Burying The Problem: Is Carbon Capture And Storage A Silver Bullet?

3150 words - 13 pages

1. IntroductionFossil fuels account for 85% of the global energy production (US Department of Energy, n.d.), and this continued reliance on fossil energy is contributing to large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Science has shown that the increased levels of CO2 have become the dominant cause of climate change. Climate change experts have called for an 85% reduction is CO2 emissions by 2050 to avoid some of the more serious effects of global warming (Bellona Foundation, 2009).There are currently many technologies being tested and developed to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted. One such technology is Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS.CCS is a technology primarily targeted at capturing CO¬2 from fossil power plants and then storing that CO2 underneath the ground. CCS has terrific potential: it could capture 95% of CO2 from fossil plants (Eccleston, 2008), and could reduce EU CO2 emissions by over 50% by 2050 (European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants, 2008). However, it is still a relatively new technology and as such the cost is very high.Moreover, Carbon Capture and Storage is an excellent technology that drastically reduces humans’ large CO2 emissions, mainly due to a reliance on the cheap fossil energy, and must therefore be installed in all new fossil plants and retrofitted to all existing fossil plants by 2015.2. Capture of CO2CCS consists of three stages: capture, transportation and storage. Monitoring of CO2 levels must start before any injection and continue throughout project until after capping of the storage site has proved successful and the injected CO2 stable (Griffiths, Cobb, & Marr-Laing, 2005).Carbon capture takes place in three general forms: post-combustion, pre-combustion or oxyfuel combustion.2.1. Post-combustionPost-combustion removes CO2 after combustion from the resulting flue gas, the gaseous combustion product. This is a common technology because it can be retrofitted to existing plants, meaning corporations do not have to build brand new plants just for CCS. However, it is an expensive and energy intensive process.A traditional fossil plant’s flue gas will typically contain 7-10% CO2, the rest of which consists of nitrogen and water vapour (Bellona Foundation, n.d.). The most common technique used to separate the CO2 from the flue gas is absorption.An absorption carbon capture process is when the CO2 is made to chemically react with another chemical, the absorbent. Inside a scrubber column, the flue gas is exposed to the absorbent in solution. The absorbent then reacts with the CO2, isolating it from the rest of the flue gas. Common absorbents include amines and carbonates. After absorption, the CO2 is separated from the absorbent. This process occurs in the regeneration column. The two separate to yield pure CO2 and pure absorbent, which can then be recycled into the scrubber column.CO2 is also captured post-combustion through adsorption instead of...

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