Home' Australian Resources and Investment : March 2010 Contents bio carbon capture and storage
Not only is coal our biggest export, it appears certain that the
world's heavy dependency on coal and gas is here to stay.
Asked recently by ABC's Four Corners whether it was realistic
to think that China can move away from the use of coal for
its energy needs, Dr Ming Sung of the Clean Air Task Force said "Not for
the foreseeable future, not in my lifetime. Not in my children's
Surely then it's inconceivable that this continued steady growth in
coal and gas consumption will not be matched by corresponding
increases in greenhouse gas emissions and higher prices to help fund a
tax on carbon through an emissions trading scheme. Or is it?
Just as the world desperately needs a viable set of solutions to
signi cantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industrial plants,
it now appears that such technologies may nally be at hand in the
form of 'Bio Carbon Capture and Storage'---or Bio-CCS.
At the time the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute was
launched by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in April 2009, the big hope was
that geo-sequestration of captured smokestack CO2 would become
nancially viable with a suitably hefty price on carbon. The Australian
Government has earmarked a cool AU$4.6 billion for Geo-CCS. But
recently an important shift has occurred.
Within industry there is now widespread acceptance that at best
Geo-CCS may still be decades away from being close to solving the
greenhouse gas emissions problems of the vast majority of the world's
coal and gas power stations let alone the countless thousands of coal
and gas red smelters and re neries. Also, whilst it offers some hope of
"locking-up" captured CO2 emissions, it may never deal with the other
greenhouse gases. It's these nagging holes in aspects of 'clean coal
technology'---together with huge cost---that has spawned a whole new
way of thinking about the challenge; namely how to signi cantly reduce
greenhouse gas emissions from most of the world's heavy emitters
without resorting to the nightmare of reversing-mining.
Like so many technology breakthroughs we humans take credit for,
it seems a big part of the answer may be available from Mother Nature
herself. Over a period of millions of years the Earth managed to
'consume' and convert the toxic atmospheric gases caused by mass
volcanic eruptions into the oil, coal and gas we're dependent upon for
our energy today.
Miraculously the Earth did this, not with Geo-CCS and an ETS, but
through the creation of algal bio-mass (among the earliest forms of
life), forests, and through the absorption of atmospheric gases into soil
and the oceans.
"Bio-CCS was invented by Mother Earth, we just gave it a name,"
says Andrew Lawson, Managing Director of MBD Energy, the driving
force behind Algal Synthesis---one of ve exciting new technologies
showing real promise of capacity to more than halve all greenhouse gas
emissions from practically any major industrial emitter.
Proponents of bio-carbon capture and storage (Bio-CCS) argue that
practical technologies which mirror the Earth's natural methods for
dealing with atmospheric pollution offer real promise of "here and now"
solutions to securing major industry emissions reductions without a
hefty price tag for consumers or any immediate need to rush into the
uncertainties of building a costly new global carbon economy.
As surprising as it rst sounds, Bio-CCS technologies appear capable
of paying their own way through production of commercially valuable
by-products, a fact that may soon turn governments' earlier thinking
about how to respond to global emissions reductions on its head.
In a network of large plastic membranes located at a new cutting-
edge research facility a carbon cycle that might naturally have taken
millions of years to complete now takes just 24 hours. When trialled
this year alongside one or more major Australian power plants, the CO2
will be piped from smokestacks and injected into slowly circulating
waste water primed with a carefully selected local strain of oil-rich
AUSTRALIAN RESOURCES & INVESTMENT • MARCH 2010 • 121
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