Canadian Firms to Design World’s First Carbon Capture Standard

In an attempt to bring some order to a fractured – and controversial – industry, two Canadian organizations have announced a partnership to develop a set of standards for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Standards organization CSA Standards and the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide (IPAC-CO2) hope the best practices they develop for the Canadian CCS industry will eventually provide a model for CCS standards internationally.

CCS is the process of pulling CO2 out of emissions from industrial and energy sources and pumping it into geological formations underground, instead of allowing the CO2 into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.

“This is a growing industry, and like any industry, you have technology going ahead of the standards,” said Joe Ralko, Manager of Corporate Communications for IPAC-CO2. Ralko predicted the CCS industry will be larger than the natural gas industry within forty years – a trillion dollar industry.

The standards the two organizations develop will be “cradle to grave,” according to Ralko, covering every aspect of the CCS process, and will be completed in 18 months.

There are several CCS research projects underway worldwide, but there is currently no universal set of standards governing the process of CO2 extraction, transport and sequestration. A universal set of standards for safety, storage site selection and other aspects of CCS would help regulators, environmental groups and industry determine whether a CCS project is safe and viable.

CCS has come under criticism as being an impractical and extremely expensive method of reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

The Department of Energy estimates CCS costs $150 per ton of CO2 (others say $200), but the technology is attractive to the coal industry and other big polluters, as it may prove a savior if a cap on industrial CO2 emissions is introduced.

Two professors at Houston University claimed in a paper publicized in April that CCS’s potential has been greatly exaggerated.

According to the paper by Michael Economides, professor of chemical engineering at Houston, and  co-author Christene Ehlig-Economides, professor of energy engineering at Texas A&M University, it would take a geologic reservoir the size of a small state to store the CO2 from just one power plant.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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