Argument: Coal plant waste gases can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery


“G8 WANTS ‘CLEAN’ COAL TRIALS BUT THERE IS A CATCH”. New Energy News. 16 June 2008 – “Clean” coal is more precisely named carbon capture and sequestration (or storage) (CCS). The idea is simple. Coal is burned to generate heat to boil water to create steam to drive turbines to make electricity. CO2 gases are a byproduct of burning coal. The plan: Capture the CO2. Store the captured gases in (theoretically) airtight pockets deep underground.

The process has been and continues to be done on a small scale, though imprecisely. In oil-producing regions, coal plant gases have been trapped and injected into flagging oil wells to drive more oil out. This is called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

EOR is costly, but the extra oil production justifies the expense. There is no certainty of the quality or quantity of the emissions captured, which doesn’t matter to the oil producers as long as the gases drive oil out of their wells. The gases appear to remain safely in the wells but, once again, this is not of paramount concern to the oil producers. There is little scientific evidence about the permanence of the gases sequestered in the wells and some studies suggest there might be slow leakage.