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View Diary: Carbon Sequestration and Climate Change:  A Review of the Economics and Safety.   (43 comments)

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  •  This is an extremely unconvincing argument. (0+ / 0-)

    First of all, you do need to prove that the economics has changed significantly in the last seven years, not just announce it "would be easy."  

    You write that carbon dioxide's problem is not with quantity but with rate.   Then you say 500 years is enough.  This demonstrates that you are not familiar with geological time scales and the rate of species evolution.   Five hundred years is a blink in geological time.   If we are going to provide a system that is only stable for a few centuries, we may as well not bother.   At least we will be confronting the consequences of our own actions.

    I am an advocate of nuclear power, which - even if waste were the sole consideration in energy evaluation is vastly safer than coal.   Why?  Because the storage of so called "nuclear waste," has never injured a single person, whereas the waste from coal (aka "air pollution") kills continuously, unremarked.   Now you say that you can contain 27 billion tons of a gas in meaningful way.   I don't buy that for a second.

    You wave your hands about putative "mineralization" and cite the IPCC reports as if mineralization were an established outcome that is well understood.   That is contrary to what is actually written.   The IPCC reports confess quite plainly that any hope of mineralization will depend on the input of 30 to 50% of the coal energy to even work.   That is a vast, tremendous, and incredible efficiency hit, clearly not worth the effort strictly on its face.

    et al., 2005) and is discussed in detail in Box 7.1. This study calculates storage costs between 50 and 100 US$/tCO2 stored, with between 30% and 50% of the energy produced needed as input to the mineral carbonation step, i.e. a corresponding
    reduction of power plant efficiency from 35% for instance to 25% and 18%, respectively. This implies that a full CCS system with mineral carbonation would need 60-180% more energy than a power plant with equivalent output without CCS, when the 10-40% energy penalty in the capture plant is accounted too. No similar economic evaluation is available for either dry mineral carbonation or carbonation using industrial residues.

     (Page 330, your reference to the IPCC report.)

    Further it is by no means clear that there is even enough magnesium silicate around to accomplish the mineralization:

    Moreover, an evaluation is needed to determine the fraction of the natural reserves of silicates, which greatly exceed the needs, that can be effectively exploited for mineral carbonation. This will require thorough study, mapping the resources and matching sources and sinks, as in O’Connor et al. (2005). The actual size of the resource base will be significantly influenced by the legal and societal constraints at a specific


    I rather hate to contemplate the strip mining of silicates added to the strip mining of coal.

    As a nuclear advocate, I am hearing continuously that nuclear fuel must be contained forever.   It is again, arbitrary, and exceptionalist to insist that the opposite is true for coal waste.   Future generations will not be burning coal, whereas it is very likely they will be using nuclear fuel derived from today's spent nuclear fuel.

    The appeal to "porous" vs. "non-porous" hydraulic flow is hand waving.   The variability between geological formations is huge, as is the quantity of carbon dioxide that needs to be sequestered if the strategy is to be meaningful.   The more meaningful such a strategy were to become, the more different type of formations must be found.   Moreover many of these formations will contain water under pressure, since water is more or less ubiquitous.   This is exactly the situation that took place at Nyos.   You have no information whatsoever that billion ton scale sequestration plants will not result in supersaturated water subject to thermal shock.   In fact, I suspect that the (odious) plans to sequester carbon dioxide in the oceans is a deliberate plan to mimic these conditions - this when the thermal stability of the entire planet is in question.

    The scale suggests that an appeal to an entry level textbook addresses this concern is absurd on its face.

    As for Utah, you seem to be implying that it is OK for the system to fail because people can run around for eternity with patches for your leaky balloons.   While they might be able to patch this one case, I'm sure that when there are many thousands of cases, the tourist value and the amusement will not prevail quite so much as the danger.

    As for whether or not nuclear is a non-starter in Wisconsin, that is Wisconsin's problem.   Right now 220 new nuclear plants are under discussion around the world and in my mind this is a rational plan.

    For the record, I don't happen to believe that Iranians and Chinese have any less right to nuclear power than we do.   Neither of these nations has ever used a nuclear weapon on another nation, something that we can't say.   The confusion between weapons technology and power technology in the nuclear case is also arbitrary.  All technologies can be diverted for immoral intent.   People always cite Hiroshima as a rationale for opposing nuclear energy, but nobody cites the napalm used at Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo as a rationale for banning oil.   This is MOST unfortunate, I think.   The fire bombing of Tokyo killed more people than Hiroshima and Nakasaki combined, as did the war in Iraq, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.  There has not been a nuclear war since 1945.   Since 1945 there have been lots and lots and lots and lots of fossil fuel wars.   If one is concerned about war, one should be advocating a ban on fossil fuels, as, in fact, I do.

