Canada rolls out carbon dioxide capture unit

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The Independent Online

Canada's natural resources ministry on Monday launched the first mobile carbon dioxide capture and compressor unit to measure and analyze power plants' emissions.

The CanCO2's tangled metal pipes and gauges tucked inside a semi-trailer can remove pollutants from a sampling of fossil fuel-fired plants' emissions while purifying and compressing carbon dioxide for transport, storage or use.

The data generated in field tests may then be used to scale up the technology.

"The science is ready to roll out but we have to demonstrate it to bolster confidence in it before industry invests heavily in it," Kourosh Zanganeh, leader of the ministry's Zero-Emission Technologies Group, told AFP.

"By generating data, we can address some of the unknowns about carbon capture and storage still concerning people," such as costs, what kinds of gases can be processed and how best to process them, he said.

The group is currently negotiating with two companies looking to scale up the technology that Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said would help Ottawa meet its "commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020."

Others have also expressed interest in trials, said Geoff Murphy, director of the ministry's business office, responsible for commercializing its technologies.

The new technology is also suitable for separating carbon dioxide generated by oxy-fuel (burning of fuel and pure oxygen) power plants.

Two other currently available technologies require the use of solvents to separate the CO2, which must then be "cleansed" of the solvents, Zanganeh explained.

The purity of carbon dioxide is key to avoiding contamination of the ground where it will be stored.

SaskPower in western Canada is to decide this year whether to build the nation's first oxy-fuel power plant.

Saskatchewan province launched the first commercial carbon capture and storage in Weyburn in 2000, injecting liquid CO2 into depleted oil reservoirs to squeeze out their last drops of oil.

Still the world's largest CO2 capture and storage facility, it demonstrated that carbon dioxide can be stored underground safely and potentially indefinitely.