Sequestration experiment at Boise

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The Vicki Hillhouse article “Program pumps liquefied carbon dioxide underground” gave a very clear and thorough presentation of the sequestration experiment that will put 1,000 tons of CO2 several thousand feet down a well into a basalt layer at the Boise plant, hoping it all turns into calcium carbonate.

The main point to take away from the article, and one clearly stated by the lead scientist, Pete McGrail, is that this is a scientific experiment, and will not be predictive of commercial scale sequestration. McGrail notes that 1,000 tons of CO2 amounts to about three hours of operation of a commercial coal power plant. The CO2 will be injected in two to three weeks, not three hours. A commercial plant would produce 3 million to 5 million tons of CO2 per year — year after year.

In late 2007 a PR firm on behalf of a consortium of corporations filed with the state of Washington to build a coal-fired plant at Wallula. Its totally flawed argument was that a successful Battelle test would prove that sequestration was viable and would open the door to building a coal-fired (IGCC) plant at Wallula.

Happily, the coal plant idea died on the vine. The Port of Walla Walla withdrew its invitation to drill on their land and Battelle moved its experiment to private land at the Boise mill. Battelle then had to wait several years for funding for the experiment to come through.

Good luck to Battelle and McGrail on this interesting experiment.

Remember, “clean coal” is an oxymoron and the reasons for not building a coal-fired plant here, or anywhere else, are legion.

Norm Osterman

Walla Walla

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