Carbon sequestration profoundly unfeasible

The highly controversial concept of underground sequestration of carbon emissions from coal fired power generation plants and other facilities has been hotly debated for years.

A part of so called “clean coal” technologies, the coal fired power industry sees burying emissions as a savior that will allow it to continue to flourish in a low carbon world. Many environmental groups see it as a pipe dream.

While studies abound questioning the viability of carbon sequestration, these have usually come from a biased corner – environmental groups..

However, a new study from a professor of energy engineering at Texas A&M and  a professor of chemical engineering at University of Houston, published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering states geological sequestration of carbon dioxide to be a “profoundly unfeasible” way to manage carbon dioxide emissions.  

The study also reportedly says that a carbon dioxide reservoir needed to store a commercial power plant’s emissions would be as large as a small US state as it takes more than 500 times more volume to sequester carbon dioxide than was originally occupied as coal.

Reporting on the revelation; Climate Progress quotes the study as saying the volume of supercritical CO2 to be sequestered can’t exceed more than about 1% of pore space, which means 5 to 20 times more underground reservoir volume is required than has been envisioned by many.

One of the authors also confirms the fears of those who believe carbon sequestration isn’t entirely safe, stating it would be difficult to inject carbon dioxide into a closed system without pressure building up to a point it fractured the rock, allowing the carbon dioxide to migrate elsewhere, including possibly the surface.

The ramifications of a massive carbon dioxide leak have been demonstrated in nature; an example being the Lake Nyos disaster of 1986 where 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide escaped and suffocated around 1,700 people within 25 kilometers of the lake, as well as 3,500 livestock.