Global warming and how harmful it is, can be narrated by even a kid today. But does every one really understand and take seriously – impacts of the phenomenon on this blue and green earth, post a century from today?? Sadly, we’ll have to bid an unfortunate bye-bye to various crux cities – New York City, Venice, Sydney, Mumbai and counting. It is disheartening, that though we’re aware about a death ditch that lies ahead of us, we are not considering any measures to halt and save our dwelling haven, but are rather running faster towards ‘the end’. To acknowledge the jeopardy and maintain certain standards to subside the rampant threat, is the need of the hour today!
It isn’t an effect that occurs as dramatically as illustrated in most movies, however yet, the sooner we act the better it is. Who is the culprit? Fossil fuel energy sources are the demons we need to watch out for, as they contribute nasty levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Most of all, coal based power plants emit large quantities of CO2 by burning millions of tons of fossil fuels every year. Deep down from the earth’s crust, is where these fuels arise from and then, they are burnt, and then; we will be burnt very soon because the burning of these fuels in excess to fulfill electricity and other needs, releases the clouds of CO2 into the atmosphere resulting in our very own life threatening-global warming scenario. However, CO2 was originally embedded into the earth’s crust in the form of fossil fuels and didn’t affect the atmosphere. So carbon isn’t really the bad guy here, it’s us. Lets see our flaws and how we can reverse it with CCS: What Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) aims to do is to reduce the global warming phenomenon by sending this carbon back to where it came from – Deep underground.
CCS works by using proven technologies to capture the carbon dioxide being emitted and storing it in porous rocks deep below the earth’s surface. CCS works in three main stages, capturing and separating the CO2 from the gasses emitted called flue gases, transporting it to a storage location and storing it deep underground or under the ocean. Sounds like some task? Yes, it is, but what’s more important, is that it serves our environment’s matter of concern.
CCS and how?
The first stage i.e. capturing CO2 can occur at in two forms, before and after the fossil fuel is burned. If done before, the process involves heating the fossil fuel in pure oxygen which causes emission of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is then treated with a catalyst to give carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. The two are then separated. If done after combustion, which in case of almost all power plants in India, it is usually by the use of a special filtering equipment. The advantage is that it allows many old power plants to be retrofitted for CCS. Transportation of the trapped CO2 can be done through pipes, which, by the way is proven technique and is currently used to transport CO2 to over 5000 kms in the United States. CO2 can then be stored underground safely, like natural gas has been stored by earth for centuries.
The abundant CO2 that can be stored in a relatively small area:
10 trillion tons of carbon dioxide – Now, how many zeroes does that have? This is the extent to which the mother earth can yet save our souls. The earth can store so many tons of carbon dioxide! This would allow storage of 100 years of CO2 emissions from all human activities. In underground storage, also know as geological sequestration, the pressure underneath, causes CO2 to behave more like a liquid than a gas; thus allowing it to seep through porous rocks.
India is home to a giant population and this majorly confides the poor section, both of which do not have easy access to power and to make things worse, the poor who rely on fossil fuels are helpless on the emissions of CO2. Manufacturing is getting big and so much industrialization and commercialization is taking place – so well, so good for the economic growth! But what about the worse CO2 emission are skyrocketing steeply!?
Does this mean we are doomed?
No, because despite all these factors India’s CO2 emission is only 1/7th of that of the USA and 1/3rd of that of China. It does however mean that we do have significant time to implement CCS technologies and that we should use this to our advantage. Projects in India take longer than other parts of the world and therefore if we start now we could be the forerunners in controlling our carbon emissions. This will enable our economy to grow even faster as in the global scenario we would never be subject to international sanctions due to the fear of uncontrolled carbon emissions. And what’s better, from the experience gained India could become a net exporter of technology.
The entire planet suffers from global warming and it is likely that in the future one country’s CO2 emissions could pose a threat for everyone else. Therefore, it is sensible if the countries take steps to cut down on the emissions by means of crumbling their industries, using economic sanctions. Currently the USA, UK, Norway and several other European countries have put CCS into place and are working to enhance, improve and expand the technology. It is a great move forward and it is time India followed suit. An estimation talks that 86% of the world’s incremental coal needs will come from India and China by the year 2030. We are bound to grow and so will our need for power. If we are able to implement CCS alongside our growing coals power needs, we would certainly be able to create a more sustained environment which would help us sustain our growth. For this to happen, we would need a change in policy. A boost in the practical execution of such a thought, which will do miracles for environment and mankind welfare. The probable reason that the policy change hasn’t occurred already is that CCS can be expensive as it can reduce the power output of a plant by up to 15%.
In a country starved for power, this could mean millions of people having to wait for energy security until enough power plants are up and running. Keeping this into account it is understandable why our policy makers do not see CCS as the need of the hour. However, it is imperative that we are able to think ahead and work towards the bigger picture in the long run. If all the new power plants constructed have CCS technology fitted on them, we need not have the looming fear of controlling CO2 emissions. We can look forward to a green and healthier India which can continue to grow without hesitation of contributing to a degraded climate change.