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Carbon capture: side effects

Further information on side effects.

All separation and capture techniques impose efficiency penalties to power generating plants, thus increasing the amount of fuel necessary to generate a given quantity of power and reducing the beneficial effect of capture. Moreover, some techniques have further impacts – for example, amines are an efficient liquid solvent to use in the separation process, but their release has significant environmental impacts as they are highly toxic.

As well as the additional energy required throughout the CCS process, there are other potential CO2 increasing side-effects of CCS. One is the additional possibilities it provides for extracting fossil fuels when CO2 is injected into reservoirs containing such fuels. Another is the perceived disincentive the CCS will provide to the discovery and operationalisation of truly sustainable energy sources.

A further side-effect of CCS is the increased risk associated with the transport of CO2. If a rupture occurred in a transport pipeline then the cloud of ground-hugging CO2 would be fatal to anyone trapped underneath it. The risk of leaks from stored CO2 reservoirs is predicted to be low, and much has been learned from operations to extract oil and gas. However, one particular risk surrounds the possibility of ‘over injecting’ reservoirs, and this is an area that is still poorly understood.

Not all side effects are negative, however, and one potential benefit of the development of a CCS scheme is the economic opportunities that it will promote. A good example of this is in the Yorkshire and Humber area, which has been designated a Low Carbon Economic Area by the UK government.

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