The two biggest concerns we are currently facing are on the environmental front are greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. If allowed to continue as it has, global warming will induce drastic climate changes and force a multitude of species to extinction. If we don’t change our ways, we will have more carbon dioxide per metric ton in our air than we have had in all recorded history of the last 700,000 years. We have cleared 50% of the planets forest and have burned a million years worth of fossil fuels.
The main culprit contributing to global warming is the issue of green house gas emissions. More specifically, carbon monoxide and dioxide. At present on a global level, 24 gigatons of carbon monoxide per day are being pumped into the atmosphere. When you think about it in those terms, it can be pretty staggering.
Another method being explored that would help reduce green house gas emissions is being promoted by the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants (ETP-ZEP) . In a letter written to Dr. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kurt Häge , Chairman for (ETP-ZEP) writes that their goal is to see zero emissions from power plants in Europe. One of the methods mentioned is underground carbon storage and is asking for her endorsement of the ZEP Flagship Program. This program will “play a critical role in being able to engage the USA and other new large CO2 emitters in the developing world, like China and India.”
Hopefully, we will soon see carbon storage become a regulatory matter. In order to be truly effective, this issue will need to be addressed on a global scale. The Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership is a call for cooperation and collaboration between government, industry, universities, and international organizations funded by DOE (Department of Energy). The focus of the partnership will be to determine the most suitable technologies, regulations, and infrastructural needs for carbon capture. Started in 2008, large-volume sequestration tests have shown the potential to store hundreds of years of CO2 emissions. Several technologies are being tested at various sites in the United States and Canada. Data collected from these tests will determine the effectiveness of long term high volume below ground storage of carbon emissions.
Reversing The Carbon Emissions Problem
New concepts are being developed and implemented that, while being in a start up phase, will surely be considered a major breakthrough in the near future. One solution comes from a very surprising source – algae.
By using what is called Photo Bioreactors, power plants will be able to convert their carbon dioxide emissions into more fuel. A bioreactor mixes water, algae and runs the mixture through clear tubes exposing it to sunlight. Then, the algae is harvested for biofuel, cattle feed and even re-used as fuel in the same power plant. A closed system is used that exposes the algae to carbon dioxide (co2) which actually stimulates it’s growth.
This type production is superior to other biofuel sources such as corn and soy because of it’s high yield percentage ratio. Some strains of algae will produce as much as 80% of it’s total harvested weight in biofuel.
Photo Bioreactor technology was first implemented at the MIT Power plant and is sure to be used in other locations in the near future. There are several pre-commercial pilot projects slated on a global level. Hopefully, this next phase of implementation will lead to the development of algae farming around existing power plants worldwide. The Results are truly tremendous when you consider that the reduction of green house emissions from this project is equivalent to removing 8.8 million cars from the road.
Enhanced Oil Recovery Project
In 2005 the Midale oil fields in Canada launched an enhanced oil recovery project that actually has two benefits. The process involved here is to use the carbon dioxide, that would otherwise escape into our atmosphere, to increase oil production levels. The concept is that when the carbon dioxide is injected into the ground, it causes the oil to extract and rise up from the bedrock.
It is estimated that 26 million cubic feet of carbon dioxide daily is injected in the field, increasing oil production by 45-60 million barrels. This is very significant considering our need to eliminate both foreign oil dependency and reduce green house gas emissions.
Although it seems that, on the surface, we as a planet are doomed, nothing could be further from the truth. With these new high tech environmental techniques, along with the dawn of the Post Petroleum Era, we can look forward to cleaning up our environment. The key component to success will of course be that we all work together on a global scale.