Sunday, April 19, 2009

Greenhouse burial trial a success: scientists

Adam Morton 
The Age, April 20, 2009

VICTORIA'S potential role in developing divisive "clean coal" technology will be underlined this week when scientists announce 50,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas has been successfully stored underground in the Otway Basin.

The news comes a year after Australia's first greenhouse burial trial began removing naturally occurring gas from a well, compressing it into a liquid and injecting it in a depleted gas field more than two kilometres beneath farmland.

The revelation coincides with State Government scientists releasing preliminary results that suggest Gippsland's offshore geology is well suited to storing greenhouse gas released during coal-fired electricity generation in the Latrobe Valley. Peter Cook, chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technol- ogies, said that while there had been minor equipment problems, the most crucial aspects of the Western District trial were working.

"When it comes to the really important stuff of 'has it stayed in the ground, has it behaved as we expected?' then the answer is unequivocally yes," he said.

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, a Canberra-based body charged with determining if the technology will be commercially viable.

Governments and industry are pinning their hopes on clean coal playing a central role in tackling climate change, but progress has been slow.

Even under a best-case scenario, experts say it will be at least a decade before it is commercially available.

Dr Cook said not enough was being done. "I think we've got a window of opportunity here and that window will narrow if we don't act," he said.

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