9 Key questions

Participants were encouraged to record any additional questions that arose during the presentation and discussion sessions. These questions were put ‘on notice’ and following the workshop expert responses were provided. The questions and responses are listed below:

What is the proposed footprint of infrastructure including pipeline?

This has yet to be determined. The intention for the CO2 pipelines is to utilise existing pipeline easements where possible. There are some areas where this may not be possible such as the Northern side of Collie and some of the injection sites. The footprint at the injection site is not large. For instance the Otway Basin well fits easily onto a standard quarter acre block. The same would apply to a single compressor station located within the injection area.

If the CCS project is approved and infrastructure built – what happens if subsequently the sequestered gases start escaping before 1000 years?

Any potential leakage from a project will be the subject of detailed risk assessment procedures, well before any injection occurs. Project proponents can determine where leakage is occurring through monitoring activities. There are established procedures in the oil & gas industry for dealing with leaks, such as plugging leaking wells or reducing reservoir pressure.

If cost includes capital cost, the rate will be dependent upon the period over which you write off this capital cost?

Normal financial criteria are expected to apply. The major inputs into the financial analysis are:

  • Capital costs for capture, transport and injection;
  • Operating costs for capture, transport and injection;
  • Cost of funds.

Write off provisions will be determined by taxation and auditing standards (which may vary from project to project).

Transportation of CO2 to suitable site – Rail, road, pipeline?

This project is based on CO2 being transported by pipeline. Road transport was one of the options briefly considered for the CO2 trial period but after early analysis was dismissed due to the expense and the lack of suitable road haulage vehicles within the State. Rail was not considered due to the congestion on the current line and the need to bring a separate spur to the site.

What is the cost per tonne of carbon that is captured and stored?

Costs are project specific and depend on a number of factors including the type of capture technology used, the length of the pipeline, the conditions of the reservoirs, as well as the economic conditions at the time the project is implemented. There is no one single number that can be used to described all projects. CO2CRC research shows that CCS costs can range from A$75 to over A$100 per tonne CO2 avoided using current technology. However, costs will be reduced as CCS technology improves, with estimates of over A$20 per tonne CO2 avoided.

This is a figure that will be progressively developed over the next four years. Our current estimate for the Collie Hub Project is:

  • $50 Carbon Capture;
  • $10 Carbon transport;
  • $10 Carbon storage.

Can the captured carbon become a future resource?

CO2 is already used in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries. Future uses of CO2 may include feedstock for algae producing biofuels or building materials from mineralisation. However, none of these industries are capable of dealing in the short-medium term with the large volumes of CO2 emissions that need to be kept out of the atmosphere.

Is there a recycling process that can use CO2?

See above. Research is underway to use CO2 in new ways but it is at an early stage.

When non-food grade CO2 is eventually pumped in to the ground, what contaminants will affect a) groundwater; b) surface farming; and c) anything else (e.g. fauna)?

CCS proponents will have to satisfy regulators that CO2 will not affect groundwater, farming or fauna. Any other substance injected with the CO2 will be regulated to the same extent.

Are there adverse effects of CO2 storage for the environment, farming and air quality?

See above.

What happens to potable water (underground) near or adjacent to carbon drilling operations and particularly near the carbon storage areas? In other words, will groundwater be affected or become unavailable?

The geology of the area is carefully assessed so that there is effective separation between any potable source and the storage reservoir. The CO2 is modeled to ensure there will be no movement into potable aquifers. Furthermore, CO2 storage is at depths of more than 800 metres, and often 2 kilometres or more. This is usually far deeper than potable water sources.

What are the likely timeframes for the Collie Hub Project?

The key decision points following the 2011 seismic and stratigraphic data acquisition are:

  • December 2011: Detailed geophysical works (more seismic and additional data wells);
  • December 2012: Progress to CO2 trial;
  • September 2014: Progress to commercial operations.

A final decision on the project may not be made until late in 2015.

Has any drilling taken place yet?

There has been no drilling within the area of interest. Many years ago a series of water bores were drilled to a depth of 800 metres to the north and south of the area.

What happens if CO2 leakage occurs?

It is unlikely large amounts of CO2 would escape in the case of a breach. In most cases escaped CO2 will either form a lump of dry ice adjacent to the pipe or disperse very quickly and be rapidly diluted in the atmosphere. As CO2 is a natural part of the composition of the air it is very unlikely there would be any lasting effects.

How similar or different is naturally occurring CO2 and the CO2 that is injected into storage?

CO2 from different sources can be differentiated by their isotopic signature. Further information can be found by following this link: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/how-do-we-know-that-recent-cosub2sub-increases-are-due-to-human-activities-updated/

CCS project proponents can also use very small amounts of tracer gases to ‘label’ the CO2 for monitoring purposes.

Where will the different aspects of the Collie Hub project be located?

Capture and compression will be based at the emitting facility. Transport will be by pipeline and it is expected that current easements will be utilised. Storage location will be determined at some stage in the future following extensive analysis of the surrounding geology.

I did not notice anyone I knew from within the “target” area. Was anyone from that area invited to attend the workshop? If not, why not?

Invitations were sent to Councils, business organisations, local Members of Parliament and community groups. The Forum was also advertised in the South Western Times and the Harvey Waroona Reporter. In addition there was also some general media coverage including interviews on the ABC local radio. It is too early to identify individuals within the “target” area as this is still a very broad description.

“Australian Emissions” show 5% from industrial processes. I had understood that industry uses much more power than domestic – Is industry included in “Stationary Energy” (Australian Emissions Slide – Presentation Part 1)?

Industry’s use of electricity and natural gas is captured in the stationary energy component.

