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Cleaning up coal—cost-effectively

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 798
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6340.798

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Summary

If humankind has any hope of limiting climate change to a 2°C temperature rise, as nations pledged to do in the 2015 Paris climate accords, they must add carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems to conventional fossil fuel plants, and quickly. A new $1 billion CCS system called Petra Nova is showing how that might be done without breaking the bank. Petra Nova, which opened in January, is tacked onto a massive coal-fired electricity plant near Houston, Texas, and captures 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road. The CO2 is then piped to a depleted oil field and pumped underground, where it frees up more oil that can then be sold to help offset the costs of the carbon capture setup. Though burning that oil will send additional CO2 into the atmosphere, overall the process is carbon negative, putting more carbon underground than is released.