Where would power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions go?


New Delhi : Rapidly increasing energy demand in India – projected to be 448,000 MW by 2020 – would mean huge emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. A group of experts explored ways here Tuesday whether carbon capture and storage (CCS) could contain the problem.

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The two-day workshop of experts, sponsored by Britain’s Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the British High Commission in partnership with India’s Department of Science and Technology and the Planning Commission, sought to find viable ways of CCS.

The NGO Integrated Research and Action for Development (Irade) is facilitating the workshop that ends Wednesday.

Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal set the ball rolling by expressing scepticism over the utility of CCS in the combat against climate change, given the current cost of transporting carbon dioxide, storing it in an abandoned mine shaft that has to be capped, and then monitoring for the next 100 years to ensure there is no leakage.

Secretary in the Ministry of Power Anil Razdan also expressed his scepticism, saying that with current technology, the cost of electricity could double from the 6-7 cents per unit for the consumer, and this would be obviously unacceptable.

Member of Parliament and former power minister Suresh Prabhu said industrialised countries that had put the current load of carbon dioxide in the air should pay this extra cost.

Britain’s High Commissioner to India Richard Stagg was more optimistic than the Indians at the opening session of the workshop, predicting that CCS would be able to reduce the thermal power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions by 85-90 percent.

India uses about 135,000 MW of electricity, 70 percent of it from fossil fuels. To meet the projected 448,000 MW demand by 2020, mega thermal plants are coming up. Every 1,000 MW of power generated means emission of 7.5 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per year.

Stagg wanted India’s new mega power plants to be built in such a way that they would be able to use CCS when the technology developed. IRADe chief Jyoti Parikh also predicted that CCS would become important after 2015.

After all this, Sibal hoped the workshop would go towards development of a CCS technology that would be both “accessible and affordable”.

Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas whose higher concentration in the atmosphere is leading to global warming, which is already responsible for more frequent and more damaging droughts, floods and storms, a significant drop in agricultural output and a rise in the sea level. The tropics and sub-tropics are bearing the brunt of the ill effects.