NewEnergyNews: OPEC GOES GREEN?

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  • Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    OPEC GOES GREEN?

    The theme of OPEC’s recent 2-day summit: "Providing petroleum, promoting prosperity and protecting the environment." (Really.) During the proceedings, OPEC came out advocating carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

    Here’s the question: Who do these guys think they are fooling besides themselves? They apparently assume that any capture of coal plant emissions will free consumers to spew more from their tailpipes. But if the marketplace gets a chance to freely act, clean coal and more abundant clean electricity will lead in a straight line to plug-in hybrids and battery-driven vehicles.

    Furthermore, there are objections to the process because it has not been shown to capture anywhere near all greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by burning coal. And there are fears underground storage chambers could rupture and release seriously toxic gases. Finally, diminishing emissions during the burning of coal does nothing to mitigate emissions generated during coal’s mining and transport.

    At a different venue, Shell’s chief scientist emphasized CCS’ incompleteness as a technology and the need for further development of it, concluding with a quote from Bob Dylan, perhaps one of the most unusual contexts in which the 60s icon has been quoted: "You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." (Somebody might want to mention that one to the few remaining climate change deniers.)

    Bottom line: Clean coal is still an oxymoron. Perhaps new information will turn up at
    Carbon Capture; Status and Outlook, December 3-5, 2007, Wahington, D.C.

    OPEC to put carbon capture at heart of new green agenda
    November 16, 2007 (AFP via Yahoo News)
    and
    Shell contemplating GHG science
    Paula Dittrick, November 19, 2007 (Oil & Gas Journal)

    WHO
    Chakib Khelil, energy minister, Algeria; Ali al-Nuaimi, Oil Minister, Saudi Arabia; Yvo de Boer, executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Charlie Williams, chief scientist, Royal Dutch Shell PLC

    Removing CO2 from coal-fired power generation burning is a complex and imperfect technology, hardly something that can justify OPEC's unmitigated emissions-spewing. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    - CCS, more popularly known as “clean” coal, was emphasized as a way of dealing with climate change by leaders at the OPEC summit.
    - Williams talked about long-term storage logistics, support facilities for sequestration, public acceptance, and consistent regulations for CCS at a Shell-sponsored symposium.

    WHEN
    - The OPEC summit was November 16-17. It was the 3rd summit in OPEC’s 47 years.
    - Williams statements came November 15.

    WHERE
    - The summit was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Foreign, finance and oil ministers from the 12 member countries attended.
    - The Shell International Science Symposium: Future Approaches in Subsurface Chemistry and Physics was held in Rijswijk, the Netherlands.
    - Demonstration CCS projects are currently underway in Canada, Algeria and the North Sea. The US is set to begin a major trial program at locations in Illinois or Texas.

    WHY
    - The discussion of CCS is widely recognized as an important acknowledgement of climate change by the oil-producing nations’ leaders.
    - CCS is a technology still underdevelopment. It would capture carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions as the coal is burned to make steam turn a turbine to generate electricity. - The captured emissions would be stored harmlessly underground.
    - The process adds cost to electricity generation and is not yet proven.
    - Williams asserted that CCS carried with it long-term liabilities for storing, monitoring, and verifying the location and any movement of stored CO2 and insisted governments must be prepared to take these responsibilities, create standards and set up rules.
    - Williams also talked about the burden of costs CCS brought with it and talked about a need to incorporate the expense into the marketplace.

    Several types of sequestration are being tried. Recent research is encouraging. But none of the options is thoroughly tested yet, much less proven. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC: “[An OPEC commitment to carbon capture and sequestration would be a] very constructive outcome of the deliberations at the heads of state level…I think the debate here points to a constructive willingness to participate in international dialogue about climate change…"
    - Ali al-Nuaimi, Saudi Oil Minister: "[OPEC leaders have shown a] recognition that oil is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect, but also a willingness to talk about how oil can be produced and brought to market in a cleaner way."
    - Williams, chief scientist, Shell: "The world's energy needs could increase by 50% in about 25 years…That is the equivalent of 100 million b/d of oil…We have to have energy security through energy diversity…We're going to have to deal with CO2 and the CO2 footprint…We do have a lot of technology today...but government and society have a key role to play."

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