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经济学人:捕捉碳 管道之梦

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Carbon capture

捕捉碳
Pipe dreams
管道之梦
A fresh effort to store pollutants underground.
将污染物储存地下的新尝试。
FOR more than 30 years Peterhead power station has churned out electricity from a windswept spot on the north-east coast of Scotland. Its chimney (pictured) is a familiar landmark for strollers on Aberdeen's chilly beach. Yet soon the ageing gas-fired plant could host a crucial experiment. Engineers from Shell, an oil firm, and SSE, an energy company, plan to add technology that will capture the carbon dioxide which billows from Peterhead's furnace and store it in a depleted gasfield more than a mile beneath the North Sea. That could cut its emissions by up to 90%, making Peterhead by far the cleanest gas plant in the world.
Peterhead 电厂位于苏格兰东北部一处风不止歇的地方,长期输送电力超过30年。它的烟囱成为Aberdeen的冷滩散步者所熟知的地标。不过很快这座老化的燃气电厂将要面临一项关键的考验。来自壳牌石油公司和SSE能源公司的工程师们计划对这座电厂进行技术改造,这样就可以捕捉从Peterhead电厂锅炉中大量涌出的二氧化碳,并将之储存到一座废弃的油田中。而这座油田深藏在北海一英里以下。成功之后将比以前减少90%的二氧化碳排放量,Peterhead将成为迄今世界上最清洁的燃气电厂。

Peterhead is one of two preferred bidders in a government contest that aims to kick-start Britain's adoption of carbon capture and storage technologies. The other pet project is a proposed coal-fired plant at Drax power station in Yorkshire, which will pipe its pollutants about 50 miles to the coast before trapping them in rocks beneath the waves. Yet politicians have been soliciting similar proposals since 2007, without bringing any to fruition; abortive efforts at Peterhead go back even further. Boosters hope this latest crop will buck a sorry trend.

Peterhead是政府竞标项目中两个被选中的竞标项目之一。此次竞标旨在促使不列颠上下采用碳捕捉和储存技术。另外一项受重视的项目是计划对约克郡的Drax电厂的煤电机组进行改造。这项改造目的在于将污染物输送到离海岸线有50英里的地方并将之固定在波涛之下的岩层中。不过政客们早在2007年就作出过相同的许诺,也没带来任何成果;对Peterhead改造的流产甚至退回原地。支持者们希望这迟来的成效能在未来挽回惨淡的局面。
The rewards could be great. CCS is one of a very few ways to clean up industries such as steelmaking or chemicals. Fossil-fuel power stations fitted with carbon-capturing kit would provide an unusually flexible source of green power.
回报相当丰厚。CCS是为数不多可以清洁诸如炼钢厂或化学工厂的法子。化石燃料的电厂配备上碳捕捉装置之后,可以提供具有相当弹性供应量的清洁能源。
These benefits would bring savings. Carbon capture could be lopping 30 billion off Britain's annual energy bill by 2050, says the Energy Technology Institute, a government and industry research body. The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental outfit, reckons CCS will have to deliver one-sixth of the emissions cuts required to limit the damage done by climate change, and that forgoing it would raise costs by 40%.
这些好处可以节省很多开支。据政府和工厂的研究机构,能源技术研究所称,到2050年,碳捕捉技术有望为不列颠每年砍去300亿英镑的能源开支。而据一座跨国机构国际能源所认为,采用CCS技术将减少六分之一的碳排放,这可以减少因此造成的气候而带来的损失。而如果放弃这项技术将导致损失上升40%
Britain is well placed to cash in. Its wealth of underwater engineers will need new ways to keep busy as the North Sea's fields run dry. A steady supply of carbon could be useful to roughnecks, who are experimenting with techniques that use the gas to squeeze more oil from mature wells. And the country's deep aquifers and depleted reservoirs could probably hold 100 years-worth of emissions.
不列颠是实行这项技术的好地方。在北海油田日渐枯竭的时候,她数量众多的水下工程师需要新的渠道维持饭碗。稳定的碳供应对于矿工来说也是极为有用的,因为目前他们正在尝试新技术:利用二氧化碳从成熟油井中挤压出更多的石油。而这个国家深度蓄水层和废弃的储油层足够容纳英伦百年的排放的二氧化碳。
That makes slow progress all the more frustrating. In May MPs on the climate-change select committee complained that government dithering had led to a “lost decade” for CCS in Britain. Money is part of the problem—boffins say energy from the first CCS plants could cost 150-200 per megawatt hour, four times the current wholesale price of power and more expensive even than offshore wind farms. European laws that oblige Britain to invest heavily in renewables are diverting resources away from CCS, says Judith Shapiro, an industry spokesperson.
不过这进步来得少,挫败倒更多。在5月的时候,气候变化选择委员会的议员们抱怨道,由于政府的优柔寡断犹豫不决,导致CCS技术在不列颠停滞了10年。资金是其中的问题之一—研究者指出采用CCS技术的工厂最初每兆瓦·时要花费150镑到200镑,这是现行整体能源价格的4倍,其昂贵程度较之离岸风能电厂不逞多让。欧盟法律敦促不列颠在再生能源领域加大投资,这促使很多资金从CCS流失。一位工业发言人Judith Shapiro如是说。
Yet the government is digging deep to make sure its latest efforts pay off. In 2007 it put aside 1 billion to help fund the capital costs of some CCS projects—not least the huge expense of laying new pipelines overland. Lately it has also promised ongoing subsidies of the type given to renewables. Bosses at Peterhead and at Drax say that next year they hope to make a final decision on whether or not to press ahead.
虽然如此,政府仍在加大努力确保最近的努力措施能够有所斩获。在2007年,政府留出10亿英镑设立基金以支付一些CCS项目的支出—这也包括铺设离岸新管道的巨额花费。最近,政府也承诺在许可的范围的内逐步减少对再生能源项目的支持。Peterhead和Drax的老板说下一年他们希望希望作出一项财政决议,以便于决定CCS项目是否继续进行。
Pessimists say that a few pilot projects will not make an industry, even if the technology proves viable. Some fret that runners-up in the government's competition will run out of money while it mulls what subsidies to offer; others warn of bottlenecks without more efforts to identify storage sites. One big uncertainty is how the public will react when plans for carbon capture are better known. Though engineers have been cramming carbon underground for several years—notably in Norway—the idea could still spark alarm. That would not easily go back in the bottle.
悲观论者认为一木不成林,少数先行的项目不足以支撑出一个产业体系,哪怕实践证明这项技术切实可行。一些人对政府的行径感到焦虑。他们认为这种竞争将耗完所有的资金,而它需要通盘考虑补贴谁;另外一些人则提醒,不花费更多精力去甄别存储地点是存在问题的。一个最大的不确定在于碳捕捉计划广为人知之后公共将作出何等反应。尽管工程师已经把碳压缩到地底这事已经干了很多年了——在挪威最典型——公众的反对仍能成燎原之势。这不像二氧化碳,能够轻易关进瓶子里。
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