EU’s Carbon Capture and Storage Problem


The Belchatow power station in Poland is Europe’s largest coal-burning plant, but plans to capture carbon dioxide from it are in limbo. John Guillemin/Bloomberg via Getty

Europe’s carbon-trading market and tougher emission targets make it appear somewhat more responsible than the rest of the world at climate-policy negotiations. But recently, the region has fallen behind North America in the effort demonstrate systems for capturing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants and industry, even as its coal use increases.

Europe has had trouble launching large carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. An EU fund that was set up two years ago to support CCS couldn’t find a single scheme to finance, and instead gave €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) to renewable energy projects instead. Adding to the embarrassment, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that the switch from coal to shale gas in the USA lowered the price of coal, resulting in the EU to burning more coal because gas is more expensive.

Other countries have had similar difficulties with CCS. The technology to sieve carbon dioxide from exhaust gases has been demonstrated on small scale projects, and four large projects have successfully been able to store the gas underground. But no large carbon capture system is operating at a power plant anywhere in the world. Fitting a large power plant with CCS would increase the price of electricity by 50% to 100%.

Four years ago, the IEA wanted to have at least 100 CCS projects operational by 2020, capturing around 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. At the current rate, there will only be about 20 completed in time. The incentives for renewable energy are not in place for CCS.

Planners blame the collapse of the emissions-trading-scheme price for the lack of profit, which was due to the recession. Last year, the sale of 200 million credits raised only a third of what planners had hoped for.


Source: IEA/Vivian Scott (SCCS)

[via Nature]

7 Comments on "EU’s Carbon Capture and Storage Problem"

  1. James E Jarvis | January 11, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply

    We have yet to see any scientific proof that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has any effect whatsoever on global mean temperature.
    What is more we can no longer access many of the data necessary to make any judgement on this subject. Wikipedia, for instance, has been purged of all useful data on this subject and even with Athens it is not possible to access the subject in the library of any credible university. (I no longer have that access anyway, so no matter).
    For example.
    1) What are the frequencies/wavelengths of the infra red radiation that are absorbed by carbon dioxide at NPT (20 Celsius 760mm Mercury). If the characteristics of infra red radiation bear any resemblance to the absorption characteristics of other gases and vapours in other parts of the spectrum then one would expect the absorption to be in very narrow tight bands, no more than a “black line”. One can think of the absorption by hydrogen gas somewhere arround 4 Kelvin and by strontium vapour in the atmosphere of the sun.
    2) How do the absorption frequencies/wavelengths of carbon dioxide vary with air temperature.
    3) What are the characteristic surface temperatures of the bodies which are losing heat by infra red radiation, said infra red radiation then being absorbed by the atmospheric carbon dioxide to heat the atmosphere.
    For instance, if the surface temperature required to radiate infra red radiation which is absorbed by carbon dioxide is above 330 Kelvin then we can safely say that AGW is a myth. In fact if the temperature is above 300 Kelvin we can say that the effect is minimal because the largest radiating surfaces on Earth are the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and sea water rarely has a surface temperature above 27 degrees Celsius.

  2. Madanagopal.V.C | January 11, 2013 at 10:36 am | Reply

    I would like to clarify two important points. The article deals with the Carbon Capture System (CCS)in industries to minimize the emission of carbon-di-oxide and thereby avoid global warming. Evaporation of water from large bodies like Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean take place at all temperatures and not necessarily above 300 Kelvin. Even icebergs floating on oceans do evaporate and the moisture air is a surface tension phenomena as against boiling which will take place only under high temperature. Moreover moistures above the oceans form as clouds and perform only as the conveyor of rains in different parts of the world. Green House gases are only tri-atomic and poly atomic gases like CO2, SO2, CH4 which are produced by industries and their valence bonds being in dumb-bell in shape can take up extra energy from
    infra-red rays and retain them to lose later on. All these man made gases are harmful to effect a global warming and never H2O which is always beneficial for the mankind. Methane from organic waste from dams also contribute to the global warming. Pure Hydrogen, Oxygen or Nitrogen in the atmosphere being all di-atomic can never do harm. There is a natural sink on earth in plants to absorb carbon-di-oxide and denudation of forest wealth is also a reason for global warming. This is apparent from the urbanization with concrete jungles that is responsible for rise in temperature in otherwise cool temperature like that in Bangalore, India. The CCS control in industries is only a small effort which is not enough unless strict carbon footprint is monitored by nations. Global warming results in cyclone and drought only in tropical nations extending from Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn where they are already poor. Rich nations with very high carbon footprint because of their extreme high use of petrol and electricity should compensate the poor nations who are at the receiving end.Thank You.

    • James E Jarvis | January 12, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply

      To Madanagopal.V.C.
      I do not quite understand the point you are trying to make. I have an understanding of both thermodynamics and atmospheric physics. I am making a serious attempt to source data which I am unable, at this time, to retrieve from the Web.
      The Earth receives energy as electromagnetic radiation from the Sun with a radiation temperature of about 6,000 Kelvin.
      The Earth radiates energy in the far infra red with a radiation temperature between about 230 Kelvin and 320 Kelvin (-40 to + 50 Celsius). I think you will agree that there is little energy transfer below -40 C and there are very few places on Earth where the ambient ground surface temperature is more than 50 C. The largest, warmest, radiating area of the Earth is the band between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (The Tropics) which is mostly sea. Even in the Tropics the sea surface temperature rarely rises above 27 C (300 K).

