11 March 2008

Squestration in the Oil Sands

Soooo.... last year the federal government of Canada introduced a bunch of new environmental programs. This year, they threw a lot of that out the window. Now we have a new environmental program: legislating projects that produce large quantities of carbon dioxide to employ sequestration. These large sources are coal plants and oil sands developments. The obvious loophole for everyone to observe is that it only applies to projects started after 2011, and there's evidently no grandfathering.

I'm not sure I believe whether they Conservative government actually intends to go through with this. Afterall, they are a minority government and while the opposition has no stomach for a new election, they aren't likely to last until 2011. The proof will really be in the activity in the oil patch. If they all rush to start projects before 2011 and have nothing scheduled after that, then maybe the Conservatives are actually serious.

Another question that crosses my mind is the quantity of good sequestration locations in close proximity to the main oil sands patch by Fort McMurray. Alberta is, generally speaking, a big sedimentary basin but the Northeast portion of the province is somewhat different if my memory is correct.

Personally, I foresee the cost of sequestering 'dirty' fuel sources such as bitumen or bituminous coal being onerous. Alberta already has the highest electricity prices in the nation and prices can only accelerate with the introduction of sequestration.


Cyril R said...

There is a much simpler method to sequester large amounts of CO2.

Mine a couple of square miles of olivine, crush it very finely (to increas surface area ie reactivity), and throw it in the ocean and on beaches and farmland etc. Olivine and CO2 are converted to carbonate and magnesium. Effectively storing the carbon for many millions of years without the risks and energy costs of pumping CO2 directly underground.

Costs are estimated to be less than 20 USD per tonne of CO2 sequestered if done in low wage countries, likely to be much lower than direct CO2 geological sequestration, unless that makes great strides forward. Doing it in these developing countries will be cheap and allows them to gain huge local economic benefits. Using mines close to the large farmland and oceans will minimise transport costs and energy required.

Cyril R said...

err, cubic miles of course!