Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Saving the earth but at what cost?

Carbon sequestration can be a solution to our global warming and carbon dioxide production problems. In this blog I want to look at how economically viable this will be compared to trying to convert our energy production to a wholly renewable and green source.

The cost of carbon storage is varied depending on CO2 content and where the carbon dioxide is to be stored. Australian researchers have found an appropriate cost for this type of capture to be $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. This approximation was for a plant built in the latrobe valley so i will use hazelwood as an example for how much it will cost. Hazelwood produces 1.52 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (MWh). The hazelwood plant produces 12,000 gigawatt hours each year or 12,000,000 MWh. So this gives a total CO2 output for the year of 18,240,000 tonnes. In terms of cost to capture all of the carbon dioxide we are looking at slightly over 547 million a year. This may seem like a lot but this is to remove all of the carbon dioxide from one of victoria’s dirtiest power plants and so is it too much in order to make an effort to reduce the greenhouse effect?

Let’s take a look at some of the other options we can take to reduce the CO2 emissions of energy production. We can use green energies and renewable sources such as nuclear, solar or wind however these have high startup costs. First comparing nuclear energy which has an overall cost of 96.1 US dollars per megawatt hour. For a plant capable of running at the capacity of hazel wood this would cost 1.153 billion US or approximately 1.5 billion australian dollars. This also doesn’t factor in the space required to build the new plants or the waste nuclear plants produce so although CO2 will be reduced we will still be produce other harmful waste that needs to be dealt with.

The renewable energies such as wind and solar have the benefits of no wastes at all however these will have large monetary costs. The commercially used wind turbines cost around 4.5 million dollars per MWh. So to produce hazelwoods amount of energy you would need 12 million which is far too cost inefficient. I think a good way forward is to encourage people to install solar panels on their own homes. They will produce no carbon dioxide and will reduce the load of energy that the coal and gas plants will have to produce.

These energies are continuing to be developed and made more cost efficient while producing more comparable amounts of energy. In the meantime sequestration is a cost effective and needed alternative until other greener options are made more commercially viable.



One comment on “Saving the earth but at what cost?

  1. katelynmcc
    May 8, 2016

    Firstly, being someone who does not keep up with the power plant news, I was a bit lost as to whether Hazelwood was the power plant or whether it was the plant that would be built to capture the CO2. Next, you make some very valid points about this being only $30 per tonne of CO2 captured. However, throughout this blog you have only briefly discussed or mentioned the possibility of cutting down or reducing our carbon footprint. You have discussed our use of renewable energy, but everyone can agree that at this point, there is no viable option to maintaining an entire country off one source. It seems more that this is a quick easy fix than a permanent one, because as CO2 is a gas, there are many problems against this and reasons as to why this wouldn’t last forever.


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This entry was posted on April 26, 2016 by in Burwood - Wednesday 11am and tagged , , .

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