Release Date: April 12, 1999
|DOE Reports on
State of the Science Of Carbon Sequestration
Richardson Says Report Offers Broad Vision for New Options to Curb Greenhouse Gases
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today took a first step toward developing a "road map" for research that could lead to a potentially revolutionary approach for reducing greenhouse gases in the world's atmosphere.
DOE released a 200-page "working draft" detailing the emerging science and technology of carbon sequestration - the capture and secure storage of carbon dioxide emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels.
The draft report provides a starting point for government, industry and academia to begin setting priorities and identifying specific directions for research and development activities that could extend over the next quarter century.
"We are starting with a bold vision of what might be possible by 2025 - a safe, predictable and affordable way to prevent carbon dioxide from building up in the atmosphere," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "These research paths could provide new options for the world to respond to climate change concerns."
Once the report is disseminated, DOE plans to convene a public workshop to begin developing a joint government-industry-academia "road map" for future carbon sequestration research and technology development. The workshop likely will be scheduled for either late May or June.
The report focuses on ways to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the primary gases that contribute to the "greenhouse effect" - the phenomena where certain trace gases in the atmosphere trap earth's radiated energy, causing a gradual warming of the earth's surface.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecast that, under "business as usual" conditions, global emissions of carbon dioxide could more than triple over the coming century, from 7.4 billion tons of carbon per year in 1997 to approximately 20 billion tons per year by 2100. The panel also warned that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere could double by the middle of the 21st century and continue to build up even faster in later years, potentially creating a variety of serious environmental consequences.
Various energy options, such as increased use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, and greater energy efficiencies may not, on their own, be sufficient to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Low cost carbon sequestration, however, if it can be developed, would offer an additional option that both industrialized and developing countries could use to manage their carbon emissions.
The report identifies key research needs in several aspects of carbon sequestration, including technologies for separating and capturing carbon dioxide from energy systems and sequestering it in the oceans or geologic formations, or possibly by enhancing the natural carbon cycle of oceans and terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, vegetation, soils, and crops. It also describes advanced options for chemically or biologically transforming carbon dioxide into environmentally safe, potentially marketable products.
"Carbon sequestration is a whole new area of energy-related research," Richardson said. "Our efforts to this point have primarily been to identify the scope of possibilities. But even at this early stage, we recognize the potential of carbon sequestration to provide a fundamentally new approach for dealing with climate change.."
The draft report was developed jointly by DOE's Office of Science and Office of Fossil Energy with assistance from national laboratories, the department's Federal Energy Technology Center, and experts from academic and industry groups.
The report is available in electronic form from the Office of Fossil Energy web site. A limited number of printed copies are also available from the DOE Fossil Energy Communications Office at (202) 586-6503.
DOE will announce details on the upcoming workshop as soon as they become available.
|Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646|