Ocean-based Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

MIT Technology Review
 wrote about a new power plant in Linden, New Jersey, which plans to test an ocean carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in the Atlantic Ocean. If permits are provided, the plant, owned by SCS Energy, will pump C02 pollution into sandstone located two miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor. According to MIT Technology Review, a handful of power plants are already capturing CO2 created during the energy-production process, liquefying the gas, and pumping it into deep underground storage facilities. However, this project would be one of the first tests of ocean-based CCS. 

Critics of carbon capture and storage argue that capturing carbon is expensive, and impractical. There are also fears that C02 could escape from underground storage areas, even under the ocean. MIT Technology Review writes: “Previous storage efforts have focused on filling underground structures such as depleted oil reservoirs, but these structures don’t contain enough volume to accommodate the vast amounts of CO2 produced. On the other hand, undersea storage has raised concern that carbon dioxide could slowly leak into ocean water.”

Daniel Schrag, a Harvard University Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, who is a consultant to this ocean CCS project, suggested in a 2006 research study that storing C02 in porous sediment hundreds of meters below the sea floor in deep parts of the ocean would be feasible. “Stored at this depth, under higher pressure and temperatures, the carbon dioxide should be less buoyant and remain trapped indefinitely.” MIT Technology Review says two injection sites under 100 meters of water, and down under 2,500-3,000 meters of rock are being tested. However, Dave Goldberg, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who also largely sees carbon capture and storage as a viable option, argues that any pilot project must be carefully monitored to ensure there is no harm to the ocean ecosystem. Captured C02 could affect the sea floor levels, bacterial ecology, and ocean wildlife. Read the article

According to TreeHugger, another ocean-based carbon and capture storage project is underway. TreeHugger writes that Tokyo will begin pumping C02 under the seabed at a rate of 100,000 tons per year, beginning in 2010. A Japanese global warming research organization, the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, is cited as estimating 150 billion tons of CO2 could be stored in Japan underground and surrounding coastal underseas areas.

Debate continues among energy and environmental policy makers around the value of prototyping expensive carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems for coal-powered power plants, part of a major effort to make coal “clean.”

In a separate article, TreeHugger asks: Is wetland restoration the best alternative to CCS? “Scientists are discovering that the restoration of these vulnerable ecosystems could provide a valuable bulwark to climate change by creating a worldwide network of potent carbon sinks. A $12.3 million research project to capture and store carbon by growing tules and cattails in wetlands launched by the U.S. Geological Survey this summer has already shown some promising results, according to Environmental Science & Technology’s Janet Pelley: The USGS project has captured eye-popping amounts of carbon—an average of 3000 grams of carbon per square meter per year (g-C/m2/yr) over the past 5 years. For comparison, reforested agricultural land, eligible for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, socks away carbon at a rate much less than 100 g-C/m2/yr, says Gail Chmura, a biogeochemist at McGill University (Canada).”

Learn more about CCS at the World Resources Institute, and wetland restoration (Can Wetlands Cool the Planet?) from Environmental Science & Technology.

Image credit: TreeHugger / RITE

One thought on “Ocean-based Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

  1. Roger 06/26/2009 / 7:56 pm

    I don’t buy it. How can this be an “indefinite” solution? Does the crust not move ever? Does the stored CO2 just sit there and not seep up through cracks in the rock? And if it did escape into the ocean, it would make the water it goes into more acidic as it reacts with water to form carbonic acid…

    All round, this sounds like a very poor plan.

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