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Wednesday, 31 May 1989
Page: 3113


Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister for Resources aware of a proposal being developed by some scientists, both here and overseas, to site all concentrated carbon dioxide emitters, such as thermal power stations, close to the sea and to use chemically engineered technology to enable carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide to be absorbed by the ocean, thus reducing damage to the ozone layer? Will the Government investigate the feasibility of such a process and, if it is feasible, support the development of appropriate technology in Australia?


Senator COOK —The proposal that carbon dioxide-CO2-from power stations be pumped into the oceans so that it can be absorbed by seawater has been considered by several researchers in the past. The results of preliminary studies suggest that such systems would require 20 to 30 per cent of the power station's output to operate and would result in an approximate doubling of the cost of electricity. The engineering, technical and economic feasibility of disposing of such large quantities of CO2 in the oceans is yet to be determined. The question of dispersing the huge volumes of CO2 through sufficiently large volumes of seawater, however, could be an important issue. There could also be, though, major environmental implications for the oceans themselves and there could be impacts on both a local and a global scale. Nor is there any certainty about the ocean's long term ability to store such large amounts of CO2.

The Department of Primary Industries and Energy will continue to monitor developments, and should the technology ever be proved feasible, Australia will be well placed to take advantage of it as virtually all of our major power stations are located close to the oceans. I acknowledge Senator Zakharov's long term interest in energy efficiency and environmental matters generally. A major focus of this Government's energy policy is on finding ways of developing clean burning technology and ways in which we can market clean coal to help to reduce the addition to the greenhouse gases of CO2 from coal-fired power stations. We are also looking at alternative forms of energy-adaption of liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas as transport fuels, and at the whole range of alternative non-renewable fuels.