Now that Gerry “Sexy Coal” Brownlee holds the Energy portfolio, it’s time to look once again at his favourite meme. Should we be investing in new coal fired generation, in the hopes that Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), will rescue us from the emissions downside? Recently published research says that CCS is questionable at best and that policy makers should invest elsewhere. The US and Europe have long since recognised its limitations and have pulled the plug on their billion dollar CCS research.
The international perspective can be cited from the journal Energy Policy:
Carbon capture and storage: Fundamental thermodynamics and current technology
S.C. Page a,, A.G.Williamson b, I.G.Mason c
a b s t r a c t
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is considered a leading technology for reducing CO2 emissions from fossil-fuelled electricity generation plants and could permit the continued use of coal and gas whilst meeting greenhouse gas targets. However considerable energy is required for the capture, compression, transport and storage steps involved. In this paper, energy penalty information in the literature is reviewed, and thermodynamically ideal and ‘‘realworld’’ energy penalty values are calculated. For a sub-critical pulverized coal (PC) plant, the energy penalty values for 100% capture are 48.6% and 43.5% for liquefied CO2, and for CO2 compressed to 11MPa, respectively. When assumptions for supercritical plants were incorporated, results were in broad agreement with published values arising from process modelling. However, we show that energy use in existing capture operations is considerably greater than indicated by most projections. Full CCS demonstration plants are now required to verify modelled energy penalty values. However, it appears unlikely that CCS will deliver significant CO2 reductions in a timely fashion. In addition, many uncertainties remain over the permanence of CO2 storage, either in geological formations, or beneath the ocean. We conclude that further investment in CCS should be seriously questioned by policy makers.
& 2008 ElsevierLtd. All rights reserved.
That advice is pretty unequivocal. On the domestic front, kiwi research is coming to similar conclusions:
Page, S.C, Mason, I.G. and Williamson, A.G. (2008)
Proceedings of the NZ Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science Conference “Blueprints for a Sustainable Future”, 9-12 December, 2008, Auckland, New Zealand.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been widely touted as a practical way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, and if successfully implemented, could permit the continued use of coal and gas for many decades, whilst at the same time meeting greenhouse gas targets. In this paper we discuss the applicability of CCS technology to existing coal-fired electricity generation in New Zealand, and to new thermal generation using Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology, with specific reference to the time frames signalled for deep cuts in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and those required for major works of this nature. Energy penalty estimates show that adoption of CCS with IGCC would involve the consumption of at least 22% additional coal for the capture and compression stages only. The current global absence of full-scale coal fired power plants with operational CCS systems, and the planning and construction times likely for adoption and construction of new plant, indicate that CCS technology will not assist New Zealand to meet interim GHG reductions of 20-40% by 2020. If applied to a 900 MWe (IGCC) thermal power plant, the technology could contribute 7% of annual GHG reductions starting from 2024-2030. However, considerable technical, commercial and legal uncertainties remain to be resolved. On balance we consider CCS technology to be inappropriate for New Zealand conditions and recommend alternative investment of research funds into the use of woody biomass, a permanent and sustainable resource, for future thermal heat and power generation.
Hmm. “Inappropriate for NZ conditions”. That pretty much says it all. The energy penalty, (read economic penalty) is just too great. So what is NZ supposed to do Gerry? Hey, I’ve got an idea – lets build heaps more geothermal baseload, and wind, and worry about the real sources of our emissions, namely transport and agriculture. In short, execute the renewables policy put in place by the last government, but with even less timidity than they showed.
As for transport – well, that Biofuel Bill, with it’s excellently crafted sustainability principles, could easily sail back through the house. How about some fuel economy standards too, but only for cars entering the NZ fleet for the first time?
Agriculture? Well, the government could restore the research and development cash and tax breaks it threw away in such haste. We could be a world leader in reducing ag emissions, if we tried.
Energy Efficiency? The government could hold fire on canning the billion dollar Green Homes Fund and actually allow the 2:1 return on investment that it represents to flow back into the government coffers while at the same time creating much needed jobs in local communities.
It’s tough taking on two huge portfolios at once – namely Leadership of the House and Energy. I know Gerry, where your attention has been lately – and rightly so. So why muddle up the latter portfolio by ripping apart all your predecessor’s work when you have nothing of substance with which to replace it?
But I digress. The point of my post is “Get off the coal train, Gerry!”