China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is looking for years of rapid growth fuelled by coal as its main energy source. Thus scientists are stepping up efforts to limit emissions by capturing and storing them.
But experts say the technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS), as the technology for confining emissions is usually known, is costly and parts of it are unproven.
The technology would, in theory, allow China to continue fueling growth with coal, while controlling or even cutting the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.
The problem is the technology for capturing carbon dioxide is expensive and energy-intensive, reducing the amount of electricity generated for each ton of coal and increasing its cost.
China’s first commercial-scale demonstration plant —- now under construction —- will have pre-combustion capture, where coal is gasified and CO2 stripped out leaving hydrogen as a fuel.
A recent study conducted with the European Union suggested that China could reduce emissions 36% from a base scenario for 2050 if it poured resources into carbon control plans including building 400 gigawatts of power plants with CCS.
This is a massive amount, equivalent to nearly five times Britain’s current capacity —- but amounts to less than half China’s own installed power capacity even now.
Reuters reports that construction has started on the GreenGen power plant that should start power production in 2011 and carbon capture in 2016.