Ukraine has received, so far verbally and virtually, a new technology aimed at saving humankind from such an environmental disaster as global warming caused by the so-called greenhouse effect which results from uncontrolled accumulation of carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere. The new environmental ideas come from a well-known international ecological NGO, Bellona, which was founded immediately after the Chornobyl disaster and focused at first on protest actions.
In the course of time, Bellona began to pay more attention to positive programs. In particular, its main office in Oslo, Norway, makes use of the latest achievements in the field of renewable energy. In cooperation with Siemens, Bellona is advancing the so-called smart electric grids in Europe and the rest of the world, which will allow optimizing power consumption. Last Monday the environmentalists introduced the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) concept to journalists and Energy and Coal Ministry officials. Widely used in the world and almost unknown in this country, the CCS technology has, in Bellona’s view, good chances to be applied in the Ukrainian industry, which is a major CO2 emitter, and as an energy security factor.
At first glance, it is very simple. Special facilities are installed at coal- or gas-fired thermal power plants, steel mills, chemical and cement works, which will capture CO2 by way of chemical or mechanical processes. This is the beginning of decarbonization. Then carbon dioxide is liquefied under high pressure to be able to be transported through pipelines. Here the new technology stands a chance to be commercialized.
Naturally, CO2 can be just pumped into underground horizons, where scientists think it can be kept for millions of years, mixed with salt water. But why not try to cash in on this technology which no one says is cheap? Even today, the US and Canada use the “underground captive” to raise bed pressure in the exhausted oil and natural gas fields. Moreover, according to Keith Whiriskey, Bellona Oslo’s adviser on CCS, hydrocarbon extractors are ready to pay a handsome 40 dollars per ton of CO2.
The expert is convinced that application of this technology will have a very positive effect on the Ukrainian economy and energy policy. In his words, the Ukrainian economy is extremely dependent on carbon-based fuels. Ukraine is among the world’s top 20 largest emitters of carbon dioxides. Besides, EU countries are planning to impose additional import duties on carbon-dependent products, including electricity, or, in other words, on products of the enterprises that do not employ CCS technologies. This may deny Ukraine’s businesses access to the so much coveted markets.
But in Europe, too, things are not so smooth with decarbonization. The crisis has resulted in a lack of funds for programs, and, due to inadequate performance of the Emissions Trading System, the European Commission has to seek some new incentives for investors. In some cases, the populace puts up fierce resistance to CCS decarbonization. This happened, for example, in Germany. As a result, that country intends to bury CO2 in the sea, not under the ground. And what about commercialization? To keep the climate intact, the Germans are ready to sacrifice incomes, all the more so that they usually import hydrocarbons.
The Day has inquired if Bellona is going to draw up a special CCS program for Ukraine, as it did for some countries of Europe. Unfortunately, the answer was negative. Firstly, Ukraine has drawn up its energy program until 2030 only, whereas European states are considering their prospects until 2050. Secondly, far from all in Ukraine can understand today the importance of new climate protection ideas. While Ukrainian energy specialists, including DTEK, the largest company in this sector, have evinced great interest in the new technology and furnished Bellona with the documents it needs to work out this kind of program for Ukraine, CCS failed to arouse enthusiasm among industrialists. They refused to submit information. So Bellona has so far to confine itself to a public outreach campaign and to initiate a debate on this matter in this country. Not least in this campaign is reference to European experience and prospects. The EU energy policy is setting ambitious goals about energy and climate change. In particular, it is planned to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent against 1990 before 2020 and by 80-95 percent before 2050. The report on energy development prospects until 2050 makes a conclusion that, to achieve the goal of decarbonization, all the fossil fuel power plants should employ CCS technologies from 2030 onwards. The European Union has adopted Directive 2009/31/EC on the geological storage of carbon dioxide. It is binding on all the member states and lays the legal groundwork for managing the CCS-related risks of harm to the environment and human health.
All this is, of course, interesting and very attractive for Ukraine. But the impression is that it will be difficult to employ CCS technologies in this country – not only because they are undoubtedly not so cheap. Bellona believes that the proposed decarbonization scheme will only be cost-effective if it is to be implemented at new or recently upgraded facilities. But does Ukraine have many of these? As for the thermal power generation sector, it reached the end of its service life long ago. The Day recalled that a power unit, completely refurbished after a fire, had been recently commissioned at the Uhlehorsk Thermal Power Plant. This comment aroused great interest on the part of Keith Whiriskey and his Bellona colleague Charles Digges, the organization’s webmaster. In Whiriskey’s opinion, the new unit could fit in with the CCS decarbonization system.
Valentyn SEREDIUK, chief, Environment Section, Institute of Ecology and Energy Conservation:
“Ukraine is too short of funds today to widely employ this undoubtedly progressive technology. Unfortunately, this country will really accept it and find money for its application much later. We are used to working by the principle ‘lock the stable door after the horse is stolen.’ So Europe will have to resort to the stick and carrot strategy. When it comes to the crunch, we will begin to budge in this direction. Meanwhile, let me say it again, the main problem is that the carbon dioxide disposal and storage technology is too expensive, for it requires specialized costly equipment and infrastructure – it is not the case of ‘one, two, three, and it’s done.’ Besides, the country has loads of other urgent problems. I can still presume that Ukraine will accept this technology when it is really in bad need of it. Unfortunately, this will occur when we will be unable to sell even a ton of metal or a megawatt of electricity to the developed countries. The point is that the output of these products, which causes an increased content of CO2 in the air, results from the high energy intensity of our economy and the use of an excessive number of carbon-based energy resources. CO2 emissions in Ukraine will just go overboard in comparison to our rivals who have begun to apply CCS technologies before us. And then the world community will have to do nothing but call us to account by means of special duties on carbon.”