Assessing European Capacity for Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide    

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Thomas Vangkilde-Pedersen
GEUS Denmark
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Country Review


Italy is a net energy importer, and presently consumes almost six times the amount of energy it produces. Italy is dependent on outside sources for almost all of its crude oil, natural gas, and coal, and even imports a significant part of its electricity supply.

Petroleum: Italy has proven oil reserves of about 620 million barrels, which are located in the northern part of the country, in Sicily, and along the Adriatic coast. Exploration is continuing and this number may increase. Italy wants to decrease its dependence on foreign oil sources by ramping up its domestic oil production, but even so it will remain a net oil importer by a large margin; Italy's outside sources of oil include Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Algeria. Petroleum presently accounts for more than 50% of Italy's energy consumption, but consumption of crude oil has been gradually declining since the mid 1990s due to less demand for oil for heating and electricity generation.

Natural gas: Italy has proven natural gas reserves of about 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which is less than a twenty-year supply at current production rates. Italy's gas consumption is presently third-highest in Europe, behind only Germany and the United Kingdom. Gas consumption is growing at a steady rate, and gas consumption in 2001 was fully 50% greater than it was in 1990. Most of Italy's gas imports presently come from Algeria and Russia, but there is a project underway to bring in gas from Libya via a new pipeline running under the Mediterranean from Libya to Sicily. Italy is also increasing its ability to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) by construction of additional regasification terminals at some of its port facilities. LNG now accounts for about 10% of Italy's natural gas imports.

Coal: Italy produces no coal, though coal contributes about 8% to Italy's primary energy demand. Italy imports steam coal from a variety of places including South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, the United States, China, and Australia. Demand is increasing, mostly from additions to coal-fueled power generation capacity.

Electricity: Electricity demand has been steadily increasing in Italy, with consumption now about one-third higher than it was in 1990. Most of Italy's electricity comes from fossil fuels, though a shift is occurring away from oil toward natural gas. Italy presently imports more than 15% of the electricity it consumes, mostly from France and Switzerland. Most of Italy's electricity is generated (4/5) from fossil fuels. There are four nuclear power plants in the country, but none have been in use since 1987, when a public ballot referendum opted to discontinue all use of nuclear power. These four nuclear power plants are now being dismantled. Most new power-generating facilities, at least in the near future, will be fueled by natural gas. Clean coal technologies such as fluidized-bed combustion and integrated gasification combined cycle are expected to be used for any new coal-fueled power plants.

Carbon Emissions Information
At the 1997 Kyoto conference, the EU as a whole agreed to limit its increase in greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below 1990 levels by the 2008-2012 time frame. Italy currently is responsible for about 1.8% of the world's total fossil fueled-based carbon emissions (ranking it 10th in the world), but has taken some steps to attempt to reduce its carbon emissions, including encouraging the use of natural gas for power generation and implementing a carbon tax (in 1999). Increased use of renewable energy is also a national priority; Italy now funds more than 25% of all photovoltaic research in the EU, and Italy already ranks 5th in the world in geothermal electricity generation. Nevertheless, in 2002 the total CO2 emissions were 8% higher than in 1990.

Potential for geological storage of CO2 in Italy
Studies supported under Joule II (CT92-0031: The underground disposal of Carbon Dioxide) evaluated the potential for geological storage of CO2 in Italy as: (a) 440 Mt CO2 in deep aquifers (353 Mt onshore and 87 Mt offshore); (b) 790 Mt CO2 in depleted oil and gas fields, onshore and offshore. These data need a major revision because: (a) based only on public data and not on “sensible” data from oil companies; (b) calculated only from porosity and not from more realistic modelling on the reservoirs exploitations; (c) considering very limited data on aquifers (this explains an unrealistic more potential on depleted hydrocarbons fields in comparison with that of deep aquifers).

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