One of the more curious curiosities of energy production is that oil and gas extractors will often inject carbon-dioxide deep underground. They do this because the CO2 helps displace the fossil fuels, pushing them up to the surface and making them easier to extract. As a nice bonus, the technique also lets them lay claim to some green cred for “sequestering” CO2 underground where it can’t contribute to climate change. At least that’s the idea.
The problem, however, is all too easy to predict. From the Winnipeg Free Press, an alarming story from Saskatchewan:
Since 2000, Cenovus has injected about 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground to force more oil from an aging field and safely store greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to climate change.
But in 2005, the Kerrs began noticing algae blooms, clots of foam and multicoloured scum in two ponds at the bottom of a gravel quarry on their land. Sometimes, the ponds bubbled. Small animals—cats, rabbits and goats—were regularly found dead a few metres away.
Then there were the explosions.
It’s worth a read. Fearing for their safety, the family abandoned the farm. Yet the oil company denies that their CO2 is leaking from the underground resevoirs — despite rather damming evidence to the contrary.
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What’s even more alarming, however, is that so-called carbon capture and sequestration is routinely touted as a way that we can have our fossil fuel cake and eat it too. We’re told that we can continue burning coal, drilling for oil, and all the rest of it without climate consequences because we’ll figure out a way to stuff the CO2 back underground. And while there are a range of different techniques for sequestering carbon in geologic formations—and different circumstances under which it is proposed — all of them are premised on the notion that the gases will stay put, and not find a way back up to the surface and into the air. It’s an uncertain proposition.
Fortunately, there is one absolutely reliable method of sequestering fossil fuel carbon, a method that just happens to be far cheaper than the expensive sequestration technologies now under consideration. Basically, what you do is this: you leave fossil fuels in the ground and you don’t burn them.