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(Carbon Sequestration)

 

 

 

Carbon sequestration 2009 10 07
Carbon Sequestration Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

At the present state of technological development in NSW we have few (perhaps no) alternatives to burning coal.  But there is a fundamental issue with the proposed underground sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a means of reducing the impact of coal burning on the atmosphere. This is the same issue that plagues the whole current energy debate.  It is the issue of scale. 

Disposal of liquid CO2: underground; below the seabed; in depleted oil or gas reservoirs; or in deep saline aquifers is technically possible and is already practiced in some oil fields to improve oil extraction.  But the scale required for meaningful sequestration of coal sourced carbon dioxide is an enormous engineering and environmental challenge of quite a different magnitude. 

It is one thing to land a man on the Moon; it is another to relocate the Great Pyramid (of Cheops) there.

The underground volume required to dispose of coal sourced carbon dioxide is over five times that occupied by the coal that produced it. As discussed in more detail below, to liquify and sequester just 25% of NSW coal sourced CO2 annually (for example that produced by coal fired electricity) would fill a volume of 63 thousand million cubic metres (=251 Km square by 1m deep).  As it is expected that this liquid would be pumped into porous strata, where it will fill interstitial voids to perhaps 10% of the volume, several thousand thousand square kilometers of strata would be required annually. These volumes would also require hundreds of kilometres of high pressure distribution pipeline and hundreds of injection bore holes the diameter and depth of oil wells. 

Within a few years, the underground sequestration site (or sites) required for CO2 would underlie hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of NSW countryside with high pressure liquid/solid phase CO2 that would pose probably insurmountable: geological; engineering; environmental; aesthetic; safety; and cost issues.

Power generation metals smelting and the mining that supports them are amongst civilisation’s largest enterprises.  Present installed coal thermal generating plant capacity in NSW is 12.6 GW.  This is the largest electricity generation capacity of any Australian State (32.4% of the total) and bigger than many developed countries including Switzerland, New Zealand and Denmark. But this capacity is dwarfed in world terms. China adds this capacity every few months.  A single project, their three gorges dam, will have double our entire capacity. We are small players on the world stage and what we do makes little material difference.

NSW is heavily dependent on coal. In 2005-6 the New South Wales (NSW) coal mining industry produced around 161.3 million tonnes (Mt) of raw coal, yielding 124.7 Mt of saleable coal in 2005-06. This accounted for $8.5 billion in income, or 73% of the total value of the NSW mining sector. Exports of 89.8 Mt of thermal and metallurgical coal totalled approximately $6.7 billion in value, while domestic consumption of 33 Mt of coal by the power, steel and other industries totalled $1.8 billion in value. The remaining saleable coal was placed into mining stocks.[1] Since that time exports have increased and the coal price has more than doubled.  Coal is presently worth at least $15 billion a year to the NSW economy, disregarding its economic multipliers.

 

 

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Travel

China

 

 

I first visited China in November 1986.  I was representing the New South Wales Government on a multinational mission to our Sister State Guangdong.  My photo taken for the trip is still in the State archive [click here].  The theme was regional and small business development.  The group heard presentations from Chinese bureaucrats and visited a number of factories in rural and industrial areas in Southern China.  It was clear then that China was developing at a very fast rate economically. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Through the Looking Glass

 

 

 

 

 

I'm seeing on TV senior politicians, including the Liberal PM and involved Labor Victorians (bi-partisan), gathering in Morwell in Victoria to announce that jobs in the Latrobe Valley have been saved by a Japanese consortium that will build a pilot plant to convert brown coal to hydrogen. Read Here...

I had to pinch myself to check that our screen had not somehow turned itself into Lewis Carroll's looking glass and sucked me through to the other side.

Fans of the Reverend Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) work will recall some 'weird shit' in Wonderland like: Alice growing and shrinking; a disembodied cat coming and going; and babies turning into pigs.  But these adventures are put into the shade by Alice's subsequent experiences: Through the Looking-Glass

Hydrogen from coal (carbon) - really?  Surely they mean hydrogen from water. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Australia's carbon tax

 

 

Well, the Gillard government has done it; they have announced the long awaited price on carbon.  But this time it's not the highly compromised CPRS previously announced by Kevin Rudd.  

Accusations of lying and broken promises aside, the problem of using a tax rather than the earlier proposed cap-and-trade mechanism is devising a means by which the revenue raised will be returned to stimulate investment in new non-carbon based energy. 

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