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Burying Greenhouse Gasses

For several years, Co2 has been buried under the seafloor.
Oil group buries greenhouse gas under sea

SLEIPNER PLATFORM, Norwegian North Sea (Reuters) -- Norway's biggest company reckons it has found the key to a green and profitable future by burying greenhouse gases underground.

The oil and gas group Statoily operates the world's only commercial gas platform in the North Sea to separate carbon dioxide (CO2) from gas and reinject it beneath the seabed instead of releasing it to the air.

"The method has enormous potential. Our imagination is the only limit," said Sleipner platform chief Edvin Ytredal. The storage could prove profitable under planned CO2 emissions trading schemes.

Rising 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea surface with two giant burning flares, the Sleipner gas platform looks like a monster polluter.

But underneath it has been stashing away one million tons of CO2 gas every year since 1996, or the equivalent of the amount produced by about 110,000 Norwegians a year.

An eight-story block houses about 200 workers, a gym, bible study room and a motorcycle club on top of a complex production facility pumping gas from the reservoir, splitting the CO2 from the gas, reinjecting the greenhouse gas back into the seabed and piping the CO2-free gas to Norway and to Europe.

C02 is the main gas targeted by the international 1997 Kyoto pact aimed at cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. The pact prompted the European Union to launch the world's first international emissions trading scheme in 2005.

State-controlled Statoil would like to be paid to bury CO2 produced by big fossil-fuel burners in Europe such as steel plants or coal-fired power plants which will have to cap their emissions.

"If that solution adds up financially, it would be a dream scenario for Statoil," said Jan Karlsen, Statoil's senior vice president for gas sales. But he said it was too early to predict the practical and financial viability.

Risky business?

Several obstacles remain -- so far it is unclear whether CO2 reinjection will be an accepted way of getting rid of climate gases as part of the Kyoto mechanisms. It is also unsure what non-EU member Norway's position in the scheme will be.

And some environmental groups believe CO2 reinjection might be risky, fearing that the gas might leak into the sea and harm marine life. CO2 is a clear, non-toxic gas but can be disruptive in heavy concentrations.

"We are critical because we don't know whether this is a permanent solution. No one knows whether the CO2 will stay in the reservoir in 100 or 1,000 years," said campaigner Truls Gulowsen of the environmental group Greenpeace.

"The more we store greenhouse gases away, the bigger the potential climate bomb is and the longer it will take to get rid of the real problem -- the burning of fossil fuels," he said.

Statoil says there is no sign of leaks from Sleipner -- and that natural gas has stayed below ground for millions of years.

Offshore taxes in Norway, the world's third biggest oil exporter, pumping about three million barrels of oil per day, are 78 percent. Statoil says it is saving one million crowns ($143,000) every day in CO2 taxes by reinjection.

To cut the CO2 content, Statoil lets a soap-like chemical called amine react with the gas under high pressure, splitting CO2 from the gas and pumping it back into the Utsira reservoir about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) below the seabed.

It estimates that Utsira can hold 600 billion tons of CO2. The world's total human emissions are 23 billion tons a year.

Gas at the Sleipner West field contains up to nine percent CO2 -- almost four times the maximum 2.5 percent limit for sale in the market and forcing Statoil to cut the CO2 content.

Sleipner West is the only commercial CO2-injecting platform in the world, but there are other similar experimental projects, including in the United States.

Statoil's giant Snoehvit natural liquefied gas (LNG) project in the Barents Sea is due to come on stream in 2006 with the same technology. And environmental authorities recommend that any future Arctic development should have CO2 reinjection.

Even with CO2 reinjection, there is always a certain amount of emission. At Sleipner, the two flares are constantly burning for security reasons -- in case of a leak, the gas will be burned instead of being released to the air.
rubbish. 19.Nov.2003 10:30

this thing here

to go through all the trouble of capturing and burying co2 assumes that it is impossible to live on this planet without controlling or diminishing the amount of co2 now produced. this is a false assumption. and to bury our crap underground is nothing more than sweeping it under a carpet as if it didn't exist, a pathetic effort to avoid having to produce energy in clean and renewable ways, and a cowardly way of buying time without really addressing anything.

Dismissive as always 19.Nov.2003 11:36

James

"and to bury our crap underground is nothing more than sweeping it under a carpet as if it didn't exist, a pathetic effort to avoid having to produce energy in clean and renewable ways, and a cowardly way of buying time without really addressing anything."

First, it's not "our crap." It's the stuff life is made of. And they're hardly hiding anything -- they're simply returning the CO2 from whence it came. Clearly, it's a step in the right direction, if you're concerned about human-induced global warming. Most others would have released the CO2 into the atmosphere. They're burying it. Spiffy for them.

Your dismissal hardly surprises me, but it is hard to wrap one's mind around the logic of it. Do you really think there's an alternative available? Please, ennumerate it. (Or them). Biomass? Wind? Solar? Certainly not hyrdro? There is nothing yet in existence that can adequately replace oil, natural gas and nuclear. There are things which can supplement them, for sure. But nothing to replace them.

Because you're so incessantly dogmatic, because no solution less than permanent and complete will ever suit you, you'd have us continue down the same misbegotten path. "It's either all, or nothing."

