Coal, Carbon Sequestration and NUMBY

By August 11, 2009Energy, Global Warming

A reasonably thorough piece in today’s Washington Post, “Coal’s Future Wagered on Carbon Capture.” Might have benefited from more discussion of the political debate about whether carbon dioxide emissions should be controlled, but there’s only so much space and the story handles the technological and cost challenges pretty well.

Missing, however, is any mention of the NUMBY factor, that is, Not Under My Backyard.

From The Guardian (U.K.), “Not under our backyard, say Germans, in blow to CO2 plans“:

It was meant to be the world’s first demonstration of a technology that could help save the planet from global warming – a project intended to capture emissions from a coal-fired power station and bury them safely underground.

But the German carbon capture plan has ended with CO2 being pumped directly into the atmosphere, following local opposition at it being stored underground.

The scheme appears a victim of “numbyism” – not under my backyard.

Northern Europe is more densely populated than most of the United States, so the NUMBY factor may be more prevalent there. On the other hand, the United States is the most litigious nation in the world and environmental groups are well-practiced in filing lawsuits against energy projects.

BTW, there’s already a successful sequestration project, the piping of compressed carbon dioxide produced by a coal-to-natural gas plant near Beulah, North Dakota, to be injected into oil fields in southern Saskatchewan. From Dakota Gasification:

The CO2 pipeline was designed to transport up to 240 mmscfd carbon dioxide on a continuous basis to the Tioga Station and continue with 150 MMSCFD from Tioga to the GoodWater Unit. Currently with 2 compressors at Dakota Gas and a booster pump at Tioga, a total of approximately 115 MMSCFD of CO2 is supplied to EnCana and Apache for use in Enhanced oil Recovery (EOR). With a third compressor coming on-line at Dakota Gas later in 2006, the total capacity will increase to 165 MMSCFD. This injection process is expected to boost their oil production from the current 14Mbbl/d to a high of 34Mbbl/d. Benefits of the carbon dioxide injection are expected to last for 12 to 14 years at 20bbl/d before production levels begin to drop.

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