Thursday, September 06, 2012

Useful with a boulder of salt

Shell has a good, simple explanation of a planned carbon capture and sequestration facility in Alberta:

So the good stuff first:  they're not using it for enhanced oil recovery, which creates additional emissions.  They're injecting CO2 into salty groundwater 2 kilometers down, which is also supposed to maximize retention.  And they claim it will start in 2015, soon enough to know in short order if this is a real project or just an excuse to keep going after the tar sands.

OTverybigOH, it's tar sands, with plenty of environmental problems in addition to climate change.  While this project may recover emissions from the refining process, it won't from the extraction process, where the sands have to be heated to extract the bitumen (and of course there's the emissions from end use).  No word in the video about what percent reduction of CO2 they expect to achieve with the project.  And my understanding is the biggest problem with CCS is cost, so we'll have to see how well they handle that issue.

So it's an interesting component of a bad overall project.  More on CCS from Shell here.

UPDATE:  lots of good comments as usual, and in John's post on the same issue.


david lewis said...

Evidence that the problem with CCS is politics rather than economics exists.

This PRI "Living on Earth" radio show (audio and transcript available here)is an interview with American Electric Power CEO Mike Morris, who says his company was satisfied with their pilot scale CCS plant and was ready to build a full scale coal fired electricity generating plant until they discovered that their regulator would not allow them to recover one dime of the extra 10% to 20% or so cost.

CEO Morris: "Well, as you know, we are a regulated utility. And we are not allowed to simply invest money on behalf of our customers and recover those costs from them under the regulatory contract. There is the impact of running this machine, which we were always targeting at 10 to 15 percent what’s called a parasitic impact, meaning that you lose about 10 or 15 percent of the kilowatt hours you could put on the system by running the machines that capture and store the carbon. If that power plant makes the energy at five cents, it might make it at seven cents with this technology"

Commenting on other options for plants, Morris continued: "Clearly cheaper than new nuclear, clearly cheaper than sun and wind. Other than the new potentiality available shale natural gas combined cycle units, that’s true"

Natural gas generators would emit more CO2 than coal fired generators fitted with CCS.

The coal industry all clean coal talk and no build plan led to Gore declaring war on them (there is no such thing as clean coal), and the BS piled higher and higher.

Bryson said...

Another issue here is that most of the cost of this project is being covered by the provincial government, and some by the federal government (together the two governments' share is about $865,000,000, 65% of the total costs). I'm troubled to see a wealthy, established international company receive such massive subsidies, and very dubious that this represents a cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions. It strikes me as more of a gesture intended to make BAU more palatable to a public (and world) increasingly worried about the enviromental impact of the bitumen sands. Alberta anticipates multi-billion dollar revenues from bitumen royalties in the coming decades- set against that, this looks like a 'smart investment', unless, of course, more drastic action to curb GHGs is taken in the next 5 to 10 years (in that case,it will look like a very big mistake...).

david lewis said...

Subsidies exist because there is no price on carbon. The context is we find ourselves living with an insane economic system that is operating in a dedicated way to kill the planet.

One might object to wealthy established companies bloated with fossil fuel profits receiving subsidies but if the subsidies are not available, and if regulations do not require development of CCS, and there is no carbon price, what would cause these greedheads to develop CCS? Concern for humanity?

The IPCC 2005 Special Report on CCS recommended that CCS should be developed.

A comprehensive review of CCS was published by Robin Mills, i.e. "Capturing Carbon", published in 2011. An older but useful book is "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" by Mark Jaccard, 2005.

David B. Benson said...

TNYT article todaay stated 35--38% of CO2 to be sequestered.

Holly Stick said...

It's also been pointed out that the Canadian government subsidy for this is much higher than the cost of all that scientific research the Harper-led idiots cut in the last budget:

david lewis said...

If Americans spend $50 billion a year on their pets. is that $50 billion taken away from renewables?

EliRabett said...

Now some Rabetts, not Eli to be sure, have a propensity to multiply by dividing


And now for something completely differernt in dubious recycling projects

Anonymous said...

Well I say let 'em do it; we might as well learn a thing or two as we go about squeezing oil out of the earth's every pore.

For me, the big question of CCS is reservoir availability. If reservoirs are easy to come by, we may very well use CCS for everything, including electricity generation. If reservoirs are few and far between, however, we'd be insane to squander them with CO2 that could have been avoided with nuclear or renewables. There are some industries, like steelmaking, where CCS is really the only way to reduce CO2 emissions.

Thanks to other commenters for the links. Useful.


Dol said...

So can someone tell me: this feeling I have that CCS is just completely batshit crazy - should I be getting over myself? Or is it, in fact, completely batshit crazy?

David B. Benson said...

Dan Olner --- CCS by in situ weathering in (ultra)mafic rock is certain to work, but a pilot study ought to be conducted first.

Brian said...

David L - a cost of 10-20% for CCS sounds far lower than what I've heard elsewhere. I wonder if they're not capturing it all.

The EPA regs for new coal plants are designed to fix the problem you've mentioned of whether regulators will let producers recover costs. Cap and trade would be another way to recover costs.

Bryson - well that government subsidy explains some enthusiasm. Still, I'm okay with some technology subsidies to see if something works.

Haus - my impression is that if you go deep enough, CCS will work almost anywhere. I assume there's an extra expense though. Jim Hansen wanted underground CCS but only where it's underground and also under the ocean, and only from biomass power. I doubt he's run financial figures on that idea.

Dan O - I don't think CCS iss crazy, but experimental efforts in much of the world in the last decade haven't gone well, mostly for financial reasons. Maybe someone will figure it out though. I favor throwing lots of spaghetti at walls.

Gaz said...

Good diagram, Eli.

If the technology doesn't work, the stripper will distract everyone's attention.

"Look, a stripper" is sure to be much more effective than "Look, a squirrel".

Even in Canada.