    •  Hand waving? (0+ / 0-)

      To answer your question about time scales: I'm familiar and also pretty comfortable with geologic time scales. Of course it might be because I'm a geologist.  One who has never worked for an oil company - in fact, I work for a conservation group fighting old coal power plants. The IPCC report has pretty much the same conclusion that I have, carbon capture and geological sequestration is ONE promising solution, of many, to climate change.  And as I concluded before, you overhype the dangers of sequestration and dismiss it with erroneous comparisons.    

      Now onto the fun science:

      My point about time scales is very relevant, and is widely held by scientists in climate change.  Time scales are discussed in most scientific discussions of climate change, STARTING with CO2 itself, estimated to have a half life in the atmosphere of between many decades to 100 years.

      If one assumes a terrestrial biosphere with a fertilization flux, then our best estimate is that the single half-life for excess CO2 lies within the range of 19 to 49 years, with a reasonable average being 31 years. If we assume only regrowth, then the average value for the single half-life for excess CO2 increases to 72 years, and if we remove the terrestrial component completely, then it increases further to 92 years.

      In short, time scales are pervasive in the science of climate change.  Why isn't water vapor (the most important greenhouse gas) a forcing mechanism for climate change?  Because it has a residence time in the atmosphere of around 10 days.  CO2, and the other greenhouse gases causing climate change, reside for many years - but quite a few years short of "forever."  See  (RealClimate is an excellent science-based blog on climate change, they have great sections that explain the misuse of climate science by skeptics)

      Further examples of the relevance of time scales to the climate problem include the other forms of sequestration discussed by mainstream climate scientists and the IPCC, namely forests and soil carbon sequestration.  Do you really think that increasing the carbon of soils will lock up that carbon forever?  No, but sequestering carbon, for both short and long time scales, is something we should be encouraging to address climate change.  As a side note, it is interesting that you are concerned about climate change but dismiss the solutions (including carbon sequestration)offered by the very organization that has alerted the world to the problem of climate change, namely the IPCC!  Ironic, no?

      You missed my description completely on mineralization.  I was referring to the long-term FATE of CO2 sequestered in a geological reservoir.  Your quote (from the very good IPCC article on sequestration referenced in my other comment) was referring to carbon mineralization of CO2.  These two processes are different options for sequestration, and I could offer you more of my basic geology books to point out the differences... (just a joke).  The conclusion from the report is that carbon capture and geological sequestration is more practical than direct carbon mineralization.  In reality, all you need to do is read the report, which does a much better job of rebutting your main points than I do.  Then, you could just say that the authors of the report didn't look at enough peer-reviewed research and the 200 reviewers of the report were incompetent and that their conclusion that carbon sequestration is promising is wrong.  

      Am I "hand waving" about the difference between porous and non-porous hydraulic flow?  You say "Moreover many of these formations will contain water under pressure, since water is more or less ubiquitous.   This is exactly the situation that took place at Nyos."  Yeah, exactly the situation - IF you subtract out the porous rocks of the geologic formation!  Fluid flow in aquifers (porous media) and lakes (non-porous) is different no matter how many hands you wave.  

      Did you ever stop and wonder where the carbon problem starts?  It is fossil fuel carbon from the subsurface, namely oil and gas reservoirs we have pumped or coal we've mined, then burned.  Is it that hard to think that the depleted reservoirs, those that held oil and gas (and the carbon now causing global warming) for millions of years, cannot hold co2?  Am I saying that there will be no problems with any carbon sequestration site? no. But there is nothing in the scientific literature that would lead to the wholesale dismissal of carbon sequestration you provided in your "review."  Again, I would refer you back to the IPCC book from 2005 on carbon capture and storage.  

      Oh, by the way, table SPM.3 in the preface (page 10) answers your questions about cost of carbon capture and storage, and guess what??  IGCC with carbon capture and storage is estimated to cost $.07 to $0.09/kwh ($.04/kwh to $.07/kwh with enhanced oil recovery) while pulverized coal WITHOUT carbon capture is estimated at $0.04 to $0.05/kwh based on recent reference plants.  Is the IPCC hand waving too?

      Am I prejudiced because I am uncomfortable with President Ahmadinejad of Iran having nuclear power?  I must not be the only one.....

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