South Africa hopes carbon capture will make coal a clean energy source

    JOHANNESBURG ( – South Africa’s support for the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 20 to June 22, and known as Rio+20 for short, does not mean the country is going to turn its back on coal.

    “As South Africa, we are not about to abandon our coal reserves,” assured Water Affairs and Environment Minister Edna Molewa in Pretoria on Monday. She was briefing the media on the outcomes of the conference.

    “We are not going to throw our coal into the sea,” concurred Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana at the same briefing. “We are going to use clean technologies to improve our coal.”

    Coal provides some 77% of the country’s primary energy needs but also produces more than 70% of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. (According to the Department of Energy, 62% of South Africa’s coal production is used to generate electricity, and, at present production rates, reserves will last for more than 50 years.)

    “South Africa is not abandoning its usage of coal and coal reserves,” reaffirmed Molewa. “There is, and has been, a very scientific calculation on how we will continue to use coal.”
    Clean technologies are being applied to the consumption of coal. “Yes, we are still on that route. For that reason, we have introduced CCS [carbon capture and storage].”

    “We’re moving into CCS. We will capture this carbon [produced by burning coal] in the air, and store it,” she explained. “This project is already under way. Carbon capture sites are being identified.”

    The South African National Energy Development Institute, a government agency, includes the South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCCS), which has the mission of examining the practicality of CCS in the country. SACCCS is currently planning to start a carbon dioxide test injection project in South Africa in 2016.