Carbon sequestration technology aims to store carbon, regardless of its source, whether it is from a new high-efficiency coal plant or an ancient relic of a plant. In the past, researchers looked at many ways of doing this. Some argued to put it in the sea while others argued to sink it in artificial wetlands.
However, the most popular idea is to pump it underground. The U.S. Department of Energy already launched an expensive initiative to test out such a system. Now Swedish power supplier Vattenfall has beat everyone to the punch, building and bringing online the world's first industrial-ready carbon sequestration plant, located in Brandenburg, Germany.
Construction on the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plant began two years ago. The plant cost $97.4M USD to construct. Many view it and other CCS plants as essential for coal to stay competitive against greener energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power. The plant officially opened with a ceremony this Tuesday.
The power plant used by the facility is a specially built 45 MW plant 350 kilometers (217 miles) away. CO2 is delivered by the truckload to the waiting plant, where it is pumped underground into a natural gas reservoir. Vattenfall's main competitor, RWE, is looking to build a 450-megawatt CCS power plant in Hürth, nine kilometers southwest of Cologne.
The technology is thought to be viable at current carbon credit costs when it can be coupled with a plant with about 1,000 MW of capacity. Thus the current new plant is an experimental proposition, which is losing money in the short term.
At the new plant, gas is pumped into 800-meter-deep bore holes into the depleted reservoir. Estimates vary, but it is expected to be trapped there anywhere from 1,000 and 10,000 years.
While some power companies are promoting the technology as a green dream, interestingly many environmental groups are vocally opposing it. Over 99 organizations in a group called the "Climate Alliance" invited protesters to the opening of the plant. They say the technology is too unproven and CO2 separation also lowers plant efficiency to as little as 34 percent, from a typical efficiency of 44 percent. Further, they say it will slow the adoption of alternative energy sources, lulling people into a false sense of security.
While some, particularly in the green community are particularly opposed to the technology, it doesn't seem likely to go away anytime soon. SPD (Germany's top political party) head Kurt Beck acknowledged the criticism, but cautiously plugged the effort, stating, "One sees clearly that it is far more than just a theoretical beginning. It is one of a number of solutions to the climate problem."