Energy Minister Ferguson gambling on safety of CO2 carbon capture after Norway report?
We were intrigued by crikey.com.au item 12 yesterday relating to an area called Nirranda close to where we grew up in Warrnambool , SW Victoria:
This story at crikey.com.au set set us on a flurry of web based research
Tall tales from the carbon crypt
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson and his Victorian peer Peter Batchelor seemed oblivious yesterday to their brush with geological time.
They pretended to open the valve on a pipeline which is as of this morning sending 100,000 tonnes of dense CO2 into a carbon crypt under farmlands east of Warrnambool where it will remain trapped beneath a layer of impervious rock for as long as Australia is recognisable as a continent.
For tens of millions of years. But maybe not.
There are quirky things about carbon sequestration, which is seen as a key to clean coal technologies, that seem to have escaped notice on a momentous occasion that makes more usual political photo opportunities like bridge openings seem ephemeral in comparison.
The wind storm that wrecked parts of SE Australia actually broke the power supply to the pumps that force the supercritical or fluid-like mass of CO2 into its prison, but the photo opportunity proceeded.
The sequestration demonstration is important for the coal and oil lobbies, and very annoying for some environmentalists, because if it works, it could underpin processes that could eliminate most of the man made greenhouse gas emissions that are derived from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
But this is where the recent comments of Professor Will Steffen at the ANU put the risks and possible rewards of carbon crypts in sharp focus. Steffen says mankind is creating a new geological epoch which might be called the Anthropocene because of the mass extinctions of species of plants and animals associated with the acceleration of human impacts on the planet.
In a his co-authored paper Steffen says carbon sequestration would not only mitigate global warming but reduce the acidification of the oceans caused by their being overwhelmed by dissolved carbon which other researchers say is damaging the marine food chain.
But Steffen and his colleagues also point to the possibility than in the deep future, tens of thousands of years from now, a world that has long mastered clean energy may be confronted by the cyclical onset of the next ice age.
Our distant descendants might well, they suggest, liberate the sequestered carbon to quickly warm the atmosphere and thwart the serious consequences for agriculture, and civilisations, of a planet that turns very cold as the seas retreat and the ice caps advance.
All of which raises the thought that the wind-swept site of the southern Otway carbon crypt could be visited in a far distant time by tomb raiders trying to save themselves from global cooling not warming.
Until or beyond it is forced by geological forces into which will put 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
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An amusing smart alecy story and hope they don't mind repeating it in full here. Only there are life and death issues at hand if our research has any weight since last night. We posted most of it on their website comments section.
Here is the local rose tinted Warrnambool Standard report of yesterday 3rd April 08:
9:52AM | A REVOLUTIONARY technique to combat climate change is happening in a Nirranda paddock. [more]
The federal govt website references an IPCC report of Sept 2005 - which given the fast changing area of science and interest is like the stone age really and totally outdated surely? See the quote in bold near the bottom of this page from that IPCC special report, resolving very little in terms of danger: At
listing such as these documents.
This last authoritative IPCC report states:
""Summary for policy makers" at p12-14 - "A sudden and large release of CO2 would pose immediate dangers to human life and health, if there were exposure to concentrations of CO2 greater than 7–10% by volume in air. ...High fluxes in conjunction with stable atmospheric conditions could lead to local high CO2 concentrations in the air that could harm animals or people. Pressure build-up caused by CO2 injection could trigger small seismic events. While there is limited experience with geological storage, closely related industrial experience and scientific knowledge could serve as a basis for appropriate risk management, including remediation. The effectiveness of the available risk management methods still needs to be demonstrated for use with CO2 storage." [bold added]
More searching led us to the Norway Petroleum Safety Authority report for 2007-08:
Quite worrying actually. And then this semi retraction at
which has all the hallmarks of Big Govt and Industry leaning on the safety cop on the beat in Norway to turn a blind eye:
This is not some theoretical issue: Check this commentary on Daily Kos way back in November 2006:
In 1986, at a place called Lake Nyos in Cameroon, 1800 people and 3500 animals were killed in a matter of minutes when the lake suddenly, for reasons still not entirely understood, released 1.6 million tons of stored carbon dioxide. The death toll wasn’t greater because the area was sparsely populated. BP plans to sequester 4 million tons a year, meaning that in just 4 years of operations they will put 10 times as much carbon dioxide beneath Carson, California as was released at Nyos. In contrast to the rural communities around Nyos, Carson, California – where I lived for about 6 months back in the 1970’s – has 90,000 people. The adjacent community of Torrance has 120,000 and Lomita has 20,000. Moreover the area is crisscrossed by important earthquake faults, including the Crenshaw fault that runs almost directly down the center Crenshaw Blvd where there are lots of refineries. Further, the entire area, including many parking lots of commercial facilities is chock full of oil wells, many of which I would imagine stopped functioning long ago, and many of which are probably forgotten.
Draw your own inferences.
Notice this report also:
"Cost, safety fears threaten climate change remedy", 18 Sep 2007 - Reuters
with this quote:
"SAFETY Legal barriers are another brake on actual burial of CO2 in Europe. Later this year Brussels will propose tweaks to existing water and waste rules, with 2010 slated as the earliest likely date for those changes to come into force. "Industry might feel it's a gamble, they're going to have a nagging doubt until the law's in place," said the EC's Taylor. And then there are safety fears. In sufficient quantities CO2 suffocates people, simply by crowding out an adequate supply of oxygen. A small worry is that if it escaped from underground or from a pipeline, the heavy, odourless gas may collect in a deep valley pocket, for example. "People could walk into this cloud of CO2, not realise it, and be asphyxiated by it," said Julia Race, an expert in pipeline engineering at Britain's Newcastle University. "A number of issues, technical and others, urgently need addressing," she said.
