Sep 14, 2007
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Maggs: South Africa, you say, has been singled out as an ideal country in which to set up a carbon-capture project to show the world how to combat climate change.
Creamer: Only 100 years ago, smoke billowing from a smokestack was seen as industrial progress, but today there are tremendous efforts to halt the entry of that CO2 emission into the atmosphere. In Johannesburg this week we had everybody who was anybody in coal at the big Pittsburg Coal Conference, a virtual World Cup of coal. During the address to that conference, the head of energy at Anglo American plc Roger Wicks put it to the developed countries that there was an opportunity for them to set-up a carbon capture and storage demonstration facility in South Africa. Wicks said that there were too few of these in the world and all were concentrated in developed countries. Now there was a chance for a developed country to do this in a developing country like South Africa, where we burn a lot of coal, where there was an ideal opportunity to capture those emissions. What they do is not only capture them, but also pipe them towards geographical formations and inject them into an area where they cannot escape. So, this is the ideal, that they won’t allow this emission to go into the atmosphere, that they will capture it before that happens and inject it into the ground. Sometimes that can be an offset against other costs. There was also talk of perhaps injecting it into coalfields where there is methane gas, so that the methane gas can be lifted higher, which would mean that it would be less costly to extract that energy.
Maggs: On a similar theme, the World Bank is trying to put an end to gas flaring, a wasteful practice, its prevalent in Nigeria. This is the burning of enormous quantities of perfectly good natural gas at a time of global energy shortage.
Creamer: Many who have flown over Nigeria at night have looked down and imagined that it was daytime. Because there is so much flaring in Nigeria that it appears to be daytime. We have seen that our own Sasol has taken note of that wasteful gas flaring. They have moved into Nigeria with a partner Texaco Chevron and they are wanting to take that gas that would be burnt wastefully and in a few years will show how it can be turned to positive account at Excravos in Nigeria. They are going to turn that into clean diesel, in fact, diesel that people pay a premium for, because it is known “green” diesel, it has got no sulphur in it. That is an example of how valuable this gas can be if it is turned to positive account. The World Bank has been setting up a campaign and partnerships to try and put an end to this gas flaring. Nigeria has been a big problem area and I think there are four other countries in Africa that are in the top 20 gas flarers. The good news is that the Nigerian government has taken strong action and there have been court cases against companies that have been gas flaring and they want to put an end to gas flaring as soon as next year. In the meantime, satellite activity by the World Bank has indicated that Africa isn’t the only culprit and the big culprit that they now find is Russia, which is actually flaring even more of this gas then Africa and I’m sure steps will be taken there.
Maggs: An important oil and gas discovery in Zambia.
Creamer: Zambia is best known for copper, copper being the back-bone of its economic development. But now a very upbeat Minister of Mines Kalombo Mwansa has announced to the world that they have actually discovered oil and gas in the northwest part of the country. This is a landlocked country, therefore if this is found in large quantities onshore it is going to be a far more economic proposition. We see offshore gas exploration becoming more and more costly, people having to go deeper and deeper. Mwansa is now developing tenders to invite some of the petroleum majors in so that they can see whether these wells are of an economic size and whether this can be turned to account. In the meantime Zambians are holding thumbs that they will have another big push in their economy by being able to prove that they have large quantities of oil and gas.
Maggs: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.
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