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Carbon Capture and Storage: A Shiny New Pipe Dream

from the Economist

As Helene Boksle, one of Norway's favourite singers, hit the high notes at the Mongstad oil refinery on May 7th, the wall behind her slid open. It revealed, to the prime minister and other dignitaries present, an enormous tangle of shiny metal pipes. These are part of the world's largest and newest experimental facility for capturing carbon dioxide.

Such capture is the first part of a three-stage process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) that many people hope will help deal with the problem of man-made climate change. The other two are piping the captured gas towards a place underground where the rocks will trap it, and then actually trapping it there. If the world is to continue burning fossil fuels while avoiding the consequences, then it will need a lot of CCS.

There is no other good way to keep the CO2 emitted by power stations, and also by processes such as iron- and cement-making, out of the atmosphere. To stop global warming of more than 2°C--a widely agreed safe limit--carbon-dioxide emissions must be halved by 2050. According to the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body that monitors these matters, CCS would be the cheapest way to manage about a fifth of that reduction.

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