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Dutch city taking legal action against Royal Dutch Shell on safety grounds

Channel News Asia

03 January 2010

Shell’s CO2 stocking plans under fire

BARENDRECHT, Netherlands: A plan by oil giant Shell to store 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in a depleted gas reservoir beneath a Dutch city has drawn the ire of residents and local officials who have vowed to thwart it.

“We are going to do everything to oppose this project,” declared Barendrecht deputy mayor Simon Zuurbier, who voiced fears for the safety of the city’s 50,000 inhabitants.

“We are taking legal action to get it cancelled and we’ll approve none of the required permits.”

Anglo-Dutch Shell in November was authorised by the Dutch government to undertake a project to capture and store a portion of the 5.0 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emitted each year by the company’s refinery in Pernis.

Under the scheme, set to get underway in 2012, the CO2 will be carried by a pipeline and, after being compressed, will be injected into a depleted gas reservoir 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) under ground. The reservoir has a capacity of 800,000 tonnes.

Shell has said that over time the CO2 will dissolve or form minerals.

With a positive evaluation of the initiative by government-mandated experts, the project will be extended in a few years to another nearby gas reservoir, with a 9.0 megatonne capacity and part of which lies under Barendrecht city centre.

“It’s ridiculous to carry out such an experiment in a densely populated area,” insisted Zuubrier.

Klass Brantjes, a member of a residents’ association, said that while “we have been given the illusion of security, all the risks are not known”.

“The risks that CO2 will escape are real and are especially dangerous as the city is situated in a basin.”

But a spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry, Jan van Diepen, insisted that “the project is safe, otherwise the government would not have given the go-ahead”.

The Dutch government is providing 30 million euros to help finance the facility. Shell has declined to reveal the overall cost.

Shell says the carbon capture and storage by injection technique has already been tested in Norway and the United States.

“CCS (carbon capture and storage) is a safe technique in itself,” Margriet Kuijper, Shell Manager of Carbon Capture and Storage Projects and Studies, said on the company website.

“It will be carried out with so many safeguards that it can be used anywhere, even in residential areas.”

The Netherlands, which emitted 174.5 megatonnes of CO2 in 2008, has a total storage capacity of 1,600 megatonnes.

“It is imperative to capture and store CO2 in order to reach our target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions” by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, van Diepen said.

“If a fifth of the country’s energy production is from renewable sources by 2020, which is what the government wants, it would mean that 80 per cent would still come from fossil fuels,” he said.

“Storing CO2 is therefore inescapable as a transition technology to limit climate damage.”

It’s an argument dismissed by the environmental group Greenpeace, which has said “the enormous subsidies” allocated to burying carbon gas contribute to “maintaining polluting industries” at the expense of cleaner energy.

Shell has acknowledged that carbon storage operations have an impact on the environment, as they release a quantity of CO2 equal to 5.0 per cent of the carbon gas being stored.

– AFP/so

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