4 April 2008

Australia delivers carbon capture first

The Australian government this week opened a new carbon dioxide storage facility in the country's southern state of Victoria – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The so-called "geosequestration plant" was opened near the town of Warrnambool, west of Melbourne. It allows CO2 emitted from a power station to be captured, compressed into a liquid and then pumped via pipeline two kilometres underground to a gas reservoir that it estimated can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of the greenhouse gas.

"What is really innovative about this project is that it is the world's most comprehensive carbon dioxide storage and monitoring programme," a spokesperson for the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) Otway Project, which is running the project, told

"We will be monitoring the air, soil, gas and ground water over the next two years to see what the effects are and how the levels are changing," they added. "While there are carbon storage facilities in Norway and Algeria, this is the first time it is being stored for science purposes rather than as a commercial project."

There are around 144 similar plants in operation in the US. However, their goal is to pump the CO2 underground in order to recover coal reserves.

The CO2CRC spokesperson added that the long-term goal was to develop the technology to a point where it is economical to use in developing nations, particularly heavy polluters such as China and India.

The technology is also expected to have a major role to play in Australia itself, which relies on carbon intensive coal-fired power stations for the vast majority of its energy. However, environmentalists gave a mixed reaction to the new plant, claiming it is diverting attention away from the urgent need to transition away from coal altogether and towards cleaner energy sources.

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