Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas have been used both in industry and to produce power for households for over a hundred years, ever since the Industrial Revolution. The use of these resources is slowly being decreased because of two reasons, the first being that there is a finite amount of them as coal and charcoal are made up of layers of trees and other foliage that have compressed into each other over millions of years. The second reason is that we have discovered that the amount of carbon dioxide being released from the process of using these resources is altering the environment and contributing to climate change.
The largest coal power plant in Canada, Boundary Dam, has started a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) program to help contribute to the efforts to reduce the amount of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere. The idea behind the CCS program is that we can still make use of the large stores of coal without increasingly affecting the environment. Obviously, as using more renewable methods to generate power are better for the environment as a whole as little carbon dioxide is emitted, these methods alone fall short of the increasing energy demands.
The CCS program works by storing the majority of the carbon dioxide produced through coal burning underground. This is achieved by using a substance that binds to carbon dioxide within the chimney or flue. This allows other gases to escape as the new bound carbon dioxide is too heavy to travel up the chimney. This substance is then heated separately so that the gas is released from the other element, before it then follows pipes deep underground or under the sea into huge containers.
Although it may mean that the price of electricity from these power stations would be higher than usual for fossil fuel produced power, it would still be cheaper than power produced by wind farms or other renewable methods. This is a huge step forward for power production and although this is only seen as a temporary step until all power is produced using renewable resources, it is definitely helping the effort.
With a huge power station such as this making such a huge change for a greener planet, other power stations all over the world will hopefully follow. They are also sending a productive message to individuals as well as others in the industry to do more to try and reduce their carbon footprint, and although the reduction of emissions from Boundary Dam will make a large difference, all efforts help contribute to the cause, helping slowing down the effects of global warming and climate change.
How long CCS will be used in power plants is unknown, nonetheless the procedures involved in the process are only achievable due to the increase in the knowledge and technology of our times. It also leads to the question of whether we will ever completely discontinue using fossil fuels in our power stations before the stores have completely run out, or whether we will find new ways of generating power using renewable resources such as wind and tidal that will meet our current energy demands. Also, will an increasing amount of education regarding energy production and its effects on the environment reduce the demand for power more than the growing population increasingly demands it?
All these questions will only be answered in time, yet we are definitely making steps in the right direction for the reduction of carbon emissions.
What else can we do to reduce carbon emissions?