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With about 470 million tonnes of CO2/year, South Africa, Africa’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pilots carbon capture project

Electricity pylons are seen in front of the cooling towers at the Lethabo Thermal Power Station,an Eskom coal-burning power station near Sasolburg in the northern Free State province,

With a potential storage capacity of 150 gigatonnes and coal providing the bulk of its electricity, South releases around 470 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, making it the continent’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Now, South Africa has started geological mapping at the country’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project site, where it plans to inject vast quantities of CO2 deep underground from 2023.

This was revealed by Wendell Roell as reported on Reuters News, quoting a senior Council for Geoscience official as saying.

The project will be based around the town of Leandra, Mpumalanga province, in South Africa’s north east, a carbon emissions hotspot and home to several coal-fired power stations as well as Sasol’s Secunda coal-to-liquids fuel plant, the largest in the world.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is controversial, with environmentalists saying it risks becoming an excuse to continue burning fossil fuels, and could lead to neglect of nature’s own carbon capture system, forests, which also sustain biodiversity and rainfall.

The South African government has repeatedly defended its right to tap into abundant coal deposits even as the country increases its use of renewable energy.

“South Africa will still be using coal for a very long time, so… we need to try and use it responsibly to limit CO2 emissions,” David Khoza, the CGS executive manager running the project, said.

The deadline for tapping a $23 million World Bank grant to fund the Carbo capture and Storage project was originally set for December this year, but has now been pushed out to June 2023, a bank spokesperson told Reuters.

Khoza said the project will link a pipeline transporting compressed CO2 from major emitting sources such as Secunda directly to the identified injection site that is overlain with an “impermeable rock cap.”

“We will test the feasibility of injecting between 10,000 to 50,000 metric tons of CO2 (a year) to a depth of at least 1 km, with the first injection seen late in 2023,” Khoza said.

Sasol said it was working with the CGS, although it said previous assessments showed the associated cost was very high and sequestration may not be economically viable.

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