Thursday, 2 April 2009

Solution to the carbon problem could be under the ground

Carbon dioxide captured from the chimneys of power stations could be safely buried underground for thousands of years without the risk of the greenhouse gas seeping into the atmosphere, a study has found.

The findings will lend weight to the idea of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) – when carbon dioxide is trapped and then buried – which is being seriously touted as a viable way of reducing man-made emissions of carbon dioxide while still continuing to burn fossil fuels such as oil and coal in power stations.

There are two substantial problems with CCS. The first is how to trap carbon dioxide efficiently in power-station emissions and the second is how to ensure that the underground store of the gas does not leak back into the atmosphere and so exacerbate the greenhouse effect and global warming.

The researchers believe the study shows that it will be possible to inject vast amounts of carbon dioxide from power stations into deep underground reservoirs where it will dissolve in water and remain undisturbed for at least as long as it will take for mankind to completely abandon fossil fuels and generate clean, carbon-neutral electricity.

Stuart Gilfillan of the University of Edinburgh said: "The study shows that naturally stored carbon dioxide has been safely stored for millions of years, which means that these sort of storage timescales should be achievable for the deliberate sequestration of the gas.

"It suggests that underground storage of carbon dioxide, in the correct place, should be a safe option to help us cope with emissions until we can develop cleaner sources of energy not based on fossil fuels," Dr Gilfillan said.
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