Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
There are efforts to offset carbon emissions by creating carbon sinks or carbon 'sequestration' which describes removing carbon from the atmosphere. The use of coal as a giant filter is based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, and storing it in such a way that it does not enter our air.
There are 79 operational or planned large-scale Carbon Capture and Storage projects worldwide. North America (with 39 projects) and Europe (with 21 projects) lead the way. Estimates are that to meet global climate change goals at lowest cost, extensive deployment of CCS is critical: around 100 large-scale CCS projects are needed by 2020, and over 3,000 by 2050. While there are over 70 projects currently planned, it is uncertain how many of them will be realised.
While in Christchurch and in New Zealand plans to use CCS as part of energy planning are limited, New Zealand doesn't have a large coal power generation capacity, and we only have one coal power plant up near Huntly. In New Zealand the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Centre (NZAGRC) has been tasked with looking at ways to use soil carbon sinks to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and contribute to New Zealand's Kyoto commitments. Professor Frank Kelliher of AgResearch and Dr David Whitehead of Landcare are both based just out of Christchurch at Lincoln and they lead a team of plant, animal, soil and biochar scientists across New Zealand. Their research has so far shown that soil carbon storage rate from photosynthesis is highly variable and to date much of New Zealand research has concentrated on accurately quantifying the amount of carbon stored in soils.
In Australia the Queensland Government has committed A$1 million for a groundbreaking trial which uses algae to soak up carbon emissions from the Tarong Power Station, the first coal-fired power station in Australia to use the technology as part of the $5 million MBD Energy Limited trial. MBD Ltd plans to capture CO2 to feed its algae plants to produce clean energy in Australia.