      Essentially the radiation energy in the far infra red radiated from the Earth in the temperature range 230 K to 320 K equals the energy input from the Sun with a radiation temperature of about 6,000 K. The radiation input from the Sun equals the area of a plain circle with the diameter of the Earth with the radiation intensity constant across the whole area and the area of radiation output equals the area of the surface of a sphere the diameter of the Earth with a variable radiation temperature which varies from about 230 K and 320 K, with the greatest component of the radiant output occurring in the Tropics from the surface of the sea.
      Water vapour is a poly atomic gas, water vapour absorbs infra red radiation over many discrete frequencies in the 26 micrometre waveband ?
      Is that true ? Where can I find that data.
      Carbon dioxide absorbs infra red radiation over a small number of frequencies in the 11 micrometre waveband, true ? or is it 15 micrometre waveband. Is that true ? Where can I find that data.
      Molecules of the gasses do the absorbing. There is a far greater mass of water vapour in a kilogram of air at NTP than there is carbon dioxide and as the molecular mass of water vapour is about 40% that of carbon dioxide there are far more water molecules than carbon dioxide molecules. At any one place the concentration of water vapour in the atmosphere varies widely and the number of water molecules available to absorb radiation also varies widely on a day by day, hour by hour basis. The “green house gas effect” of water vapour far exceeds that of carbon dioxide for almost all atmospheric conditions and the day to day variation of water vapour concentrations probably completely masks the “green house effect” of the carbon dioxide
      All of the endless stream of dire warnings about the effects of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are no more than assertions. Where are the numbers, where is the science ? Measurements of atmospheric temperatures tell us nothing more than how warm the day is.
      Carbon Dioxide may be contributing to rising global mean temperatures but where is the science ?
      The changing political climate, which is the underlying cause of the problems detailed in the article, may be changing because of a growing belief that the Chinese have done the science, so to speak, and have come up with a very different analysis of the situation to that holding sway in the West.
      A conjecture isn’t a testable theory and assertions are not scientific laws.

  3. Madanagopal.V.C | January 12, 2013 at 9:39 am | Reply

    To James E Jarvis.
    Thank You sir,for your lively interaction. I am a pure science man and will never make any conjecture without scientific basis. I never denied that H2O will also absorb infra-red rays. But it is the thermodynamics of clouds that distribute only rain in different parts of world and CO2 or other green house gases will never precipitate to the extent of H2O thereby reducing their presence in the atmosphere. Hence more and more of emission of such gases by industries is bound to lock the infra-red rays reflected from earth slowly to accumulate the heat and radiate back to earth. Here global warming is a progressive phenomena which cannot be stopped even by CCS which the original article discussed, unless emission is altogether controlled. Total radiation of infra-red energy received by earth is same as said by you but this green house umbrella never allows it to escape into outside the atmosphere canopy. There is the problem of resultant earth getting heated progressively.

  4. Madanagopal.V.C | January 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Reply

    Sir, I never make any conjecture without scientific basis, being myself a pure science man. I have commented only on the article submitting that CCS could not reduce the carbon pollution. I have never said that H2O will not absorb infra-red rays being itself also tri-atomic. It is true that radiation from Sun received by earth is same throughout, but it is the canopy of green house gases emitted by industries like CO2, CH4, SO2 etc which serve as umbrella retaining the radiation from earth by absorbing infra-red rays in their covalent bonds, which is released slowly later on to earth, in addition to the solar radiation received by earth. They don’t precipitate to the extent like water in rains which alters the cloud cover constantly. Hence there is a progressive build up of green house gases irrespective of radiation from seas. It can be controlled only by reducing emission norms by industries and developed countries consuming more power and CCS is only a peanut in contribution. Alternatively the natural sink of plants should be increased on earth and denudation of forests should be curtailed. Thank You

  5. James E Jarvis | January 14, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply

    To put it very simply.
    There is sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere already to absorb all of the infra red radiation emitted from the surface of the Earth that carbon dioxide can absorb. Adding more carbon dioxide doesn’t absorb more infra red radiation.
    The only effect of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations is to absorb the available infra red nearer to the emission source.
    There appears to be a misconception that the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is constant but papers by Ramsay to the Royal Society in 1908 and G. Claude in 1909 (Compt. Rend.) reported concentrations which varied world wide by a factor of ten. There is also a misconception that carbon dioxide is the major infra red absorbing gas in the atmosphere and many published sources ignore water vapour altogether. A prime example of this is the Philips Atlas of the World, an atlas published in association with The Royal Geographical Society and The Institute of British Geographers.
    The pictorial “explanations” of how “green house gasses” are heating up the World would be hilarious if they were not such blatant, lyimg propaganda.
    Not withstanding my search for reliable data I have one big problem with this whole subject.
    If global warming is so obvious and so dangerous then why is it necessary to publish, propagate and push lies in books used by school children in their studies and why is it that all of the learned scientists who believe in AGW
    cannot present a credible scientific argument based on demonstrable facts and backed up with verifiable measurements ?

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