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31 Comments

  1. Future, Carbon. Happen? If I am to assume that these are the only word that one might see then I believe I would chuckle as well. Let’s see, Shell is telling me that carbon’s going to happen anyway so we might as well continue burning coal.

  2. No wonder CSS isn’t working so well if they’ve been trying to capture it with a net all this time.

  3. Maybe it’s an ironic commentary on the current approach to carbon dioxide management – lots of arm-waving, negligible results.

  4. I keep wondering if the real problem is the combination of increasing CO2 output from human activities with the continuous destruction of our natural carbon capturing system: forests. Has anyone ever done a cost analysis on – R

    1. William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina has calculated that to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 7%, as stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol, it would require the planting of “an area the size of Texas [8% of the area of Brazil] every 30 years”

    2. Land use and changes thereto are a significant component of the effect we have on climate. You might be interested in the potential of “terra preta”, a soil enhancement from charcoal that both improves fertility and captures carbon in otherwise poor Amazonian soils.

  5. What’s with all this “we” stuff, Shell?
    Shell, YOU should make carbon management happen. And while you’re thinking about this problem about 20 years too late, YOU should be paying dearly for pollution YOU create while YOU are currently making a pretty penny ignoring it.
    And honestly, WE (the government, the people) can help you, if you need help, but you should first have to show you’re making a big effort. And you’re not.
    YOU need some tough love, Shell. We should not be mollified by a pretty picture of you catching a C02 butterflies.

  6. I’d say they need a no-see-um grade of mesh. Kind of like what we wear in Minnesota to keep the state bird – the mosquito – at bay during the summer month (singular intentional).
    Wasn’t CCS proven, or at least demonstrated sufficiently, to be nearly impossible and fiscally unworthy of further pursuit at the NextGen coal plant in Illinois earlier this decade?

  7. The Bush Administration did the “proving” of CCS at FutureGen, by cancelling the project. Obviously, that makes the entire concept fiscally unworthy of further pursuit. Its just like nuclear power. Why would the US have stopped building reactors way back when? Obviously, everything the anti nuke people say must be true.
    The idea that CCS is not possible is disputed by Stephen Chu, the head of DOE. In an editorial in Science, 25 September 2009 he wrote: “The are many hurdles to making CCS a reality, but none appear insurmountable. The DOE goal is to support R&D, as well as pilot CCS projects so that widespread deployment of CCS can begin in 8 to 10 years. This is an agressive goal, but the climate problem compels us to act with fierce urgency”. What a moron. They give Nobels away to morons. Its unbelieveable
    I’d put up a link to the IPCC Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage, but obviously, after the recent discovery of an entire mistake in their thousands of pages AR4 report it has been conclusively shown that anything the IPCC says is completely bogus. Stephen Chu chaired a committee created by the Interacademy Council, a creation of, as it says on the IAC website, “the world’s science academies”, which produced a report called “Lighting the Way”, which advocates rapid development and deployment of CCS, but again, obviously, the world’s science academies are suspect in the extreme as it was this same group that called on the leaders of the G8 to take what climatologists say seriously, so again, I won’t post a link to that.
    We should come up with retro symbols for important events in history, like say something that would symbolize the utter futility of the US Navy thinking it could defeat the all powerful Empire of Japan. Maybe a three year old with a tennis racket facing off against a tank.

    1. @David –
      I guess I am confused. GWB was supposed to be in the pocket of Big Carbon but he cancels FutureGen, which would’ve assured the future dominance of Big Carbon over new nuclear. However, he also signs the Energy Act of 2005 that encourages more NPPs being built, seeming to lower the dominance of Big Carbon in base-load electricity generation.
      Didn’t President Carter (D) effectively end the expansion of nuclear power plants “way back when” with his decision to refuse spent fuel recycling (with the able assistance of the Sierra Club and other anti-nukes)? And wasn’t it President Clinton (D) who canceled the IFR program just as it was proving ready for commercial development?
      DoE Sec. Chu is undoubtedly a smart man. I’d like to see him explore the LFTR technology that Kirk Sorensen and others are working on as it seems, to an outsider like me at least, that LFTR has some interesting advantages. But again, I am not a nuclear engineer and only responding to what appears reasonable from what I’ve read.
      Lastly, the UN IPCC has several mistakes in its AR4 report. For being considered by many as the “authority” on the global climate change issue, they ought to have done a better job vetting their document. Wouldn’t you agree?

