Geo-sequestration mis-reporting

Environmental Leader highlights a Reuters report on the new geo-sequestration plant opening in Victoria.

The basic principle of the “plant” is to pump 100,000 tonnes of CO2 into the ground (and, I suggest, hope that this won’t cause unforseen and/or longer-term issues). I’m dubious about geo-sequestration generally, but that’s not my real gripe with this report. This is the lead:

A geo-sequestration plant, capable of capturing and compressing 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide which is stored two kilometers underground, has opened in Victoria, Australia. Researchers hope the project will help to significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

(Emphasis mine.) Whilst, technically, it could be argued that sequestration reduces the emission of greenhouse gases – because it’s funneling the emitted CO2 into the ground – it’s not actually reducing the emissions. Just storing them somewhere else for an indefinite period.

But the corker is when the voiceover of the report says:

… it uses experimental low-emission technology that has the potential to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

This is patently untrue. In fact, a successful trial is likely to lead to a continuation, or even increase, in the burning of fossil fuels, as it delays the need for investment in truly renewable energy and allows the continuation of use of coal fired power stations and the like.

I’m astounded that an agency like Reuters would get this so wrong in their report…

  • I could be wrong (as I’m new to this stuff) but I think they’re referring to the idea that clean coal (and specifically Integrated Gassification Combined Cycle or IGCC) supposedly generates less CO2 emissions (relative to conventional coal fired power stations) in addition to the sequestration of (some of/the majority of) the CO2 emissions.

    In addition, I think the idea is that IGCC is also more efficient in it’s usage of coal – i.e. uses less coal to produce the same amount of energy. Hence, the claim that it could lead to reduced consumption of fossil fuels.

    Note: I’m not sure whether this plant is an IGCC one or not though – the report didn’t say.

    Not to say I don’t agree with the key point you make which is – why invest in this over truly renewable sources like wind, solar or tidal??? I think that may have more to do with the lobbying power of the coal industry…

    [BTW – disclosure …I’m starting to learn a little bit more about this because our firm is advising an IGCC project that’s currently in pre-feasibility stage.]

  • Good point – but I still think it’s terribly misleading. Is it a “geo-sequestration plant, capable of capturing and compressing 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide” or is it a so-called “clean” coal plant that is incorporating geo-sequestration? (and don’t get me started on so-called “clean” coal 😉 there is no such thing)

    If it’s just the sequestration component, then it’s completely bogus. If it’s a “clean” coal plant, that’s a different story, literally – coz that’s not what they were actually saying in the news report. In either case I still posit that the story is factually inaccurate.

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