Study: Huge potential for carbon
storage in China
Oct 14, 2009 - Elaine Kurtenbach
- The Associated Press
SHANGHAI - China has ample potential
capacity to store carbon dioxide from burning coal
underground and offshore, an international team of
scientists say in a report released Wednesday that
suggests the option may be less costly than expected.
A largely untested technology known as carbon capture
and sequestration involves capturing carbon dioxide
emitted from burning coal and other fossil fuels and
storing it in rock formations deep underground. The
aim: to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that
contribute to climate change.
The group of researchers affiliated with Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory, in Richland, Washington, say
their studies of China's geologic conditions show
the country has enough storage capacity for carbon
dioxide to meet potential demand for more than a century.
Most locations, they said, are within 100 miles (160
kilometers) of major sources of carbon dioxide emissions
such as coal-burning power plants - a fact that could
help keep costs lower than expected.
"In dealing with climate change, the more options
we have, the better. This is a first step that we
hope can stimulate more efforts in this area," Robert
T. Dahowski, of the laboratory, which is affiliated
with the U.S. Department of Energy, told The Associated
Press in a phone interview.
"Carbon capture and storage is a very important part
of the portfolio of options to be considered," he
Regardless of the geologic potential for carbon capture,
the technology is still in its early stages, with
many questions yet to be answered, experts caution.
"All work now is just at the experimental level. No
one can guarantee there would be no leaks of the carbon
dioxide or other environmental damage," said Zheng
Hongbo, a geologist who heads the School of Earth
Science and Engineering at eastern China's Nanjing
"It's a long way from the lab to the commercial market,"
said Zheng, who is working on a project that would
involve converting the carbon dioxide, through chemical
processes, into a more stable form for storage.
Dahowski acknowledged that many questions remain.
But for China, with its heavy reliance on domestically
abundant but heavily polluting coal to generate electricity,
carbon capture is likely to be an important component
of future energy policy, he said.
China is the world's second-biggest energy consumer
after the United States and the biggest producer of
gases that scientists say are changing the climate,
though its emissions are lower on a per capita basis
due to its huge population of 1.3 billion.
Ahead of a global climate summit in Copenhagen in
December, Chinese President Hu Jintao promised in
a Sept. 22 speech at the United Nations to make "substantial
reductions in China's carbon dioxide emissions per
unit of economic output.
The U.S. Energy Department, which helped support the
research study released Wednesday, is considering
as many as seven projects that would capture and put
into the ground at least 1 million tons of carbon
dioxide a year.
Working with researchers at the government-affiliated
Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory team surveyed potential deep geological
formations underground and offshore. The researchers
mapped locations of key sources of carbon dioxide
emissions; studied the needs for pipelines to connect
them with storage locations; and evaluated the likely
costs of pumping those gases to the possible storage
In some cases, the report says, costs of storing the
carbon dioxide underground would be outweighed by
profits from recovery of not-yet-recovered gas and
oil in partially depleted reserves, it said.
The study, which took five years to complete, focused
on 1,623 major sources of carbon dioxide emissions,
including 629 coal- and oil-fired power plants accounting
for nearly three-quarters of all stationary emissions
of the gas.
Other major sources include hundreds of cement and
ammonia factories, iron and steel mills and refineries.
Such facilities emit more than 3.8 billion metric
tons of carbon dioxide a year, mostly from burning
coal, the report said.
Developing ways to capture those emissions is a priority,
said Huang Bin, an expert working on a carbon capture
and sequestration program affiliated with China Huaneng
Group, one of the country's major power companies.
"Ultimately, it's the trend and it's the responsible
thing to do, but China has a long way to go," he said.
China Huaneng has installed equipment to capture carbon
dioxide from a coal-fired power station in Beijing,
and another, able to capture about 100,000 tons of
carbon dioxide a year, in Shanghai.
For now, though, the carbon dioxide is being refined
for use by the food and beverage industry, Huang said.
Associated Press researcher Ji Chen contributed to