Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weyburn complaints hurt CCS

Edmonton Journal
January 15, 2011

Soil gas sampling for CO2 at Weyburn
Complaints this week from a Saskatchewan farm family about carbon dioxide escaping from a carbon-capture project near Weyburn should raise red flags with the Stelmach government. The provincial Tories plan to invest $2 billion into this still unproven technology to meet greenhouse gas emission guidelines.

On the face of it, capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them underground or using them to enhance oil recovery in aging oilfields seems like a great way to address global warming issues, but the Weyburn pilot operation has been the example politicians liked to point to when questioned about the viability of the plan. How much appetite will the public have for such grandiose ideas if the vanguard project suggests they may only create more problems?

The Weyburn sequestration project has been pumping 6,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide underground every day for more than a decade, but neighbours say the gas is now beginning to erupt from their gravel pit, occasionally in huge blasts that sound like cannon shots. Whatever is coming from the water-filled pit near the home of Cameron and Jane Kerr is deadly. The couple has found dead rabbits, birds, a cat and even a dead goat in its vicinity.

The Saskatchewan government and industry say the problems the Kerrs are experiencing have nothing to do with the project, and a $40-million study into carbon capture and storage concludes the procedure is safe.

Whether or not carbon dioxide is leaking onto the neighbouring Kerr family farm, their complaints should remind this government that it must proceed cautiously.

There are also concerns about the economics and logistics. Scientists have been warning all along that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a silver bullet, but just one of many measures that could be considered to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to be the cause of global warming.

Science, safety and cost analysis should ultimately be the factors that decide whether carbon capture and storage is a viable way to curb the release of carbon into the atmosphere and help Alberta meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.
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