Coal-fired power plants are major contributors to our planet’s pollution problems. Even though fewer new plants are being built, limited progress is made on capturing and sequestering the carbon released.
At present, only a few million tons of CO2 are captured and stored annually. Recent MIT research suggests that carbon sequestering can reduce human generated CO2 to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 – the level most climate scientists now say is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
In Europe that message has sunk in. Nine European countries are building fifteen research laboratories for CO2 capture and storage. The labs will be built at a total cost of €81 million (about $105 million US) and are sponsored by Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary. Poland, Croatia and Denmark.
The laboratories will play a decisive role in developing efficient technologies for the capture, transportation and storage of CO2 from Europe’s coal and gas-fueled power stations and industrial plants.
The research conducted in the labs is so expensive that it makes sense to share the facilities, according to the sponsors: “Some types of laboratory are so expensive that it would not make sense to build one in each individual country”.
The labs will focus on:
- absorption technology (for scrubbing CO2 from flue-gases with the aid of chemicals)
- materials and process technology,
- combustion technology,
- storage technology,
- refrigeration (technology for separating CO2 out of gas mixtures by freezing).
All the labs are overseen by an institution set up in 2002 called the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. The facilities will be equipped with a completely new generation of laboratory equipment, and are available to scientists from all EU and European Economic Agreement (EEA) countries.
Image Credit: US Deparment of Energy