Carbon capture has captured significant but far from unanimous support among environmentalists. The National Resources Defense Council is wildly enthusiastic about it, seeing it as a chief tool in the fight against climate change, but Greenpeace not long ago put out a report announcing the demise of carbon capture. Among the problems it cited: prohibitively expensive costs; huge energy intensity required in the capture and compression process; the lack of safe-storage certainty; and limits to storage capacity.
The Sierra Club is somewhere in between. It has a bit of a wait and see view, saying “right now, there are no commercially available or widely demonstrated technologies including carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) that make it technologically possible or financially feasible to burn coal without accelerating global warming.”
With the Alabama project, by injecting 550 metric tons of CO2 per day – 100,000 to 150,000 tonnes per year — for two years, and monitoring what happens in and around the site for three years afterward, the DOE hopes to gain insight into the technological possibilities.
But that will still leave the financial feasibility up in the air. A recent International Energy Agency study [PDF] estimated costs of power plants with CO2 capture to be “74 percent higher than the reference costs without capture,” and Greenpeace, in its critique, said the capital costs of coal plants with carbon capture “would be 2 1/2 times that of concentrating solar power and more than 4 times that of wind power.”