It is true that industry uses roughly half of all electricity generated. The residential and commercial sectors consume the remainder in roughly equivalent proportions.

Environmental issues with Wind Power? Is it only some bird species? Can they not just relocate themselves?

A report written some years ago by Ian Smales and Mark Venosta for the Department of Environment and Heritage investigated the risk level of collision at wind farms in Gippsland, Victoria, to select species listed under the ‘Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act’. They concluded “Collisions with wind turbines pose little risk to the majority of the thirty-four species evaluated here”. The reference available at http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/pubs/wind-farm-bird-risk-gippslandbirds.pdf provides a useful list of additional references.

How extensive are offshore wind farms?

They are still at the development stage but several are being developed in Europe, particularly the UK and Germany.

Biomass – how is steam created, what is burnt?

The simplest thing to do with biomass is to just burn it but this is inefficient and there is little opportunity to bury the associated CO2 or carbon. It’s also possible to create either a liquid or a gaseous fuel from biomass that can be transported and then burned for a great many applications not just steam! There are many forms of biomass and many processes for turning it into fuel. The kinds of processes involved may be biochemical, chemical or thermal e.g. fermentation to turn starch and sugar into ethanol; or transesterification to turn oils and fats into bio-diesel. Or enzymes can be used to break down wood and plant material into gaseous or liquid fuel; or the biomass can be burned in a reduced oxygen atmosphere so that a gas rich in hydrogen and carbon monoxide is produced (Syngas). Syngas can then be used by itself or further processed to produce liquid fuel or hydrogen for fuel. One of the useful features of these processes is that they provide fuels that have a reduced amount of carbon and provide a concentrated stream of CO2 or solid carbon that can be collected and sequestered (buried).

Why the spike on mean global temperatures (Slide 6 Presentation Part 1)?

The temperature data record is inevitably noisy particularly on a small time scale and particularly if you just look at one data record. It’s interesting to look at a number of separate records and then you can see how much noise is involved, but you will also see a fast rise in recent decades! It’s both the speed and the amount of rise that are important. I’ve attached a slide from the IPCC showing a number of these records and you can then see what I mean! A warning! The left hand side of the graph has been developed using other indicators of temperature rather than precision thermometers and it stretches back hundreds of years before thermometers were invented. In other words the further back in time you go the less reliable the data is. The most reliable record is the black line which has been produced in recent times using modern thermometers.

This picture is from the IPPC report IPCC WG1 AR4 Final Report “The Physical Science Basis -Technical Summary” (February, 2007)

http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_TS.pdf accessed [2007, May.17]

Have we (Government) got a strategy for ensuring we have enough resources (e.g. coal) for the future i.e. not exporting all our resources?

The State Government has just released the Energy2031: Strategic Energy Initiative Directions Paper that includes recommendations on future energy security.

If Australia actions changes to combat increased energy demands, then what constraints can be made on developing countries to keep the emissions under control?

It’s worth remembering that every person in the developing world uses 1/5th to 1/10th as much energy as a person in the developed world. It’s often possible for a person in the developed world to reduce their energy consumption by half or more with no reduction in well being. But imagine how hard it would be for a developing world person to reduce their energy consumption by half to 1/10th or 1/20th of what we use! Have a look at the UNDP graph below and you will see what I mean. One important issue is the world’s growing population. The UN have done some interesting analyses that suggest improving well being and security in the developing world will eventually (mid century) stabilize population growth.

As WA is a larger area with greater distances to cover; larger machinery used; a lot of energy is used for production of goods largely for export especially mining and farming. Therefore a graph showing energy consumption per capita would be more valid.

Australia’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per capita are high relative to the rest of the world. This reflects our high use of fossil fuels, lifestyle factors and large energy intensive minerals industry. Whilst most of these mineral products are exported they become part of our national per capita emission profile. As Western Australia has a disproportionately high amount of Australia minerals industry located within it, WA emissions and energy per capita would be even higher.

Geothermal energy – Concerned about geological factors regarding ground stability and interfering with nature.

It is true that the rock fracturing processes involved with extraction of deep geothermal hot rock resources can lead to enhanced geological instability in the local region.

What can you do – pollution created by used globes as against savings, energy/pollution used/created to make new cars as against maintaining “old steel”?

Recycling is the answer and cars are a good example where a high level of recycling is carried out. These days it takes roughly ten times as much energy to use a car during its lifetime as it takes to build a car. If you have a large old gas guzzler of a car and it only carries about one or two people then you could try trading it to someone who will on average carry three or four people (It’s not easy to find such people though!). If it’s older than 10 years and you can’t sell it to someone who will use it to capacity, it may even be worth scrapping in order to reduce GHG production.

Regarding used light bulbs I can only sympathise. It’s not even appropriate to recycle them in your waste glass bin as a light bulb can easily ruin a tonne or two of recycled bottle glass! Perhaps we should lobby for recycling facilities for light bulbs especially fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury.

Has there been any speculation on harnessing the power in an – electrical storm or a cyclonic storm?

Nicola Tesla from Serbia was a pioneer of the physics of electricity and radio wave theory. He also speculated and experimented with using atmospheric electric fields to generate power. His life is fascinating and well worth reading. In more recent times Dr John Lowke has speculated about the possibility of creating and harnessing power from artificial cyclones.

There is no lack of alternative sources of energy but it’s well worth checking the financial viability of some of the more obscure techniques. Despite his genius Tesla died a very poor man!

Why is this the first seminar outside of Perth?

Previously the CSIRO Science into Society Group has conducted workshops in Australian capital cities including Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth as part of research into the Australian public’s perceptions of low emission energy technologies. The workshop in Harvey was related to the Collie Hub project and therefore was held in the South West region.