Battle for carbon capture as a tool to fight climate change | Surroundings – Advice Eating

Last year, Congress pledged $3.5 billion to carbon capture and sequestration projects in the United States, which supporters of the technology have called the largest federal investment ever. Proponents say the technology is badly needed if the world hopes to move away from fossil fuels, and the United Nations’ leading scientists say it could be part of the solution. But advocates of environmental justice and residents of contaminated communities are wary of the technology, with many calling it a “wrong solution.”

Polly Glover realized her son had asthma when he was nine months old. The 26-year-old always carries an inhaler in his pocket when he’s out and about in Prairieville, Louisiana, part of the parish of Ascension.

“He probably needs to openly leave Ascension,” says Glover, but he hasn’t because “this is his home and this is our family and this is our community.”

The community is part of the 84-mile span between New Orleans and Baton Rouge officially designated the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor, better known as Cancer Alley. Air quality in the region is among the worst in the United States, and at several points along the corridor the risk of cancer is much higher than levels considered acceptable by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Glover says the air where she lives is “terrible,” but there’s also a great diversity of species — ospreys, eagles, migratory birds, deer, rabbits, fish and alligators — among the region’s lakes, rivers and wetlands. The environmentalist has been working for 30 years to preserve the place she has loved since childhood.

For that reason, she’s wary of anything that could degrade air quality or threaten wildlife — and her biggest fear now is that a $4.5 billion facility designed to capture climate-changing carbon dioxide and produce clean-burning hydrogen will fail Lake will actually do more damage to Maurepas Basin.

The blue hydrogen power plant is to be built and operated by Air Products and Chemicals, a multinational petrochemical company. The company says the facility will capture carbon emissions from the air produced during production and safely transport them underground – a process known as carbon capture and storage.

“Sometimes I think people think you’re kind of fizzing that in at the bottom of the lake,” said Simon Moore, vice president of investor relations, corporate relations and sustainability at Air Products. “You know, that’s a mile below the surface where the geological formation of the rock has this porous space that just soaks up the CO2.”

Still, Glover is concerned. “I’m not a scientist. I’m a caring mom,” she said. “We need to be better about the environment, and while reducing CO2 emissions is necessary, injecting it into the tank is not the solution.”

Several other carbon capture and storage projects are proposed or in progress in the US, including in Louisiana, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and California. Companies behind them claim they can successfully remove carbon from the air to reduce pollution, and then safely transport and store the carbon underground — or do both.

In some cases, oil and gas companies are turning to this new technology either to help build new profit centers, such as B. Hydrogen production plants, or to extend the life of their fossil fuel plants.

Carbon capture and storage projects are gaining momentum since Congress approved $3.5 billion for them last year. The Global CCS Institute, a think tank that aims to advance these projects worldwide, called it the “largest single grant of funds to CCS in the history of the technology.”

In the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN), the world’s leading scientists say carbon capture and storage technologies must be part of the solutions to decarbonization and mitigating climate change. But they said solar and wind power and electricity storage are improving faster than carbon capture and storage.

Opponents of carbon capture and storage claim the technology is unproven and less effective at decarbonizing the energy sector than alternatives like solar and wind.

“Carbon capture is neither practical nor feasible,” said Basav Sen, climate justice policy director at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank based in Washington, DC.

A late 2020 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that over 80% of 39 projects that attempted to commercialize carbon capture and storage failed. The study named the lack of technological readiness as a top factor

But even if the technology were used successfully, several critics say the projects would pose a public health threat to communities long plagued by air and water pollution.

First, they said that any project that extends the life of an existing industrial facility represents additional environmental damage by increasing the time it pollutes a community, which the IPCC report confirms.

Second, they found that carbon capture would require more energy to power devices, which would result in more air pollution, since the technology can only capture a portion of the carbon emitted by a facility.

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Howard Herzog, senior research engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and pioneer of carbon capture and storage technology, denies this in an interview with the Associated Press. However, he acknowledged that transporting and storing carbon poses a risk.

In 2020, a compressed carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in the city of Satartia, Mississippi, resulting in over 40 people being hospitalized and more than 300 being evacuated. The incident is cited by experts, advocates and residents living near proposed carbon capture and storage projects to illustrate the potential dangers of transporting carbon over long distances.

Injecting carbon for storage underground could lead to contamination of aquifers, according to Nikki Reisch, director of the climate and energy program at the Center for International Environmental Law.

Over 500 environmental organizations, including the Law Center, signed an open letter published in the Washington Post in July 2021, calling carbon capture and storage the “wrong solution.”

In response, the Carbon Capture Coalition, which champions the technology, released its own letter in August with over 100 signatures. They urged Congress to include investments in carbon capture and storage in all pending legislation.

Matt Fry, a state and regional policy manager at the Great Plains Institute, a Minneapolis-based climate and energy think tank, told AP that the technology is essential to meeting mid-century climate goals.

“The potential for a fully decarbonized, electrified world is a reality,” Fry said. “But we have to change trains to get there. And it will require carbon capture to address those emissions.”

At the time of recording, Herzog said the technology poses a “very low” public health threat. “There’s always the possibility of some mishaps,” he added, “but on the overall chemical plant scale, (the technology) is pretty benign.” .”

Still, residents living near the planned projects are concerned.

In California’s Central Valley farming region, Chevron, Microsoft and Schlumberger New Energy are teaming up to build a facility in the city of Mendota that will generate energy by converting agricultural waste into carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas and then mixing it with oxygen to generate electricity Promise to capture 99% of the carbon from the process.

Chevron said it plans to inject the carbon “underground into nearby deep geological formations.”

That’s worrying for Nayamin Martinez, who lives in the valley and is director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network. “That worries us a lot,” she said. “What does that mean in terms of the risk of contamination of drinking water?”

Creighton Welch, a spokesman for Chevron, said the process they plan to use is safe. “CO2 capture, injection and storage are not new technologies and have been safely performed for decades,” Welch said.

Back in Louisiana, Glover and other residents also worry that carbon capture technology will affect the water. Carbon dioxide captured at the Air Products and Chemicals facility is stored in places like Lake Maurepas, an important wetland.

Kim Coates, who lives on the northeast side of the lake, said it’s a buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and residents. But she said she has witnessed generations of destruction of this ecosystem from industrial development and more recently from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Now Coates fears more about carbon being stored under the lake. “We saw the destruction over time with no one looking forward to what would happen in the future,” she said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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