      1. “Big Carbon” didn’t want to spend a dime on CCS, I’m not sure why. They act at this moment as if they believe they can stop all action on climate forever, so if they believe that, there is the reason. CCS wouldn’t assure coal dominance at all. For one thing it is sure to add enough cost that nuclear would easily compete, especially if a few successful new builds took place in the US lowering the cost of capital.
        The knock on CCS that I tend to buy into is that most of the talk is about 90% capture, yet the plan is to multiply the size of civilization by five or ten. What is needed for climate is zero emissions from the electricity sector. The big stationary sources have to be brought down to zero. Only nuclear can do that.
        CCS is at best something interim, until it can be done at 100%, and it won’t happen if nuclear managed to get public acceptance enough so that all the measures taken just to cater to public phobia could be eliminated and the industry could prove how cheap it really could be.
        Very few outside pro nuclear circles, and very few inside pro nuclear circles, believe this is possible, it seems.
        Dumping mindlessly on CCS using the type of logic and argument favored by anti nukes or climate skeptics just lessens pro nuke’s credibility, it seems to me. Being a climate skeptic and a pro nuke will tend to end up helping to discredit the nuclear industry by associating it with mindless anti-science.

        1. @David – the reason why people in the energy industries don’t like CCS is because it’s kind of like transmission line losses…it’s energy (and money) “thrown away”, sent down a metaphorical hole, even though it might be necessary to do for the sake of the total environment. It’s doing “less with less”.
          This is why nuclear power is a preferable alternative to CCS – except CCS in the short term. With nuclear, you aren’t throwing energy away – allowing you to do “more with more”.

        2. CCS doesn? even deliver 90% cuts. EU projections show the stack emissions drop, but the indirect emissions increase due to the increased amount of coal that needs to be mined, transported etc.
          See table 2-1 for costs and emissions:
          http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=SEC:2008:2872:FIN:EN:PDF
          The net result is that a CCS coal plant produces 270gCO2/kWh compared to 822g for a new IGCC coal plant. So it? about a 69% cut in emissions. Not all that impressive. The lifecycle emissions from fission are about 18 times lower than CCS. Fission is also cheaper.
          Serious question though: can the world build enough fission plants fast enough to avoid the need for CCS?

          1. We have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can build a dozen or so large nuclear plants each year even when there is focused and well funded opposition. We are also SURE of the emissions from those plants once they are completed.
            My question is – can we take the time to solve all of the unknowns associated with the cost, duration and efficacy of CCS projects?

          2. ColinG’s example study table 2-1 has a footnote to the effect that the calculations assume the emissions are from first of a kind CCS plants that can only capture 80% at the stack in the first place. The point that lifecycle emissions must be counted is good. CCS seems certain to achieve better than 70% on the lifecycle emissions. Vattenfall, when they opened their Schwarze Pumpe 30 MW pilot oxyfuel plant in Germany that burns the coal in pure O2 then compresses the exhaust, stated they were aiming for greater than 95% reduction of what otherwise would be emanating from their stack. The fact that CCS research has advanced this far in Germany reflects the success of the German anti nuke movement.

        3. One way to look at why utilities tend not to be interested in CCS is in the preliminary discussion to and in the table on page 3 of “2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010” put out by the EIA.
          http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/2016levelized_costs_aeo2010.pdf
          Summing up what this EIA estimate means:
          If you don’t install CCS and go with coal or gas, even if a carbon price appears, your electricity will cost less than all your new build competitors. If you actually install CCS on a coal plant, power from new nukes is going to be cheaper than the best you can do.
          EIA reasoning: they included a political factor when projecting what the rest of their assumptions indicate different electricity generation technologies will cost if built to enter service by 2016, i.e. EIA assumes that by 2016 there will be a price on carbon emissions of $15 a ton. They therefore attached a 3% premium on capital for new build generators using fossil fuels who don’t intend to install CCS , which is stated to simulate the effect of the assumed $15 carbon price. This assumption is said to be “well within the range of results that utilities and regulators have prepared”. This seems to indicate a general expectation, i.e. that the EIA, utilities, and regulators don’t believe the carbon price, if it materializes at all, will be higher than $15. Even with this penalty attached, given the rest of the assumptions EIA makes, coal and gas generators of all types are expected to produce lower cost electricity than if they actually installed CCS.
          The best analyses I’ve read on CCS deployment which all indicate it will take a long time to deploy at a scale large enough to make a difference to the climate, all point to this political factor, i.e. few see any realistic prospect that politics will produce a carbon price high enough soon enough to force deployment any earlier.
          Today’s nukes, even with all the gold plating forced onto the entire industry by public phobia, will beat the fossil fuels if they have to add CCS, or at least, here is evidence that this is what the fossil generators believe.

