Open letter to Mel Gibson

28 Sep 2007


Dear Mel Gibson,

In the Lloyd’s List of September 12th 2007 in the article “From carbon footprints to CO2 ship blueprints” we read that you openly show your support to a project to design vessels twice the size of a normal capesize bulker to transport carbon dioxide (CO2). “BW Shipping boss Andreas Sohmen-Pao reveals green ambitions and has ally in actor Mel Gibson”. This would be done with the intention to use the CO2 “to make oil and gas fields more productive” i.e. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). More than 40 Mt of CO2 are currently used each year in the United States to recover oil. Most of the CO2 comes from deep natural accumulations of CO2 while about 5 % comes from industrial sources. Some of the CO2 used in EOR today is stocked in the well from where it escapes in the mid term, with the exception of the Weyburn oil field pilot project in Canada where the CO2 is recaptured and re-injected for permanent sequestration.
Robin des Bois a French NGO has been fighting for the protection of Man and the Environment since 1985. Robin des Bois has for over 20 years been involved, in the banning of waste storing and waste dumping in or under the world’s oceans. We have very strong reservations on the concepts and projects exposed at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore by Mr Sohmen-Pao. More generally we have serious doubts on currently exposed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technological solutions.

Robin des Bois strongly thinks that transporting CO2 in large quantities by ship is not the right option; in many ways it is far from safe. Robin des Bois considers CO2 captured from industrial activities to be a waste product. We believe that the sequestration of carbon dioxide could set a precedent in the disposal of other wastes in the Ocean; and that the stored CO2 could have important environmental impacts. As we know CO2 is a toxic gas. CO2, exploited from natural reservoirs or produced industrially for alimentary and other industrial purposes is shipped and leaks at a rate of 3 to 4% for a transport by ship over a 1000 km distance. Scaling up in this field is not the solution.

There is little scientific knowledge to prove that the CO2 will be permanently stored in the saline aquifers. Environmental risks from leaks of CO2 either gradual or abrupt are endless; with the possibility of triggering small seismic events. There are no field observations showing the true effects of CO2 in marine ecosystems. The chemical impacts on marine ecosystems could include major effects such as reduced levels of reproduction and increased mortality rates for calcareous organisms such as corals and shellfish but also profound effects to plankton. The risk to the marine environment due to global warming caused by elevated atmospheric levels of CO2 has not yet been sufficiently evaluated. These effects should be weighed and benchmarked with the negative effects of CO2 leaking from geologic formations where it would be stored.

Mr Sohmen-Pao also stated at the conference that “We can convert old gas ships to capture this gas and sell it”. Robin des Bois works hard to help implement safer seas via control of the state of the vessels. Recycling old gas carriers to transport CO2 is a threat and a danger for the environment. On the other hand, developing enormous new vessels for the transport of CO2 would also have many consequences, among which the need for larger ports or harbour modifications, hence more dredging needed, therefore increased disturbance to the marine environment e.g. noise pollution, furthermore difficulties to assist vessels in danger and the need for ship-breaking facilities to cater for larger vessels.

The OSPAR Convention for the protection of the North East Atlantic states a potential increase of storminess in the ocean; this could mean the need for smaller vessels and lighter loads in the future. Robin des Bois feels that further research in the field of CO2 uses is needed, including in the context of CCS issues as the resilience of marine eco-systems is largely unknown. Robin des Bois believes that the key to cleaner air is to concentrate efforts at the root of the problem by decreasing industrial emissions; we believe in cleaning up pollution and possibly avoiding pollution not in displacing it.
We count on you to look at this subject in greater depth; and not to be associated with this type of project.
With our sincere respect,
Robin des Bois – Paris.

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