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Store It In Saskatoon

Yesterday jhwygirl over at 4 & 20 Blackbirds posted a dandy article on the Canadian Premier Championing Montana as a “Test Site” for Carbon Sequestration. jh makes much of the super-secret meeting in Big Sky between the premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, Brian Schweitzer and other select governors. The meeting supposedly covered, along with other topics, the proposed project in which Montana would become the dumping ground for noxious gases from Canada, which was covered in this previous Bugle article. The Bugle staff was particularly struck by a link to a reference article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix (great name for a newspaper by the way). In the article and, I assume, during the congregation at Big Sky, Premier Wall made much of the celebrated Weyburn-Midale CO2 Project. Mention of one of the foremost sequestration demonstrations on the planet immediately caught the attention of the editorial staff.

valley_ad1Let us review: Weyburn-Midale takes rather clean CO2 from a coal gasification plant at Beulah, North Dakota, pumps it about 200 miles north to the depleted oil fields at Weyburn and Midale, Saskatchewan. There, some of the gas is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and some is stored deep in the Canadian soil. The eight-year, $80 million project is scheduled to finish up in 2011 after storing around 34 million tons of CO2. The Weyburn-Midale website boasts that this is equivalent to removing around 8 million cars from the road for one year. Proof of concept for carbon sequestration? Well, not really. The CO2 from the gasification plant is already relatively pure so the processing costs are minimal. Piping and injecting CO2 into oil fields has been done many times before. This presumably does not demonstrate sequestration from a dirty source, like a coal-fired power plant and injection into virgin pore spaces.

In the end, the project expects to use some of the carbon dioxide to extend oil production from the old, worn out oil fields. Expectation is that they will have recovered around 222 million barrels of oil that would not have been otherwise possible. So, what is the carbon footprint of an extra 222 million barrels of oil? Well, let’s see. It takes about 5 barrels of oil to produce a ton of CO2 emissions from the produced gasoline. 222 million barrels divided by five…that means that the extra oil will produce around 44 million tons of CO2 from the tailpipes of cars around the world. So, the wonder project will remove 34 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and produce 44 million tons, about 10 million tons more pollution than would have occurred without sequestration and enhanced recovery. By my count, this is equivalent to putting about 10 million CO2-spewing cars back on the highway. Is this really the kind of no-win situation that the “clean coal” folks want to be touting?

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