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« Boulton says free the data | Main | A problem with the AGW hypothesis »
Thursday
Jun212012

Another nail in the CCS coffin

This is an excerpt from a speech given by Judith Hackett, the head of the Health & Safety Executive. Coming so soon after the news that CCS can cause earthquakes, one can't help but wonder if this is an idea that will now pass into obscurity

CO2 has for many years had a variety of applications in industrial processes. But CCS brings these processes together on a completely different scale to capture the CO2 from fossil fuel burning power stations and then store it permanently under the sea in deep geological formations. The method involves several 'interfaces': capture, compression, transport, intermediate storage and injection into storage all of which need further understanding. The existing regulatory framework is sufficiently flexible to mean that it can cover the whole CCS process. But this still requires the risks to be identified and for the appropriate control and mitigatory measures to be implemented. A major release of pure CO2 into the atmosphere at any point in the process would present a major hazard as an asphyxiant.

But engineers must also consider:

  • The effect of impurities in the CO2 stream;
  • how will CO2 in the super-critical stage be managed given its potentially harmful properties as a powerful solvent?
  • what materials of construction should be used for CO2,  which could be impure, wet and therefore acidic and in varying thermodynamic states;
  • how CO2 will behave if a pipe it's being carried in ruptures.

One simple but stark illustration of dealing with CO2 relates to escape routes for personnel on offshore platforms in the event of a CO2 release during the injection phase into deep sea storage. Traditionally, for the oil and gas sector, personnel evacuation down to sea level has been the right answer when dealing with the conventional threat of a loss of containment of oil and gas but CO2, is heavier than air and will - on a calm day - accumulate on the sea's surface rendering a marine response impossible.

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Reader Comments (21)

The very fact the political establishment is prepared to spend BILLIONS on CCS just shows how far removed they are from reality.

As Dr North says, should someone lop their heads off he'll not weep for them.

Mailman

Jun 21, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

The eruption of CO2 from Lake Nyos in Cameroon around 1986-7 wiped out the total population of the village on the hillside below the lake.

Jun 21, 2012 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Curtin

The eruption of CO2 from Lake Nyos in Cameroon around 1986-7 wiped out the total population of the village on the hillside below the lake.

For the Greens such a thing would be a small price to pay.

Jun 21, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Robinson

For the Greens such a thing would be a small price to pay.

All too true I'm afraid: a lot of greens would see such a reduction in population as a benefit.
I took a green pal of mine to task recently as to why the greens were unable to face up to the enormous number of extra malaria deaths in Africa caused by the demonisation of DDT. His response: 'Africa's population growth is growing far too fast anyway, it needs to be controlled somehow'.

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Carbon dioxide didn't do these turtles much good either:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18495102

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Greens always think high prices are ok to pay as long it's others paying them. I laughed when I read that Lovelock recanted when he found himself paying £6,000 a year to heat his home. He probably figured it would be other people who'd have to do that.

It's a bit like multimillionaire comedians thinking tax rates of 52% are fine for people poorer than they are while paying 1% themselves.

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

I think I remember reading about another hazard from underwater burpings of CO2. They can result in the sea being turned to fizz, whose density is a lot lower than that of normal seawater.

Result: Vessels suddenly find they have insufficient boyancy to remain afloat.

I don't know if this has ever been observed or is merely a theoretical possibility.

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of capturing CO2 as such, we should really try to limit all industrial emissions as a matter of course - as long as it is possible and affordable. The crackpot schemes put forward so far are neither.

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

OT: Bish, the 2nd part of Ross' piece on Financial Post is online here. Also the paper has been published along with the University press release, data/code etc., all available from Ross' website. IMO, this paper deserves much more publicity ;)

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJean S

Somewhere, ideologically green plants are planning to rid the atmosphere of of that highly reactive pollutant oxygen.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Are we not giving way to the fallacy that CO2 is a poisonous gas? It is a heavy, dense and for us irrespirable gas accumulation of which would surely displace other gases (such as oxygen) from within a restricted space; and this is what seems to me to have happened in the regions of the lakes in question. If you take the case of undersea storage, then surely any leakage would be dissipated in the water before eventually being outgassed - thus defeating the purpose and expense of storing it in the first place. All I'm trying to say is that any escape is unlikely to be lethal. This would go for underground storage too unless it accumulated at the bottom of a valley.
But I'd like the view of a real scientist, which I am not.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Re John in France

If it is stored underground it will be stored at high pressure. Any fractures in the underground storage will result in the CO2 escaping to the surface and blanketing an area before dissipating into the atmosphere. Any mammals in that area will asphyxiate.

With undersea storage it has to be pumped there at high pressure. Should the pumping system/pipeline fail then the CO2 will again blanket the area. When failures happen on oil rigs the workers escape to the sea and sail away. With CO2 this escape route is cut off and as a result the workers have no escape route. Flying away on helicopters would not work either because the engines need a certain percentage of oxygen to function and this will have been displaced by the CO2.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Remember Apollo 13.

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Whilst watching Michael Portillo's railway journey from Newcastle to Chester-le-Street Season 2 Episode 11, I listened in disbelief, as he conversed with a chap on the site of the lost pit village of Old Marsden. After years and years of mining, 75% of the coal reserves remain underground and 80% of the thermal value could be extracted by coal gasification, according to this former resident of Old Marsden. It was when he proposed to inject CO2 underground that I was prompted to shout at the TV in helpless rage.

Whether anything comes of the coal gasification proposal is anyone's guess.

http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/m/marsden_cottage/index.shtml

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Registered Commenterperry

'Africa's population growth is growing far too fast anyway, it needs to be controlled somehow'

[Snip]

And some people in the movement dare to suggest that they have some sort of moral superiority over those who are sceptical about the desirability of such obscenities.

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

As a retiree frm both engineering and construction health & safety, I applaud Judith Hackett's injection of common sense into what is, of course, a purely political pipe-dream. These are actual, real, problems (never mind the earthquake-causing scenario), for which solutions would have to be found, before any half-viable commercial-scale scheme was given the go-ahead.
With any luck, this will go the way of HS2....

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Lake Nyos comes to mind

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos

CCS is a worthy cause the political machine has embraced, and if they abandoned it they would have to abandon a lot more. The problem is it's pipe dream. There's no practical, reasonably cheap way of implementing it and there will be unintended consequences.

No current administration has to actually do anything serious about it, but it constrains energy policy, which is long term and beyond a term of office and so suffers anyway. In the UK, I believe CCS is subject to EU agreements and it's difficult to imagine a UK government abamdoning it for that reason alone.

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I have an idea. If there were just some way to avoid the high pressure leak by dissipating the co2 into the air at low pressures, then there's no worries.

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterpapertiger

[Response to snip]

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:42 PM | Registered Commenterperry

Norway's Statoil does CCS, see http://tinyurl.com/sleipner-vest

Perhaps they have some safety lessons to share...

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

This was never rocket science, it is blindingly obvious that it would be fraught with dangers, but the Precautionary Principle only applies to things that greens don't want. Fracking is attacked but CCS is planet salvation.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

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