||January/February 2008 issue||
Deep under Weyburn,Sask., carbon dioxide is being pumped into the
Earth instead of into the atmosphere.Could the project be a remedy
for climate change?
By Allan Casey with photography by Greg Locke
From Signal Hill, the local lookout in the modest
city of Weyburn, Sask., hundreds of pumpjacks can be
seen bobbing on the plain below, pulling crude oil up to an
energy-thirsty world. The thirstiest customer of all, the
United States of America, lies just beyond the horizon,
about 75 kilometres due south.
What’s not visible is something that many see as a solution
to one of the great problems of our times. Is it possible
that hidden under the Land of Living Skies is a simple
remedy to part of the global-warming crisis? We now know
that excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil-fuel burning
— 27 billion tonnes a year and climbing fast - is heating
up our atmosphere. In southern Saskatchewan, an unlikely
alliance of concerned scientists and oil profiteers is testing
the simple stratagem of carbon capture and storage (CCS),
or putting fossil-fuel carbon back into the ground where it
came from. Permanently.
It is too soon to know whether the technology, which is
sometimes called carbon sequestration, can be used to turn
down the greenhouse thermostat. But the Weyburn results
have been promising, drawing energy gurus — scientists,
government leaders, journalists — from Japan, Italy, London
and Washington. Like pilgrims, they climb Signal Hill to pose for snapshots against the vast prairie sky, a fitting
reminder of the global stakes.
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