WASHINGTON - As futuristic projects designed to capture carbon from coal-burning industries and to store it underground have failed, the two largest consumers of the fuel, the United States and China, are looking toward the past for solutions.
Power generators, coal miners and policy makers had put faith in projects to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants and pump it directly underground into geologic formations for permanent storage. The great hope was that the technology would prevent much of the world's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from reaching the atmosphere.
But so-called carbon capture and storage projects have collapsed in Germany, Scotland and West Virginia. The stumbling blocks have been the high costs for the technology and the bleak prospects that the world would put a high price on emitting greenhouse gases.
Fortunately for those seeking to cut emissions from coal, one industry has benefited for nearly four decades from setting aside carbon dioxide emissions. That industry, known as enhanced oil recovery, is hungry for more of the gas.
Companies including Denbury Resources and Kinder Morgan have piped carbon dioxide from naturally occurring sources into aging oil fields to push out crude that traditional drilling is unable to reach.
As natural sources of carbon dioxide run dry, many of these companies are looking to industrial sources. Power utilities and other coal-burning companies may find it wiser to link up with this mature industry than to plunge ahead with their own versions of carbon capture and storage.
Originally, enhanced oil recovery specialists thought aging oil fields could store about 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or about 5 percent of what would be needed to reduce the threat of climate change.
But as researchers learn more about the storage potential of old oil zones, in both China and the United States, they say much more carbon could potentially be stored in these places.
David Fuller's view At a time when
the financial world is preoccupied with Eurozone's debt problems, innovative
policies by oil companies using the latest technologies are addressing the carbon
capture and storage problem.
Of the two companies mentioned, Kinder Morgan, last reviewed favourably by Eoin on 3rd March 2011, shows terrific relative performance and yields 5.9%. We have not previously mentioned Denbury Resources which looks much more speculative and has no yield.