Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Carbon Capture Could Be Fracked

I guess we're not short of reasons to not want fracking, but here's another one for you anyway.

But first, how does the government see the future of energy in the UK? According to a document obtained by Greenpeace (the one which shows the government asking uber-villains Exxon for advice) it is this:
"Longer term, our aim is to see competition between renewables, nuclear and fossil fuel power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. This is the best way of putting downward pressure on prices and protecting consumers. Gas could therefore have a significant long term role with CCS."
Just a couple of  problems with that.

Firstly, the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change has made it quite clear we can't wait for the 'longer term' before doing something about Global Warming.

Secondly, according to Princeton University, fracking and Carbon Capture and Storage just aren't compatible.

Now CCS is one of those things I've been talking about for as long as I've known about Climate Change (which is about a quarter of a century. Streuth I feel old. And ineffective) and it's always been twenty years in the future. it has the potential to clean up coal and gas fired power stations and the cement industry.

We know at least two effective ways of scrubbing the CO2 from the stack and the Norwegians have been pumping carbon dioxide into the old Sleipner gas field since 1996. We don't yet know for sure it will stay down there, but as CO2 is heavier than CH4 the odds look good.

The two problems CCS has are, can the process be scaled up sufficiently to make it a proper player, and can it be done economically. The second question is the trickier one. CCS can never compete with dirty coal and oil as long as the latter don't pay for the damage they cause, but it's also questionable whether CCS can compete with solar, wind and, the one that won't go away, nuclear. We may need it anyway because for lack of capacity, but you can't ignore price. We could just use less juice of course, but that idea may be a bit too radical for some.

However fracking may be a game changer.

Fracking - the best name for something to campaign against ever - stands for hydraulic fracturing. What gets fractured is the strata of rock which they have to drill through to get to the trapped methane. The problem is that it's just this impermeable cap of rock that we need to trap the CO2 underground.

One of two holes might not matter, but to mine the UK's full fracking potential we could require 90,000 wells. Seeing as how the majority of the country is listed for potential fracking, the odds are that anywhere you want to dump your CO2 will have a fracking site nearby.

This will leave that impermeable strata of rock beneath our feet leaking like Manchester United's defence. So unless the government wants to end up like Moyes, they's better sub. fracking off immediately.

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