Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS)

Environmentalists dream of the day when all of America's electricity will come from the sun, wind, water and other truly renewable sources. But the unavoidable reality is that fossil fuels like coal are deeply embedded in our energy system, and we'll have to use them for years. That means we must figure out a way to inexpensively capture the carbon released by burning fossil fuels and sequester it into the ground. Currently there are no utility-scale Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, and there are still outstanding technical challenges — like ensuring that the captured carbon remains buried in the ground for centuries into the future. But a few experimental projects are underway. Notably, the Swedish utility Vattenfall opened a 30 MW pilot plant in September than can capture the carbon burned from coal, although the company hasn't yet found a place to store what they collect. We'll need similar projects soon, and on a global scale, if we want to have any hope of denting carbon emissions.