I’m feeling a little “Carbon-resigned” tonight.
Nobody in the British Government has a handle on national Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and the announcement of up to four Carbon Capture and Storage “demonstration” projects doesn’t inspire me with confidence.
Let me do a back-of-the-teabag-packet calculation to show you why.
I understand from my colleagues in the Claverton Energy Forum that the maximum Carbon Dioxide Emissions Abatement you can reasonably aim for in a coal-fired power station is 90%. Beyond that, the efficiencies required in each procedure are too high and too costly.
And, if that 90% of emissions are abated, and captured and stored, the extra energy required to do the capture and storage would require the burning of somewhere in the region of 25% extra coal fuel.
So, depending on the technology used, 90% emissions reductions from coal-fired power generation means something like 25% extra fuel needs to be burned.
Let’s scale it down to the announcement made today : that all new coal-fired power stations should have 25% emissions reductions.
25% emissions reductions means something like 7% extra fuel, or maybe 15% depending on the efficiencies of the emissions reductions equipment.
Burning this extra fuel will create 15% extra emissions, only 25% of which will be captured, or let’s be optimistic, roughly 30% will be captured, but that still makes roughly 10% more emissions to air overall.
Plus, the emissions from the plant, after they’ve been captured, will need to be transported, probably by tanker at sea, then pumped into the ground somewhere else.
All of this tankering and pumping takes more energy. Admittedly it won’t be coal fuelling the tankers and the pumps, but it will be pretty dirty stuff. And none of those emissions will be captured.
As a first estimate, I’d say that the tankering and the pumping will add to the atmospheric burden the equivalent of at least 10% extra emissions of the coal-fired power plant.
So, in summary : 25% emissions reductions will result in 20% extra emissions.
For 1.5 billion pounds a plant.
And the questions remains : How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood ?