Climate Countdown: T-Minus 4 (Updated)

The EPA’s jihad against coal is going to come sugar coated with assurances that we can still burn coal provided utilities and power generators manage to sequester their carbon emissions.  Carbon sequestration!  The environmental equivalent of Thirty Days to Thinner Thighs!  (Except at 100 times the cost stated in the infomercial.)

The problem here is that the technology appears to be hugely expensive and is largely unproven beyond a few miniscule uses for carbon dioxide injected into enhanced oil recovery projects.  Maybe this will change—the EPA better hope so or its prospective rule will be vulnerable to legal challenge—but so far the augurs are not good.  To wit, one of the world’s biggest carbon capture and sequestration demonstration projects, much touted over the last few years, has come a cropper:

Norway nixes big carbon capture project at Statoil refinery in Mongstad

By KJETIL MALKENES HOVLAND

OSLO—Norway is shutting down the Statoil-operated Mongstad full-scale CO2 capture project, Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe said Friday, ending the prestigious environmental project that outgoing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg branded Norway’s “moon landing” in 2007.

The International Energy Agency — the energy watchdog of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development — has said that CO2 capture and storage from power plants fired by oil, gas and coal will play a vital role in worldwide efforts to limit global warming, contributing to about 20% of required emissions reductions in 2050.

The Mongstad full-scale project was meant to capture CO2 from the nearby gas-fired power plant and refinery, and the government had estimated the planning to cost NOK3 billion. The project is led by Statoil, but the government pays all the costs.

The project has been both challenging and costly, and the risks are now seen as too big to go through with it, the government said.

“We must have a project we can stand for, so we can show that this [technology] is good,” Mr. Moe told the Wall Street Journal in an interview. “When our assessment is that Mongstad isn’t such a project, it’s the right thing to do what we are now doing, taking the consequences.”

The uncertainty about the CO2 capture project also increased because the Western European refinery business is struggling, the government said. This has hurt the margins at Statoil’s Mongstad refinery, one of the project’s CO2 sources.

Statoil said it has no plans to shut down the refinery, which ran a surplus in 2012 for the first time in years, and was going through a cost savings program.

There’s more at the link, but this is enough.  Norway’s government has spent 7.2 billion kroner on this project, which is roughly about $1.5 billion.  That’s a lot to spend on a refinery for no additional energy output.

Stay tuned for Friday, and check back for tomorrow’s Climate Countdown feature.

UPDATE: Did the Obama EPA just blink a little:

WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday that forthcoming rules on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants will not require them to have carbon capture and storage technology.

Speaking with reporters at a breakfast event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, McCarthy said that the technology is not a good fit for the power plants that are already in operation.

“[Carbon capture and storage] is really effective as a tool to reduce emissions when it’s designed with the facility itself,” said McCarthy. “It is not seen, at least at this stage, as an add-on that can be used on an existing facility. It doesn’t seem like it’s appropriate at this stage.”

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