CANBERRA: Australia began pumping carbon dioxide underground on Wednesday using an experimental technology that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by locking dangerous gases deep in the earth.

Australia is one of only a handful of places trying the technology, and environmentalists immediately criticised the project as a token gesture that distracts from the bigger goal of getting industry to slash emissions.

Officials opened a plant in southern Victoria state on Wednesday, which they said would capture and compress 1,00,000 tonne of carbon dioxide and then inject it two km underground into a depleted natural gas reservoir.

The process is known a geosequestration.

“The project has a very important role in demonstrating the technical and environmental feasibility of geosequestration to Australia and the world and preparing the way for its widespread application,” Peter Cook, the project’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The Australian scheme was developed with federal and state government support and is much smaller than similar systems overseas.

Since 1996, about one million tonne of carbon dioxide a year has been injected under the North Sea and about the same amount trapped under Algeria’s In Salah gas fields for the past two years.

The process uses technology similar to that used at about 144 sites in the U.S. where carbon dioxide is injected underground to help recover oil reserves. — AP

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