should be in these wells.  Then there's the point that any spare holes might have to be used for all that extra CO2 that will need to be sucked out of the atmosphere once we overshoot the 3 gigatonne carbon budget that experts say that the Earth is 'allowed' – as we surely will.  Anyone who sees COP21 as changing any of this looks like a terminal optimist.

Whatever you think of all this, the piece has excellent graphics and data.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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