Page 33 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2016 publication
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Spring 2016 European Energy Innovation  33

                                           HEADING CARBON CAPTURE & STORAGE

perfectly suitable oil pipeline have       has been created or destroyed since        And this is the point: for literally
already been installed across the          its creation. In other words, for over     millions of years, carbon has been
globe, while we have well developed        4.5 billion years carbon has simply        captured from the atmosphere by
systems for moving large volumes of        moved between the atmosphere, the          both terrestrial and marine organisms,
LNG by sea. Meanwhile, geological          lithosphere, the hydrosphere and, more     and stored naturally through the
serendipity means that the very basins     recently (as in for the last 600 million   process of burial and the effects of
which contain conventional oil and         years or so), the biosphere: this is the   heat and pressure. A perfect natural
gas reservoirs also provide excellent      carbon cycle. According to the best        CCS system, still going on today in
CO2 storage facilities. What is required   science we have, atmospheric CO2           peat bogs and lignite deposits: one
is a porous rock to contain the gas,       levels, currently 400 parts per million    is a precursor of the other; and both
overlain with a cap that is impervious     (ppm) were as high as 7,000 ppm during     are precursors to coal. Combustion of
to CO2 . The oil industry already pumps    the Cambrian period some 500 million       these fossil fuels simply returns stored
CO2 into oil reservoirs as they deplete    years ago (mya). By about 200 million      carbon to the atmosphere, forming
so as to flush out more oil: this is in    years later, during the Carboniferous      the basis of the compelling argument
effect the ‘S’ in CCS. CCS would seem      period, atmospheric CO2 and global         for CCS as the technology to solve this
therefore to offer an almost irresistibly  temperatures are both thought to have      immediate problem. Compelling, that
attractive prospect. We already have       greatly decreased. Much of this time       is, until one asks how the plants of the
the technology to do it, and it removes    coincided with the evolution of, and       future will photosynthesise when all
the principal danger to our climate        growth in, terrestrial plant populations:  the Earth’s CO2 is locked underground.
control aspirations.                       plants whose remains created the
                                           world’s coal reserves which geologists     For the longer term, perhaps we
But what lies behind the CCS               use to name the period. Meanwhile, it      should still look to renewable energy
proposition? What about the science        would not be long (in geological terms)    sources; and to developing various
behind the science?                        before dead marine organisms were          well-known chemical processes that
                                           raining down on the floor of the Tethys    can convert CO2 into hydrocarbons. In
To begin with, there is no evidence        Ocean, into conditions right for the       that way, we would be copying nature,
that a single atom of the Earth’s carbon   formation of petroleum.                    not fighting it. l
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