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carbon capture & storage

OLogy Series
geology
card
304

carbon capture & storage

OLogy Series
geology

Scientists are developing and improving "clean" energy sources. But for the next hundred years, the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for its electricity. Sadly, burning these fuels using current technology pollutes the air with carbon dioxide. One solution is to capture this greenhouse gas before it enters the atmosphere, then store it as a liquid. This process is called carbon capture and storage (CCS).

In CCS, carbon dioxide is captured when coal or natural gas are burned. Then the gas is turned into a fluid and may be stored:

deep underground

in Arctic glaciers

inside thick-walled warehouses

Are you right?

Correct!

But scientists don't know for sure if this is safe. Part of the challenge is to find ways to safely store large quantities of liquid carbon dioxide underground.

Today, liquid carbon dioxide is already being injected into the Utsira formation, a thick layer of rock:

in an enormous canyon in France

below the North Sea

under a volcano in the Pacific Northwest

Are you right?

Correct!

This vast layer of sandstone is very porous (it has many holes, like a sponge). It can hold large amounts of liquid carbon dioxide. It's also covered with a thick layer of solid shale to keep the carbon dioxide from escaping.

By using carbon capture and storage, coal could provide the world's electricity forever.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

CCS makes burning this fossils fuel cleaner. But Earth's coal supply is limited. Some scientists estimate that coal could be gone within 200 years.

Carbon capture and storage is an inexpensive way to burn fossil fuels.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Burning fossil fuels the way we do now may be cheap. But it will be more expensive using CCS. Still, electricity from coal-burning plants with CCS may be cheaper than solar energy.

Definition: the capture of carbon dioxide gas released from fossil fuel-burning power plants
Carbon Dioxide Emissions: some (but less than current fossil fuel burning technology plants)
Cost: expensive (vs. other energy sources)
Location: could be used anywhere that coal or natural gas is used, like U.S., Russia, and China
Current Use: this new technology is being tested
Cool Fact: 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants could be stored.

Image credits: courtesy of Dag Myrestrand / StatoilHydro.