Pioneering CO2 storage facility opens in Germany
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs helped to launch a test CO2 storage facility in Ketzin, Germany, on 13 June. The pilot installation is the first of its kind on land in Europe, and was developed within a project funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP6). The installation is expected to provide new information on the practical aspects of storing CO2 from power generation underground. As CO2 emissions from power generation are a major source of greenhouse gases, which the majority of scientists believe are causing global warming, the project has an important role to play in the EU's battle against climate change. 'The Commission believes that underground storage of CO2 may contribute to the technological progress that should make carbon sequestration and storage become a reality after 2020,' said Mr Piebalgs. 'Today, Europe is taking an important step in making this goal reachable.' Over the two-year pilot period, some 60,000 tonnes of CO2 will be injected into the aquifer of salty water - roughly the annual carbon dioxide output of 40,000 cars. The CO2SINK project, which received EU funding of ¿8.7 million, is working towards a future storage facility at a depth of 1,800 metres. It will test different ways of injecting CO2 underground, and will establish reliable methods for monitoring the long-term stability of stored CO2. The rest of the project's ¿30 million budget has come from the German Ministry of Economics and Labour, and from industry. This pilot version of the facility is located between 800 and 850 metres below ground, and is beneath a former East German storage site for natural gas. Scientists will monitor whether any chemical reactions take place between the CO2 and the minerals present. If a reaction were to occur, it could dissolve the 'cap-rock' that seals the storage site, or contaminate ground water. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global energy demand will be growing by 1.7% per year by 2030. Although energy from nuclear and renewable sources is expected to increase, the IEA forecasts that a massive 85% of the rise in demand will be met through the greater use of fossil fuels. Meanwhile the EU is seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% by 2020, and says that the European power sector will need to drastically reduce the amounts of CO2 resulting from the use of fossil fuels. Capture and geological storage is one of the ways in which emissions can be cut at an acceptable cost. The results of the CO2SINK project will be important for the further development of technologies for underground storage. They will also be used as a basis for future policies in this field: the Commission is currently considering options for stimulating the construction and operation of between 10 and 12 industrial-scale demonstration power plants by 2015. These would be expected to prove the commercial viability of carbon capture and storage-equipped coal and gas fired power plants by 2020. The demonstration plants will draw heavily on the experiences of the Ketzin plant.