Hogwash.

please. 19.Nov.2003 12:15

this thing here

whatever james.

what gets my goat here is the fact that this is one more example of NOT attempting to produce energy in clean, renewable ways, and instead, it is an "innovative" way to keep producing energy in dirty, non-renewable ways, as long as we can sweep it under a carpet. a pyrric technological victory if anything. how is something which is essentially an excuse that allows humans to keep buring hydrocarbons (and drilling and mining and clear cutting and polluting and laying waste to the earth) a step in the right direction? i'm not sure i get it.

dogmatic? more like unconvinced that the only hope for humanity is oil forever and ever, so better not even try to use it more efficiently or even try to develope and invest in alternatives. more like unconvinced that humanity isn't capable of moving itself from point a to point b in clean/er, renewable ways. more like unconvinced that burying the waste of burning hydrocarbons is any kind of a solution to the burning of hydrocarbons. more like unconvinced that we have to, or SHOULD, for that matter, wait around another 50 years to begin using alternatives and investing in them when the technology is available right now.

what i fear is oil corporations and car industries saying "oh good. look! we don't have to lift a finger to find alternatives or invest in innovations. hell, take that damn converter off your pipe! as long as we bury the co2 underground, we can burn fossil fuels at an extravagent rate forever! v-12's in every car!" not only do i have a problem with that kind of a lazy attitude, i also don't want to give them that excuse.

solar energy is not some technically infeasible rocket science. designing buildings which use energy efficiently is not some technically impossible thing. using hydrogen to power "personal vehicles" is not some pipe dream or some technically infeasible rocket science. hell, creating engines which burn GASOLINE more efficiently is also not some pipe dream that is "too difficult" for humans to do. and that's the attitude that gets to me. "we can't, it's too difficult, it won't work." BULLSHIT is what that is. what's the REAL obstacle to solar, wind, water, and hyrogen power, or more efficient gasoline engines? two of the biggest and laziest industries on the face of the earth, the oil and the car industries, AFRAID TO CHANGE AND INNOVATE. frankly, they are the same naysayers who harped in the ears of the right brothers day and night, "you'll never do it. it will never happen. you're dreaming. it's impossible. what are you thinking. you're crazy". on and on. dogmatic? no, i just have a serious problem with a bunch of politically powerful, naysaying idiots who would rather sit around on their ass all day and say people can't do something. if that's you're attitude, you can fuck off. shut the hell up, stop buzzing around like some goddamn fly, leave me alone, and let the innovators do their work. you're not helping anything, so just go away already...

Fair enough 19.Nov.2003 12:32

James

I agree. Just doesn't hurt to use and create stop-gap measures.

one more thing... 19.Nov.2003 13:03

this thing here

to me, what's distressing as an american is to see one of those hybrid gas/elec. cars made by... you guessed it, a japanese car company. it's distressing to me not because they're made by a japanese car company, but because they WEREN'T made by an AMERICAN car company. that says it all in my opinion.

i can think of no finer example of the death of american ingenuity and the general fear of innovation in america i was talking about than when i see those little things made by honda and toyota driving around. and it's funny, because the american car companies say the american market "isn't ready" for them yet. yeah, good one. i don't know about other people, but i'm seeing more and more of them, everyday, driven by americans in the american market.

we suck and we're getting our lard asses kicked. and we deserve it. big time. i hope honda and toyota make billions off of them.

Not necessarily fair 19.Nov.2003 13:54

James

Honda has said they're going to convert their entire fleet to hybrid in the next decade, which makes sense. As everyone knows, the internal combustion engine is ridiculously inefficient. So Honda deserves props for making the gutsy decision to convert all of their manufacturing and products.

But the likes of General Motors and Ford are hardly stagnating. General Motors has an entire division devoted to fuel cells, actually manufacturing the fuel cells themselves, and re-designing GM cars from the ground-up to be more efficient.

General Motors is taking an arguably better approach than Honda. General Motors is putting a lot of effort into the details of how fuel cells could take off. Hydrogen infrastructure is the greatest problem, so General Motors is investing in gasoline-sourced hydrogen fuel cells. (Which is a great way to bootstrap hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure, if it's possible).

Ultimately, fuel cells will be better than hybrids, because it's a more efficient reaction. (Hybrids are still combustion-based, which is always going to be pretty inefficient).

Along those same lines, Ford has large contracts with Ballard Power (Canadian hydrogen fuel cell company).

Honda will probably take a chunk of the market in the short-term. But if General Motors and all the others are able to overcome the problems with fuel cells (heat dissipation, stability, et cetera) they'll have the better solution.

Though it's a false dichotomy, I guess, because Honda is working on fuel cells too. But not with the same effort as GM.

solar power, hydrogen storage 19.Nov.2003 21:33

futuro

The obvious long term solution is literally blowing in the wind. Solar power, gathered via photovoltaic cells or indirectly with windmills, used on site where possible, stored by electrolysis of water as separated hydrogen (the o2 is valuable, too, for those interested in profit) where it can't be immediately used. The hydrogen and ox recombined later, pollution free, to extract the energy back when needed. This is an energy solution the future will use. The only question is when.

I hear an awful lot of people saying solar can't work who couldn't begin to say why not. That is a truism that just isn't true. The only real problem with solar power right now is storage, and hydrogen will provide a good solution to that problem.