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A pipe dream

Carbon storage promises to be massively expensive, inefficient and will consume more, not less, energy


 

The Wall Street Journal‘s Keith Johnson, writing on the newspaper’s Environmental Capital blog, takes a brief, devastating look at carbon capture and storage, touted by the International Energy Agency as a method of cutting “the global bill for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 per cent.” That’s the good news, says Johnson. The bad? “Whatever changes are made to the regulatory and fiscal environment, they won’t change physics—carbon capture will still be inefficient and require more, not less, energy consumption.” The IEA’s just-released “roadmap” to putting carbon capture and storage into play internationally “throws trillion-dollar figures around with such abandon, it’s hard to measure the true cost.” Consider just one of the technology’s challenges: moving the carbon from source to underground destination. “The IEA figures 360,000 kilometers of pipeline should do the trick,” writes Johnson. “That’s nine trips around the earth. Somebody better lock up steel futures, if that’s the case.” The plan is also premised on getting 85 projects up and running every year until around 2050. Johnson doesn’t mention it, but Alberta’s Energy Minister Mel Knight is attending the CCS summit in London, along with federal Minister Lisa Raitt. Indeed, Canada (and Alberta and Saskatchewan specifically) is ground zero for the new technology, whatever its true costs. Just today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach together announced the construction of one of the world’s first fully-integrated carbon capture and storage projects at a coal-fired power plant outside Edmonton. The two governments have committed $779 million over the next 15 years to the project–just a drop in the global bucket.

Wall Street Journal


 
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A pipe dream

  1. Johnson's article does a disservice to the broad topic of carbon capture and sequestration, dealing only with the issues raised in carbon capture from the most difficult sources possible…emissions from power plants and industrial operations.

    Carbon can be produced and sequestered in the soil via crude "third world" technology. Man has been producing charcoal (aka carbon) for centuries. Whether produced via traditional methods or as a bi-product of gasification of biomass, the resulting carbon can be tilled into agricultural fields providing a carrier for nutrients and valuable soil conditioner for sub-standard soils. Studies have shown this not only to be of benefit to the soil, but an effective way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

    Gasification of biomass is fueled by a portion of the combustible gases produced during the process. Energy input is required to initiate the process, but it is self sufficient energy wise once up to temperature.

    "Google" tera preta for more information on the benefits of carbon sequestration in soil.

    Condemning all forms of carbon sequestration on the basis of our present inability to economically tackle the hardest of applications is like failing to teach your child how to walk because he can't win the gold medal in the Olympic 100m dash at 2 years old.

  2. Yep, it's hard to get around that 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    Now, can we please devote ourselves to more productive pursuits such as building nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal stations?

  3. Yep, it's hard to get around the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Well done, politicians.

    Now, can we please devote ourselves to more productive pursuits such as building nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal stations?

  4. Yep, it's hard to get around the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Well done politicians.

    Now, can we please devote ourselves to more productive pursuits such as building nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal stations?

  5. Yep, it's hard to get around the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    Now, can we please devote ourselves to more productive pursuits such as building nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal stations?

  6. How many trees can you plant for a trillion dollars…

  7. Should we be surprised that the chosen method is the most complicated and most expensive as well as not having a plan to use the stored carbon.
    Steel mills add carbon to iron to make high grades of steel. There must be some way to make one feed the other without breaking the bank.

    • Probably the easiest way to get the carbon atoms that are currently emitted at coal fired power plants delivered to steel mills is to replace the coal fired power plant with a nuclear plant and then ship the coal that would have been burned to the steel mill.

  8. CCS, at least today's incarnation, has drawbacks; can't disagree with that.

    Constructing 360,000 kilometers of pipelines might seem like a huge problem, but for reference it would be helpful to know how many kilometers of pipelines (in other services) are already in the ground. I suspect that adding that amount won't happen in a year, but is far from an insurmountable problem and also will not exhaust steel supplies. Note to self, cancel the buy Nippon Steel order.

    And constructing 85 projects per year isn't all that amazing either; aren't the Chinese single handedly building about that number of coal fired power plants in a year?

  9. CCS, at least today's incarnation, has drawbacks; can't disagree with that.

    OTOH…

    Constructing 360,000 kilometers of pipelines might seem like a huge problem, but for reference it would be helpful to know how many kilometers of pipelines (in other services) are already in the ground. I suspect that adding that amount won't happen in a year, but is far from an insurmountable problem and also will not exhaust steel supplies. Note to self, cancel the buy Nippon Steel order.

    And constructing 85 projects per year isn't all that amazing either; aren't the Chinese single handedly building about that number of coal fired power plants in a year?

  10. BRRRRRR. It sure has been cold this month!!

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