Just a few hours ago, Europe’s first underground carbon dioxide storage site was opened near Berlin in Ketzin, Germany. The test facility is aimed at finding out whether CO2 capturing and storing is a viable method to reduce CO2 emissions and to use this technology to make coal-fired power plants – which are build eagerly across Europe – be more climate friendly. Especially Germany which is the only country still opposing nuclear energy and is phasing out its efficient and safe nuclear power plants has become short of ideas how to meet the EU’s CO2 reduction targets and struggles to justify the shift towards coal-fired power plants. Wind turbines and solar panels are all fine, but some German politicians just don’t understand that it’s not possible to abandon all other energy sources in favor of renewables which account for only 7 % of the total energy consumption. 7% is quite a considerable share of alternative energies, however, Germany depends on nuclear energy and fossil fuels to cover the remaining 93% of its power demand. Besides, renewable energies are at the moment a few times more expensive than the competing energy sources and which politician would dare asking the people to pay more than twice their electricity bill in order to reduce our carbon footprint?
Whether pumping carbon dioxide below the surface and storing it in porous sandstone deposits is economic and safe is to be seen. However, when this test phase is finished after 2009, 60,000 tonnes of CO2 gas will be stored at 800 meters below the surface. Even if the test is successful, the technology will not be applicable until 2020 on a grand scale and saving energy as well as embracing alternative energies is much cheaper and environmentally friendly than this sophisticated and energy-consuming technology.
There are two major obstacles for grand-scale carbon capture and storage. First, collecting CO2 from power plant exit air and pumping it beneath the earth reduces the efficiency of the power plant considerably. Second, storing CO2 underground bears a lot of risk. If CO2 gas could escape through a leak, it could settle in low-lying areas as it is heavier than air and thus threaten to suffocate the people living there.
Check out Various forms of CO2 storage – and unforeseeable consequences for more information on CO2 storage.