Scientists ponder carbon capture standard

Scientists will meet in Calgary this week to complete work on what is being touted as the world’s first standard for the underground storage of carbon dioxide.

Scientists will meet in Calgary this week to complete work on what is being touted as the world’s first standard for the underground storage of carbon dioxide.

The Regina-based International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide has been working with the Canadian Standards Association on carbon capture rules since 2009.

IPAC-CO2 chief executive Carmen Dybwad says the standard covers what needs to be in place when selecting a site to store carbon dioxide emissions underground.

“It takes a look at all of the risks that might occur at every one of those stages,” said Dybwad.

“And when we talk about a risk, it would be a risk that you wouldn’t have containment, that somehow the carbon dioxide would get out, that it wouldn’t be safe or it wouldn’t be permanent.”

Carbon capture and storage has been touted as a high-tech way to help with the world’s carbon problems, but has been panned as expensive and unproven. Critics say not enough is known about the consequences of burying carbon dioxide.

For places like Saskatchewan, the hope is that carbon capture and storage could be a solution for emissions from the coal-fired power plants that are the primary source of energy in the province. SaskPower is testing carbon capture technology. Dybwad believes it could be a good tool to help the environment in the future.

“But you can’t do it just everywhere. It has to be the right site,” she said.

The meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday will give scientists a chance to finalize the draft of the standards.

A technical committee with representatives from Canada and the United States will then review that document.

Following the standards would not be mandatory because, as Dybwad points out, they won’t be laws.

But Dybwad said it’s really important for jurisdictions where they’re aren’t any rules.

“This becomes, if you will, a de facto regulation that can give confidence to the public and to governments that something is being done … in a safe and permanent fashion because it’s following all the right safety standards.”

Dybwad said the final stamp of approval by the Canadian Standards Association will probably come in June.

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