Without Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) any Cap & Trade or Cap & Tax legislation is bound to fail; and at great cost to Americans, including those employed in Virginia’s economy, whether it’s in the coal or manufacturing industries.
Representative Boucher (D, 9th District) has blithely said that Waxman-Markey poses no threat to the coal industry because CCS will be available by 2020.
Originally, all carbon permits were to be auctioned, but Congressman Waxman has had to give free permits to various industries so as to obtain support for the Waxman-Markey Bill from representatives such as Congressman Boucher of Virginia.
Politicians can’t hide behind free permits, which are nothing more than an effort to buy votes. Free permits are actually a bait and switch scheme. The government begins by handing out free permits but switches to auctioning them in the near future. This is what has happened in Europe with its emissions trading scheme.
Capturing CO2 from coal fired power plants in the quantities required is currently not technically feasible, and would substantially increase the cost of electricity. It should be noted that 83 percent of CO2 emissions resulting from the generation of electricity come from burning coal.
Unfortunately, there is no currently proven technology for capturing large quantities of CO2 from existing coal fired power plants. Experiments are underway with regards to pre and post-combustion technologies such as oxy-fuel combustion and Amine and Ammonia Absorption, but nothing on the scale that would be needed for capturing CO2 from existing coal fired power plants.
Even if these technologies eventually materialize, the energy needed for their operation would result in de-rating power plants by around 30 percent. In other words, a new power plant would have to be built to replace the electricity lost when three existing power plants are retrofitted with carbon capture equipment. The new power plant will produce new CO2 emissions (unless it is a nuclear power plant) and further increase the cost of electricity.
Additionally, these CO2 capture technologies require large amounts of space, meaning existing coal fired power plants that lack sufficient space can’t be retrofitted.
It is possible to build new Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants capable of capturing nearly all of the CO2 from coal, but these power plants can be 80 percent more expensive than modern pulverized coal fired power plants. Only two IGCC plants have been built in the United States and neither was built with the capability of capturing CO2.
Especially important to consider is that without some place to put the CO2 there is no sense capturing it in the first place. And this brings us to what can be described as the myth of sequestering CO2.
It is true that small amounts of CO2 have been sequestered in geologic formations, but this does not prove that CO2 can be sequestered in the huge amounts needed every year for at least the next hundred years. Sequestration has been used in oil fields for enhanced extraction and in two or three installations to get rid of the CO2 that is extracted concurrently with Natural Gas. The Sleipner field in the North Sea sequesters about one million metric tons of CO2 in a saline formation adjacent to the natural gas field.
Our CO2 emissions, just from the generation of electricity, are two thousand times as great as those sequestered at the Sleipner field.
The Department of Energy has developed an atlas depicting geologic formations where it might be possible to sequester CO2 in the United States. The atlas only provides an overview and DOE admits that every site or location selected for sequestration will have to be evaluated to ensure that the geologic formation will actually retain the CO2 and that it won’t leak into adjoining geologic formations where it could cause irreparable harm, such as to fresh water aquifers.
The quantities of liquid CO2 are enormous. MIT noted in its study on Coal, that the amount of liquid CO2 that would have to be transported daily would be about one third larger than all the oil we use. We use around 22 million barrels of oil every day, so we will have to transport about 30 million barrels of liquid CO2 daily from coal fired power plants to where the CO2 is to be sequestered.
TSAugust has developed a map showing where these pipelines would have to be built. The map is available at www.carbonfolly.com. The map shows that at least 11,000 miles of pipelines will have to be built which will entail obtaining rights of way. Obtaining rights of way could easily result in large takings of personal property using eminent domain.
The uncertainties surrounding Sequestration and the huge costs that would be entailed, such as building 11,000 miles of pipelines, make Sequestration by 2020, if ever, no more than a pipe dream.