Geological sequestration of carbon dioxide – implications for the coal industry

A typical medium-sized coal-fired power plant produces about 600 tonnes of CO2 per hour, or more than 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Because of its high carbon content, the CO2 emissions of coal are almost double those of natural gas per kW of energy produced This has clear implications for the continued use of coal as a fuel in power plant in a world increasingly conscious of greenhouse gas emissions. Underground sequestration of carbon dioxide is a viable method of storing industrial quantities of CO2 such as might be separated from the flue gases of power plant. Indeed, Statoil are currently injecting 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year from the Sleipner West gas field into porous and permeable reservoir rocks beneath the North Sea. The main barriers to implementation of CO2 sequestration from power plant are financial, approximately 85% of the costs result from the need to separate the CO2 from the flue gas. More research and development in this field is urgently required, to develop the prospect of coal-fired power generation in the next century with minimum CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.