Monday, December 20, 2010


"A carbuncle is an abscess larger than a boil, usually with one or more openings draining pus onto the skin."
A carbonuncle might be the future term used if injecting large quantities of CO2 into the ground has an unfortunate end result.

The Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Australia took a significant step backwards as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced that Queensland would not be providing further funding for ZeroGen to build what was supposed to be a landmark demonstration power station and that the state owned ZeroGen is to be sold.
Bligh denies clean coal 'bungle'
Brisbane Time, Dec 19th.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has denied walking away from the development of clean coal technology, after abandoning plans to build a central Queensland plant by 2015. The Queensland government had ploughed $102 million into the ZeroGen research project, which also attracted $92 million from the federal government and the coal industry. It had aimed to have a $4.3 billion coal-fired power station utilising carbon capture and storage technology – which would prevent greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere – built by 2015.
But the state government today confirmed it would not pursue a proposal to fund the proposed power station “at this time” because of concerns about its viability. It also plans to offload the state government-owned ZeroGen company, turning it into an independent entity owned and run by the coal industry.
"Reports this morning that the Queensland Government has scrapped our clean coal project ZeroGen or that it has been a waste of money are utterly wrong in every respect,” Ms Bligh told reporters in Brisbane.
“What we know now from the early research is that a fully functional power station by 2015 using this technology is technically possible but it is not economically viable.”
Ms Bligh said the technology “would drive up the cost of electricity beyond the reach of normal people” if proceeded with now.
The proposed plant had been expected to cost $4.3 billion.
“The Queensland Government cannot have its cake and eat it to, profiting from exports while being unwilling to invest in the [research and development] necessary to reduce emissions”, [said Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson].
Mr Bligh said she had spoken to Mr Ferguson this morning to explain what was happening with the ZeroGen project.  “I think he understands like I do that the great discoveries of the world have had disappointments along the way,” she said.

Funding for this project came out of the CCS Flagship Program which had $5.1 billion to distribute.  The stated objectives were ambitious;
The program supports the construction of 2 to 4 commercial scale CCS projects with an electricity generating capacity of 1000 mega watts or equivalent size for other industrial processes. This objective supports the G8’s call for the launch of 20 demonstration CCS projects worldwide by 2010, to be operational from 2015 and for commercial deployment by 2020.
The Minister for Resources and Energy called on the state and territory governments and the Australian Coal Association to nominate projects for consideration under CCS Flagships program in May 2009. Nominations closed on 14 August 2009.
ZeroGen was shortlisted for this money on December 8th 2009.  Interestingly,this the last time the media centre at ZeroGen appears to have been updated. Mr Ferguson might be understandably disappointed that his energy partners appear to have let him down after just one year.  Unlike that other "great" CCS demonstration project in Victoria which at least allowed the Emperor Minister to appear clothed in transparent greenish attire on national TV.

The research for the Ottway Basin Demonstration Project is being conducted by the CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies. Personally I am a bit skeptical of a CRC where the preponderance of  the  publications consists of brochures, grey literature, industry sponsored workshops and posters. I count only two refereed journal articles at the websites database. The website is beautiful though.

A commenter at the end of the Brisbane Times article provides a good link to The Economist.
The illusion of clean coal
Mar 5th 2009
The world is investing too much cash and hope in carbon capture and storage
But CCS is proving easier to talk up than to get going (see article). There are no big power plants using it, just a handful of small demonstration projects. Utilities refuse to make bigger investments because power plants with CCS would be much more expensive to build and run than the ordinary sort. They seem more inclined to invest in other low-carbon power sources, such as nuclear, solar and wind. Inventors and venture capitalists, in the meantime, are striving to create all manner of new technologies—bugs for biofuels, revolutionary solar panels, smart-grid applications—but it is hard to find anyone working on CCS in their garage (although some scientists are toying with pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air instead of from smokestacks: see Technology Quarterly in this issue). Several green pressure groups, and even some energy and power company bosses, think that the whole idea is unworkable.
The private sector, however, is reluctant to fork out not just because of the upfront cost of power plants, but also because, tonne for tonne, CCS looks like an expensive way of cutting carbon. The cost of it may fall, but probably not by much, given the familiarity of the technologies it uses.
Meanwhile The Age reports,
Carbon tax 'cheaper' way to clean up
Adam Morton, Dec 15th.
The case for a carbon price has been boosted by an analysis that has found it is a much cheaper way of cleaning up the environment than governments handing out taxpayers' money to isolated green projects.
A report by the Grattan Institute also shows that environmental targets are usually met at significantly lower cost than predicted after industries are charged for pollution.
The Melbourne think-tank examined six market schemes - carbon trading in Europe and the north-eastern US states, American sulphur trading and the Australian renewable energy target.
The institute's analysis found that technological innovation was the key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and markets were more likely to identify low-cost technologies than governments.
And I would add, industry pressure groups.
An example, he said, was the renewable energy target introduced by the Howard government in 2001. Forecasts suggested 50-70 per cent of Australia's energy would come from burning sugar cane residue, but rapid breakthroughs in turbine technology made wind farms substantially cheaper and sugar cane residue became irrelevant.
''It is worth remembering that our current energy technologies, such as coal-fired electricity and gas-fired electricity, only got to the point where they were commercially viable after governments had spent vast sums of money developing them,'' he said.

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