Monday, May 25, 2009

Capture This

In Spremberg, Germany, the Schwarze Pump power plant captures 95% of the CO2 from the coal it burns and stores it in tanks through CCS (Carbon capture and storage). It is the process and technology that harnesses carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and locks it away in various storage devices. It was a pilot-scale program that began only in September 2008! So while CO2 may be the top ubiquitous element, we are also talking about capturing ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and methane. So if the technology and knowledge exists, what is taking so long?

Well, imagine having Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell knock on your door telling you that you can now make a phone call. In order for everyone else to share in your experience you need telecommunication lines. The wires, poles, and bandwidth – the whole recipe is more intricate and time consuming to apply. Same principle with CCS as there is numerous coal powered plant locations.

There are also two options to make this real - 1) store the carbon on-site or 2) apply the technology to preexisting plants and design a storage location offsite, which will be more expensive. However, President Obama has labeled the technology as important for "energy independence" and included $3.4 billion in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for "clean coal" power. It’s a dirty business that comes with hope and a hell of a lot of smart individuals that are working to fight against global warming, climate change, and the consequences of burning fossil fuels.

Image Source: Vanttenfall, Learn more at Scientific American

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