Friday, June 07, 2013

Myles Allen Kisses A Frog

For some time now, Myles Allen, Professor at Oxford, has been pushing carbon sequestration as a solution to the global warming problem.  Most recently he has published his appeal in the Guardian
Fundamentally this is an appeal of despair

"The problem requires a different approach. We started out before the industrial revolution with roughly 4 trillion tonnes of fossil carbon underground. We have dumped about half a trillion tonnes into the atmosphere, and have up to a trillion more tonnes to go before we commit ourselves either to warming substantially greater than two degrees or some form of geoengineering.
Given the extraordinary profits that can be made from the extraction and use of fossil fuels, no conceivable carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime is going to prevent a substantial fraction of those 2½ trillion "excess" tonnes from being burned somewhere, someday. Nor should it: what right have we today to prevent the citizens of India of the 2080s from touching their coal?

So the only thing that really matters for long-term climate is that we deploy the technology – carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) – to bury carbon dioxide at the same rate we dig up fossil carbon before we release too much."
If you want to read more about Allen's views on sequestration, here is a bunch of stuff

Eli is, if anything, less optimistic, but the Bunny is a hell of a lot less optimistic about sequestration, an engineering problem without real answers, many flaws, a lot of unknowns and enormous costs in money and energy.  Fundamentally it is more of a hail Mary than geoengineering, and unfortunately beloved of those who want no real action.

While Allen concludes that 

"Mandatory sequestration is transparent, fair, easy to monitor, and above all clearly addresses the problem. If we introduce it, it would be simple to request that our European and broader trading partners to do the same."
Would that there were a simple solution.

The Rabett concludes sadly that sequestration is but a fairy tale, so borrowing from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Comics, Eli would like to tell the Bunnies another.  


Jeffrey Davis said...

We can pack the CO2 on the back of ponies. Then, the ponies can carry the CO2 down into deep mines where the CO2 can be buried.


Depends on the ponies' carbon hoofprint, and other factors that may contribute to Hippopocene Climate Change

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would we want to sequester carbon when plants really like to gobble it up?

Anonymous said...

The funny part was when Allen published an article in the anti-science Daily Mail and they basically book-ended it with editorial comments that he was an idiot, not for his sequestration idea, but because he wanted to do anything at all.


Anon, unsequestered carbon that gets into plants can get thence into ponies too, and unless fed timothy, ponies are powerful good methane generators.

What the world needs are cyanobacteria that can run a furlong in 12 seconds and stay the course for the Maryland Hunt Cup.

Aaron said...

The great lesson from CERCA, CAA, FWPCA, and RCRA is that end of pipe treatment is much more difficult and more expensive than not producing the pollution in the first place.

Carbon sequestration is the ultimate end of pipe treatment. It is the most expensive and difficult.

It is the last, desperate resort of those who cannot think ahead and plan. Which is not to say that it will not be needed. However, since it takes a while to engineer and deploy, it takes a while to show results, and will likely be started much too late.

Miguelito said...

CCS is definitely not "the answer". It's expensive. There's not only the parasitic energy load, but also the pipeline infrastructure that's required to transport the CO2 from power stations, smelters, and other sources to the reservoir (new pipelines would likely be needed since most existing natural gas and oil pipelines aren't built for gas that's acidic).

That being said, it might work in some places and could form a wedge. In places like western Canada, there are vast, deep, underground reservoirs that are quite capable of storing CO2 for hundreds of millions of years. Not everywhere has that opportunity, however.

So it could have a role and form a wedge where a number of tools are used. After all, CCS can do things most renewables can't: generate dependable baseload.

The biggest joke of course, is the push to use CCS as a form of enhanced oil recovery as if that's somehow fixing our carbon problem.

david lewis said...

The IPCC published its Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage which is available here.

It probably won't interest bunnies - it contains the opinions of scientists who have actually studied the feasibility and cost of carbon capture and storage, as opposed to any fact free cartoons.

Jennifer Wilcox of Stanford gave a recent tutorial Carbon Capture 101 which goes through the capture part concentrating on describing how difficult the research community studying how to capture CO2 believes the problem is.

Chu's DOE of course wasted billions on actual projects DOE mapped out a research vision extending out for decades in this document. Just imagine how much DOE under Chu would have blown actually studying the possibilities as opposed to dismissing the entire idea before looking into it. It sure is a good thing Obama dumped him.

American Electric Power CEO Mike Morris abandoned plans his company had after they built a successful pilot CCS coal plant - they had secured a DOE grant to help them pay for a more full scale version when they were told by their regulator that AEP would not be allowed to recover one dime of the extra cost per kilowatt hour produced because the politics had produced no price on CO2 emission in the US. Morris stated on Public Radio International that he saw a full scale coal fired plant that captured 90% or so of its CO2 as the most economical way his company could produce power now except for shale gas plants. See PRI's Living on Earth Death of Carbon Capture show.

A shale gas fired electric generator that doesn't capture its emissions puts out far more CO2 than a coal plant fitted with CCS, but as bunnies know full well, CCS is a fairy tale.

David Keith had some interesting things to say on carbon capture - make sure to avoid listening to this panel discussion where he points out, among other things, that what matter when considering various technologies is the cost per tonne CO2 avoided.

Et cetera, et cetera.

EliRabett said...

Sorry David, having, over the years talked with many CCS people, it is always a hope and a prayer, and you have to pay the priest for the prayer.

Cartoons are elevator speeches, they isolate a single truth. Kind of like fusion power, better than hydrinos, but still a while away if ever.


At first i thought Aaron was lauching a diatribe against pipe-smoking bunnies like the one gracing
this blog'e upper left sidebar, but after a second clove cigarette I find merit David's riff .

Why doesn't some totalitarian policy wonk propose Return To Sender pipeline regulation, mandating that return lines for CO2 and other combustion products be laid alongside all new gas, oil and coal slurry pipelines .

Since the ditch generally costs more than the pipe it contains this might not bee too dear.

Alexander Ac said...

Thanks for bringing this up!!

Yeah, we all have our "solutions" that will save us, right?

Importantly, none of the solutions talks about fundamental change of how we live on this planet.

That is why they are "solutions"...