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Climate 2050 Conference explores Co2 storage
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // October 26, 2007 // Climate Change, Environment & Energy, Public Policy // Comments Off on Climate 2050 Conference explores Co2 storage
Government legislation, funding needed to expand geological storage of carbon dioxide
Capturing carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere and injecting it deep into the ground might not be the “silver bullet” solution to climate change, but it will have to be a big part of a multi-pronged “silver buckshot” solution if the world is to avoid environmental and economic disaster, an international conference on climate change was told yesterday.
“The single, clearest message from this conference so far is that we need to develop every option (to fight climate change), and if we don’t use everything available to us, we will be in serious trouble,” said Truman T. Semans, of the PEW Centre on Global Climate Change, one of three prominent environmental institutions hosting the conference, called Climate 2050 – Technology and Policy Solutions at the Palais des congrès.
Semans hosted a panel on carbon capture and geological storage yesterday that invited top academic and business leaders in the field to explain where the technology is at and what challenges lie ahead. All of them said the technology is ready, but governments need to move quickly on legislation and funding to get large-scale carbon sequestering projects under way in the relatively near future if they are to have an impact on climate change.
“All indications are that we can do this, we can do it to scale, and we have to get going quickly,” said Brian Williams, manager of British Petroleum’s CO2 Geological Storage unit.
There are a number of existing demonstration projects for carbon capture and storage around the world, most of them run by oil or gas companies that have discovered that when CO2 is pumped into older reservoirs it acts as a solvent and brings otherwise unattainable oil and gas to the surface.
In fact, for the past seven years, a Canadian company has been running one of the largest carbon storage facilities in the world.
EnCana Corporation in Weyburn, Sask., has been transporting CO2 by pipeline from a U.S. coal gasification plant 161 kilometres away in Beulah, N.D., and injecting it 1.6 kilometres underground, where it washes up oil from what was an almost depleted oil reservoir.
“This technology will extend the life of this oil field by about 30 years, and has the capacity to store 30 million tonnes (of carbon dioxide). … That would be equivalent to taking every car in Montreal off the road for two years.” said EnCana’s Mark Demchuk.
But the process of separating the CO2 from other emissions is very expensive, from $60 to $100 a tonne, Demchuk noted. Transportation and injection are added costs, he said.
Before companies begin capturing and storing CO2 for any reason other than enhancing their own oil and gas retrieval, governments need to put a price on carbon emissions, bring in limits for large emitters, and regulate on standards for safe storage and liability for storage sites over the very long term, the panel concluded yesterday.
Government and businesses also will have to do a better job of explaining the technology to the public, Semans said.
“Public acceptance is not entirely there yet. Most of us in this room know that there are many types of geological storage that are technologically viable, but it is not known to the vast majority of policy makers or to society as a whole.”
He said environmentalists tend to mistrust carbon capture and storage because it may take pressure off the need to develop other less polluting forms of energy sources, such as wind, solar and small hydro electric projects.
Also, the public has concerns about safety, Semans noted. In high concentrations, CO2 can be deadly, and natural rapid releases from lake beds, for example, have been known to kill people.
But BP’s Williams noted there are risks with every technology, and this one merits investment in research and monitoring to reduce that risk.
Some studies have estimated the potential for carbon storage at 10,000 billion tonnes,or 425 years worth of global emissions, he noted.
Climate 2050 draws international leaders
An international conference on long-term strategies to combat climate change got under way last night at the Palais des congrès, bringing together 400 business leaders, scientists and politicians from 13 countries.
The two-day conference, called Climate 2050, Technology and Policy Solutions, will focus on the formidable challenge of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 per cent in the next half-century.
The conference is hosted by three influential environmental institutions from three countries: Canada’s National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the United States’ Pew Centre on Global Climate Change and France’s Veolia Environment Institute.
Former Quebec premier Pierre Marc Johnson played a key role in bringing this conference to Montreal in his role as a board member of the Veolia Environment Institute.
The Paris-based think tank was created in 2001. Its mission is to promote environmental research in universities and hold a series of international conferences.
In an interview with The Gazette yesterday, Johnson stressed the conference will not be about rehashing political conflicts over the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
“This is not about Kyoto or no Kyoto. We are talking about major changes in terms of emissions rates over the long term,” he said.
“These are major actors who prepared this conference … in terms of resources and networking.”
Speakers at last night’s opening ceremonies included Premier Jean Charest, Nobel Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier, and Hydro-Quebec president Thierry Vandal. On the agenda for the conference itself are such topics as biofuels, transportation efficiency, forest management, nuclear energy and wise city planning. What makes this conference different from other international conferences on the same topic, Johnson said, is its long-term outlook and the influence of its three host organizations.
“This is not a conference about international politics,” he said.
“We are starting with the assumption that climate change is here to stay, that it will have significant consequences on the everyday lives of people around the world, and so we need to ask what can technology and business do about it and what kind of policies can be implemented” to minimize the negative impacts of climate change.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007