Tuesday, 17 November 2009

No such thing as clean coal

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Saturday 14/11/2009 Page: 26

After years of shameless pretence from both sides of politics, opposition emissions trading spokesman Ian MacFarlane has finally ended the great bipartisan dream that Australia's largest export earner, coal, could someday be made 'clean.' Mr Macfarlane told the ABC that carbon capture storage 'will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never.' The Global Carbon Capture Storage Institute says that until the price for an emissions permit reaches $90 a tonne, it will be cheaper for a coal-fired power station to pay the penalty and keep pumping out greenhouse gases rather than capture and store them.

A $90-a-tonne permit price would make CCS far more expensive in Australia than wind, geothermal and other emerging renewable technologies. James Cameron of Climate Change Capital in London says CCS requires huge underground chambers to store CO2 and a big investment in infrastructure, including pipes to transport liquefied gas.

The Australian Coal Association now accepts the science of global warming but has rejected the proposed emissions trading scheme. A Rio Tinto/BP joint venture to store carbon off the West Australian coast has been abandoned because a suitable site could not be found, while Santos has postponed its $1 billion sequestration trial at Moomba in the Cooper Basin, citing the need for high oil prices and a significant carbon price to make the project economic. The Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, one of the leading advocates for CCS, has warned that people will 'just move on' if there is not 'significant progress within five years.'

Macfarlane and Liberal Party colleague Greg Hunt, the opposition's environment spokesman, are looking into another version of CCS. MBD Energy, which is building a $2.5 million display plant at Loy Yang power station in Victoria, is testing technology developed by James Cook University in Queensland which injects captured CO2 into waste water and transforms it into oil-laden algae which can be used to make biodiesel, plastic and jet fuel.