The United States Department of Energy has pledged to match Masdar’s $700,000 carbon capture research program with $3 Million of US taxpayer money. In collaboration with RTI International, an independent, international non-profit organization that has worked closely with the DoE for 25 years, Penn State University and two other American companies, Masdar intends to revolutionize the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) space so that the world can continue to burn coal, gas, and oil without worrying about the impact that doing so will have on escalating climate changes.
How CCS works:
CCS involves capturing the carbon dioxide released during the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which would be transferred through a network of pipes as high-pressure liquid carbon dioxide into deep underground geological formations.
Such a system would require the development of a massive new infrastructure including pipes and pumps that could capture, pressurize, transport, and then inject carbon dioxide underground in order to divert emissions from our atmosphere.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), this technology has a lot of potential. On their website, the UN claims that:
Because the geologic storage capacity of CO2 is hundreds of times greater than current global levels of emission, carbon sequestration could, in principle, nearly eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources. Carbon capture and storage technology is also compatible with the existing energy infrastructure, and could therefore enable a flexible transition to a low-carbon future.
The UN also notes that this technology is in the early stages of development and that much more research is required before it can be implemented.
We would need 6000 CCS programs storing 1 million tons of CO2 each
Masdar intends to use a solid sorbent technology (developed by Penn State University), which will significantly reduce the costs of CCS. Masdar Carbon’s Associate Director Badr Al Lami told Gulf News, “Carbon capture technologies allow the continued use of oil, gas, and coal resources without the climate change impact.”
Naturally the coal and gas industry is very eager to develop CCS because it would give them the green light to carry on with business as usual, but two professionals from the American Medical Association, John Fogarty, MD, MPH and Michael McCally, MD, PhD, wrote a paper last year in order to call attention to a variety of problems associated with this technology that have been less visibly addressed.
They note that, “the International Energy Agency estimates that for CCS to have a significant effect in slowing global warming, there must be 6000 CCS projects each storing a million tons of carbon dioxide per year in operation by the year 2050.” With research in its infancy stages, and the amount of construction necessary to implement it, surely it’s folly to think we can make a measurable difference in time.
Delirium, somnolence, and coma
Fogarty and McCally also point out significant health threats associated with CCS:
High concentrations of carbon dioxide interfere with cellular metabolism and are lethal to humans and animals. Un- der normal circumstances, carbon dioxide is a trace gas composing less than 0.04% of gases in ambient air. Concentrations of carbon dioxide of more than 7% to 10% pose an mimediate threat to human life. Elevated partial pressures of carbon dioxide in the blood cause carbon dioxide narcosis with delirium, somnolence, and coma.
When released in large quantities, carbon dioxide accumulates at ground level in natural depressions and closed spaces because it is heavier than air. A large inadvertent release of carbon dioxide (as must be considered in a nationwide, full-scale CCS program) would pose significant risks for asphyxiation to humans and animals in surrounding areas. A number of case reports document human fatalities in atmospheres of high carbon dioxide concentration.
Any accidental leak of carbon dioxide emissions could have a devastating impact on both humans or animals unlucky enough to be in the vicinity, and we know by now from the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, BP’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other examples of human error that a leak will eventually happen.
Mass fatalities caused by concentrated CO2 emissions
In 1986, 100,000 tons of CO2 were released naturally from a volcanic lake in Cameroon. The emissions spread over a 15 mile radius and killed 1700 people, while hundreds others suffered from skin lesions and memory loss.
Its fair enough to develop technologies that can capture carbon already released, but research that promotes the continued burning of fossil fuels is merely an excuse for mega-companies and the customers they supply to pretend that the world is not heating up at a frightening pace.
:: Gulf News
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