It is commonly accepted that pressurised pipelines represent the most reliable and cost effective way of transporting captured CO2 from fossil fuel-fired generation plant for subsequent sequestration. This has enormous implications for the EC since a significant proportion of its electricity is fossil fuel power generated1. In the case of China, with 11 percent of the world’s proven coal reserves, coal accounts for approximately 80 percent of its electricity generation2.
Additionally, given that most electricity generation plants are built close to energy consumers, the number of people potentially exposed to risks from CO2 transportation facilities will be greater than the corresponding number exposed to potential risks from CO2 capture and storage facilities3.
Ironically (in line with its abbreviation), CCS and related legislation generally focus on the capture and storage of CO2, and not the link, its transportation. This is despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change3 concluding “public concerns about CO2 transportation may form a significant barrier to large-scale use of CCS”. An especially commissioned study by the US congress in April 2007 concludes3:
“there are important unanswered questions about CO2 pipeline safety. Policy decisions affecting CO2 pipelines take on an urgency that is, perhaps, unrecognized by many”.
It is noteworthy that CO2 pipelines have been in operation in the US for over 30 year for enhanced oil recovery4. However, these are either confined to low populated areas, and/or operate below the proposed supercritical conditions (71 bar, 32 ºC) that make CO2 pipeline transportation economically viable, thus presenting significantly fewer safety issues. Additionally, due to the small number of CO2 pipelines, it is not possible to draw a meaningful statistical representation of the risk3. The US report3 predicts that “statistically, the number of incidents involving CO2 should be similar to those for natural gas transmission”. However, in the US, which has one of the best pipeline safety records, there have been 988 incidents of gas pipeline rupture since 1987, resulting in significant numbers of fatalities and over $721M of property damage5. According to data published by the US Department of Transport4, even short, simple pipelines will have a reportable accident during a 20-year lifetime. Operators of long pipelines (1000 km or over) can expect a reportable accident at a frequency of one per year. Closer to home, in 2004 the failure of a high pressure, 40-inch diameter natural gas pipeline in Belgium resulted in the death of 24 people, and another 150 casualties6. A recent EC commissioned study7 classifies pipelines as a “major-accident hazard”.
‘Despite all this, the EC has no standards specific to CO2 pipelines’
1. Energy Review, Cabinet Office PIU, Feb 2002
2. A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change
3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Carbon Capture & Storage ISBN 92-9169-119-4
4. CRS Report for Congress, Carbon Dioxide Pipelines for Carbon Sequestration: Emerging Policy Issues, 2007
5. US Department of Transport
6. HInt Dossier, Hazards Intelligence, Näsilinnankatu 30-B32, 33200 Tampere, Finland, 2005
7. Pipeline Safety Instrument for COMAH Involving Pipelines, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Major Accident Hazards Bureau, Ispra (Va), Italy, 1999