The local Green Party were all over this U turn away from the carbon geological sequestration technology by the W Bush regime earlier this year too:
Collapse of US clean coal facility another blow to NSW privatisation
Media Release: 5 February 2008
The decision by the US government to abandon the FutureGen carbon capture and storage project undermines yet another argument for privatisation of the NSW electricity industry, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "A major component of NSW Treasurer Costa's $15 billion privatisation was a massive private sector investment in carbon reduction technologies, which is increasingly looking like the impossible dream.
"The Iemma government justifies the environmental risks of long term leasing of the state-owned generators and the sale of the retailers by arguing that it would encourage investment in clean coal technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
"The collapse of the world's largest clean coal project makes a mockery of Treasurer Costa's attempted green washing of privatisation.
"The Iemma government's sell-off scheme relied on ensuring that the private sector would invest between $3 to $4 billion in retrofitting the state's existing power stations with carbon capture and storage and would pony up the additional money to build new base load generation with low carbon technologies.
"The Bush administration has just delivered a body blow to carbon capture and storage.
"By pulling their $2 billion investment out of the FutureGen project in Illinois, the US administration has delivered a massive vote of no confidence in clean coal and consequently in Michael Costa's electricity privatisation deal.
"The electricity industry in NSW is responsible for 57 million tonnes of CO2 each year.
"It makes no sense to hand over 35% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions to private owners when carbon reduction technologies are increasingly looking farcical," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
State Energy Minister Peter Batchelor (left), his federal counterpart Martin Ferguson and CO2CRC chief executive Peter Cooke at yesterday's carbon plant launch.080402JL02 Picture: JARED LYNCH
We notice this press release from Senator Milne (Greens):
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 11:10 AM
Otways carbon storage pointless PR, bad Budget decision
Hobart, Wednesday 2 April 2008 Australian Greens climate change
spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today called on the Rudd
Government to stop paying polluters by subsidising projects such as the
Otways carbon storage project being opened today.
Senator Milne said "The Otways project is yet another attempt to
demonstrate the safety of carbon storage while bypassing the really
difficult aspect of proving that carbon can be effectively and
affordably captured at coal fired power stations.
"The storage of CO2 stripped from natural gas that will be done at the
Otways is tiny in comparison to similar projects that are already being
done overseas and will add little to our understanding of whether carbon
can indeed be stored permanently and nothing to our understanding of
whether significant carbon capture is possible.
"Years after being first proposed as Australia's carbon solution, there
has still been no pilot plant demonstration of capture technology. Like
cold fusion and 'Generation 4' nuclear power, carbon capture is always
just over the horizon, while renewable energy technologies move ahead in
leaps and bounds, even without the tremendous government support.
"The leader of the Otways project, Peter Cook, has admitted that this
technology will always be too expensive to retrofit onto existing old
power stations and new infrastructure will need to be built. If that is
the case, surely we should leapfrog straight into the renewable energy
technologies which don't create pollution in the first place.
"The Otways project is government-funded PR for the coal sector and
would be a perfect place to start for a government looking to find
"Instead of paying polluters to keep being able to justify their
existence, the Government should use its first Budget to shift funding
away from coal, oil and roads across to renewable energy, energy
efficiency and public transport."
Ferguson out of line on coal, uranium
Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy, is undermining any
credibility the Rudd Government has on climate change, Senator Milne
warned, and must be pulled into line.
Senator Milne said, "While the Prime Ministerial cat is away, the mice
will play, and Martin Ferguson is taking the opportunity to raise his
environmentally destructive flag once again.
"Martin Ferguson's vision that we can run our car fleet on liquidised
coal is undoubtedly playing a key role in his proud support of the
Otways project. He is fast-tracking funding to this horrendously
polluting transport fuel while his Rudd Government colleagues talk up
their commitment to climate action.
"Ferguson has also taken the opportunity of Prime Minister Rudd's
overseas trip to resurrect the Howard Government's Uranium Industry
Framework, pushing the boundaries on an issue that has already
threatened to split the ALP. Mr Rudd must pull him into line."
Contact: Tim Hollo on 0437 587 562
* The Otways project will attempt to store some 100,000 tonnes of
CO2 stripped from natural gas over the course of 18 months.
* In comparison, a similar project in Algeria being undertaken by
BP is storing around 1,000,000 tonnes each year.
* The other major storage projects, Sleipner and Snohvit in
Norway, also involve storing CO2 stripped from natural gas.
* There is no project anywhere in the world storing CO2 stripped
from coal at power stations.
* The dreams of effective geosequestration were dealt a
significant blow earlier this year when plans for the world's first
integrated carbon capture and storage project, FutureGen in the USA,
were put on hold due to being well over budget and behind schedule. The
Australian Government had invested in FutureGen.
* The ZeroGen project in Queensland, Australia's pin up for
demonstrating carbon capture, is still several years from commissioning.
* There are a raft of major issues with liability for potential
leakage that are yet to be worked through. With an issue that will
require permanent storage, will companies or governments bear the
* Even at best estimates, geosequestration could only capture
70-90% of emissions from coal fired power stations.
* This means that geosequestration cannot provide a long-term
solution for the complete decarbonisation that is necessary in the
coming decades. It can only provide a very expensive and risky
Media and Communications Adviser
Senator Christine Milne
+61 (0)2 6277 3063
+61 (0) 437 587 562