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Verifying power plant CO2 emissions New Zealand scientists have developed a way to use radiocarbon

radiocarbon content of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that the

measurements to verify greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

grass uses to grow. Due to the extreme age of fossil fuels, carbon

The new method uses a novel sampling technique of collecting

dioxide derived from combustion contains zero radiocarbon, whereas

grass growing downwind of power plants, which faithfully records

natural carbon dioxide sources contain high levels of radiocarbon.

a measure of the carbon dioxide emitted from

By measuring the amount of radiocarbon

the power plant.

present, the researchers are able to determine

Developed by researchers at GNS Science,

how much of the carbon dioxide at the

the method allows for the first time independent

location of each grass sample was emitted

verification of greenhouse gas emission rates

from the power plant. They use wind data

that have previously only been self-reported

to translate the measured fossil fuel carbon

by power companies that use fossil fuels.

dioxide concentrations at each location to

The research was published in the

the rate of emissions from the power plant.

Proceedings of the National Academy of

It reduces uncertainties in the emission

Sciences with the paper titled ‘Independent

rate to less than 10%, an improvement over

evaluation of point source fossil fuel CO2

the current 20% using other more conventional

emissions to better than 10%’. Under the Paris Climate Agreement agreed on in December 2015, 195 countries including New Zealand agreed to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

Radiocarbon researcher Dr Jocelyn Turnbull, of GNS Science, collecting data at Kapuni in Taranaki. The Kapuni gas-fuelled power station is in the background. Image credit: GNS Science

methods and sufficient to allow governments to verify the reported emissions. This new research is the latest application of radiocarbon measurements that GNS Science, and its predecessor, the DSIR,

Lead author Dr Jocelyn Turnbull said, “Our new technique

has been making since 1951 at its Lower Hutt facility, the Rafter

provides an inexpensive and simple way to verify that companies

Radiocarbon Laboratory. This laboratory is the oldest continuously

and nations are actually doing what they have promised to do.”

operating radiocarbon facility in the world.

The researchers use a novel method which involves collecting grass samples downwind of a power plant. The grass faithfully records the

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GNS Science www.gns.cri.nz

Oct/Nov 2016 - Sustainability Matters 35

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Sustainability Matters Oct/Nov 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Oct/Nov 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...