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NZ Consortium Throws Weight Behind Aust Govt’s Commitment
To Carbon Capture Research
Chris Mole - Associate Editor

June 23, 2004

A consortium of three NZ companies is to invest $1.75b in research into carbon capture or geo-sequestration, a controversial process of capturing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations and storing them underground.

Solid Energy, Genesis Energy, and Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) will link up with a 7-year Aust research programme, funded 50% by the Aust Govt and backed by several multi-national oil and energy companies. The NZ consortium is a swift response to the Howard Govt’s announcement last week it will invest $100m over four years to research geo-sequestration, as part of a commitment to keep generating electricity from coal in the foreseeable future.

The geo-sequestration process involves pumping CO2 into depleted oil and gas wells, deep coal seams, saline aquifers, or under the seabed.

Solid Energy CEO Dr Don Elder says: “Coal is NZ’s best option for secure and affordable energy supply in the future. Capture and storage of CO2 offers the opportunity to avoid the carbon tax and directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.” As part of the project, Genesis will investigate a prototype CO2 extraction plant at Huntly. GNS CEO Alex Malahoff says: “Our aim is to put CO2 from fossil fuels back where it came from - deep underground. We need to demonstrate geo-sequestration is a safe, economic and environmentally benign option for NZ.”

Martin Harvey from the NZ Climate Change Office says our Govt is open-minded about the technology but has no plans to actively support research in this country. But Elder believes the Govt should be following the lead not only of Aust but also several other countries, which are investing heavily in geo-sequestration research.

CRL Energy is among a small group of NZ companies seeking Govt and industry funding for more research into geo-sequestration. Operations Manager Trevor Matheson believes it’s “one of the few options we have if we’re serious about reducing CO2 emissions.”

The Govt funded a pilot project into geo-sequestration two years ago, which looked at possible NZ sites for storing CO2 emissions. Matheson says a longer-term goal is to research ocean storage options.Aust’s Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham, is a strong supporter of geo-sequestration. So too is Shell Oil chairman Lord Ron Oxburgh, who admits he is deeply concerned about the impact of global warming on the planet.

“Sequestration is difficult, but if we don’t have sequestration then I see very little hope for the world.”  

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