Sep 25, 2009 | 25
The U.S. Secretary of Energy—channeling former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev perhaps?—has one thing to say in this week's Science to the greenhouse gases emitted by coal-fired power plants: We will bury you. Nobel laureate Steven Chu's department has funneled $3.4 billion in stimulus dollars to research and develop the technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
But to give you a sense of the challenge, here are his estimates of the scale of the challenge: six billion metric tons of coal burned every year, producing 18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and requiring an underground storage volume of 30,000 cubic kilometers per year with untold consequences on subsurface pressure, mineral composition and the like. And we are nowhere near that scale: "We now sequester a few million metric tons of CO2 per year," he wrote, largely from cleaning natural gas or so-called "enhanced oil recovery" efforts, in which CO2 is pumped down to flush out more of the valuable petroleum (and therefore not as useful, from a climate perspective, as sequestration for its own sake).
Aug 10, 2009 | 2
A large, coal-burning utility in the U.S. and another in China have agreed to cooperate to develop methods to more cleanly burn coal, including so-called carbon capture and storage technology. Duke Energy will partner with China's Huaneng Group to further develop and build technologies to gasify coal and strip it of its impurities, including the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere from coal burning. As it stands, Huaneng releases some 285 million metric tons of CO2 per year while Duke emits 112 million metric tons, according to data from the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C.-based thinktank.
"We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history," said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers in a statement announcing the partnership. "China has committed to rapidly developing clean-energy technologies, as has the U.S.… Working together, the U.S. and China can commercialize and drive down the cost of these technologies for the benefit of the entire world."
May 20, 2009 | 18
Capturing the carbon dioxide that wafts up the smokestack after burning coal (or any other fossil fuel) has been identified by everyone from President Obama to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a critical technology to help keep the lights on while combating climate change. And now there has been yet another successful demonstration that the technology to capture that CO2 from flue gas might actually work: chilled ammonia can capture more than 88 percent of the greenhouse gas before it goes up the smokestack.
Alstom Power and We Energies have released preliminary data on their carbon capture pilot project at Pleasant Prairie, Wisc. The pilot plant, set up to siphon the CO2 from a small stream of the total flue gas using chilled ammonia, not only captured most of the CO2, it captured it in a more than 99 percent pure form, according to Robert Hilton, vice president of power technologies and government affairs at Alstom, which is important for any future storage or industrial reuse. "We can [capture] 90 percent [of the CO2] and do it consistently," he notes. "We've done over 90 percent at times."
May 15, 2009 | 6
How can a Nobel Prize–winning physicist—now the nation's energy secretary—get a bunch of coal industry folks to sit up and take notice during a keynote speech? How about by announcing that the feds are planning to dispense $2.4 billion to research and develop so-called clean coal technology?
In fact, that's exactly what Steven Chu did today at a meeting of the National Coal Council in Washington, D.C., where he announced that the government plans to add another $800 million to the Clean Coal Power Initiative pot of cash designed to explore new ways to cut acid rain, smog and mercury pollution as well as $1.5 billion to probe carbon dioxide capture and storage (rather than venting it) from heavy emitters other than power plants (think: cement manufacturers and refineries).
May 12, 2009 | 12
When it comes to energy policy in the U.S., not very much has changed since President Jimmy Carter declared more than three decades ago that achieving energy independence was "the moral equivalent of war."
Today, Carter had his “I-told-you-so-moment” in testimony on energy policy before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving lawmakers a bit of a history lesson (while acknowledging that some of them were also in government then).
Two weeks after becoming president, Carter famously appeared in a cardigan and urged energy conservation on a resistant American public. Ultimately, that and other efforts led to a more energy-efficient economy as well as cutting oil imports in half by 1982.
Mar 6, 2009 | 35
Does the world really need the ability to trap carbon dioxide before it invisibly billows from power plant smokestacks or out car tailpipes and bury it permanently to slow global warming? You bet, argued some environmentalists, academics and corporate executives at a carbon capture and storage (CCS) conference held at Bloomberg headquarters yesterday in New York. Among the reasons: China (the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide) will need it, the technology already exists and if we don't get a handle on ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will reach catastrophic proportions.
"The reason that we believe CCS is a critically important part of the toolbox is there's a huge gap between what can technically do and what we are doing, and part of that is politics," said David Hawkins, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He said that 30 states either mine coal or burn it for the majority of their electricity and therefore support technology that would allow that to continue even as the nation reduces CO2 emissions.
Nov 4, 2008
It's been a long slog to get to this election day. We all know the campaigns spent millions to get their messages across. But Bob Grant at The Scientist wondered about the environmental cost (log-in required)—specifically how much the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain contributed to global warming. Based on total campaign expenditures—including flying, driving, and printing materials—Grant (with help from consultant Standard Carbon) estimates that the Obama camp emitted nearly 78,000 tons of climate-change inducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and the McCain campaign roughly 59,000 tons of CO2.
Standard Carbon suggests planting 18 square miles of new trees to offset that climate change pollution—the growing trees would theoretically soak up an equivalent amount of CO2—but such carbon offsets don't address the core of the problem: burning fossil fuels.
Sep 4, 2008 | 6
The U.S. produces half its electricity from burning coal—and pumps out more than 40 percent of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the process. Vattenfall—the enormous Swedish electric company—has a similar problem, though it sources most of its electricity in that Nordic country from dams and nuclear power plants.
The company also owns a slew of dirty, old coal-fired power plants in the former East Germany. These plants burn the dirtiest form of coal, lignite (a.k.a. brown coal), which is soft because it’s still damp and produces much more polluting soot when burned.
With the onset of a new CO2 emissions trading scheme in the European Union, Vattenfall decided to build a demonstration project at its lignite-burning power plant in Schwarze Pumpe. The technology is called oxyfuel, and it basically relies on burning coal in pure oxygen and CO2 rather than normal air.
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