    2. David – It requires an excessively large volume to sequester worldwide CO2 produced from burning coal.
      The editorial you mention by Dr. Stephen Chu (Science Magazine 25 September 2009 issue) entitled “Carbon Capture and Sequestration” describes the magnitude of the challenge of sequestering the CO2 the world generates from burning coal. In that editorial Dr. Chu wrote the following:
      At geological storage densities of CO2 (0.6 kg/m3), underground sequestration will require a storage volume of 30,000 km^3/year.
      30,000 cubic kilometers of CO2 is equal to 7187.382 cubic miles. This is a show stopper of a large value which should call into question the wisdom of this approach.
      7187.382 cubic miles of volume would be a rectangular trench 1 mile deep x 1 mile wide x 7187 miles long. The storage volume required to store the world’s CO2 for one year would be a trench having 1 mile width and 1 mile depth and exceed twice the distance from Los Angeles to New York City.
      The Secretary may have chosen a low value for geological storage densities of CO2 at 0.6 kg/m3, but if this figure is typical and it is the value Secretary Chu provided and used in his Sept. 2009 Science Magazine Editorial, then the storage volume required to be found to sequester CO2 worldwide is excessive (7187.382 cubic miles) and this should be disclosed to the public.
      There are no underground caverns or natural features that are close to this size and it is not practical to talk about excavating storage structures that are this large.
      I am personally not ready to give up on Dr. Chu and think his reputation for intelligence is deserved, but it is hard to see justification for CCS with the technology at hand. I believe what Dr. Chu might say is that we will be burning fossil fuels and coal allot longer than anyone currently around is comfortable admitting (DOE EIA projections out to 2030 show flat to mildly growing use of coal and natural gas). If we are going to continue to use large amounts of coal we have to put effort into measures to capture or control the CO2 generated. We plainly need additional effective technology to do this job. What has been developed so far is just not good enough (in fact it is totally unsatisfactory). Dr. Chu is willing to spend aggressively on CCS technology even though everything that currently is proposed seems unfeasible as coal and natural gas are going to continue to be used and will not go away.
      Secretary Chu Announces $3 Billion Investment for Carbon Capture and Sequestration
      http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/press/2009/09081-Secretary_Chu_Announces_CCS_Invest.html
      Thanks David for your well researched comment.

    3. David – my beef with CCS is not scientific. I have no doubt that it is possible to capture and separate CO2 from combustion stacks. I also have no doubt that it is scientifically possible to push CO2 into a storage system that will not leak.
      The beef I has is an engineering and economic beef. HOW MUCH CO2 do we need to capture and HOW MUCH can we store. HOW MUCH will it cost? WHEN will it be available?
      The answers that I have come up with in my own research is we need to capture way too much CO2, that we can store far too little of it to matter compared to the production rates, that it will cost far more money and other resources than we are willing to spend and that it will take far too long before it will be available – especially since we have a proven, reliable zero emission alternative already available.
      CCS is a mere distraction that keeps people from acknowledging that the best, quickest, most reliable and cheapest path to a low emission future is to focus on atomic fission. It is a message that coal producers do not want others to recognize. Some of the smartest coal producers recognize that it is only a matter of time before the challenge of CCS is widely understood, but they know that the longer they can delay that, the more money they can put into their pockets.
      Money is a powerful motivator.

      1. I tend to agree with Rod in his belief that CCS is a distraction and I tend to agree with him that there is a proven reliable zero emission potentially far cheaper alternative all ready to go, except nuclear isn’t all ready to go because public acceptance is still an issue.
        I look at all the myths still dragging down nuclear power, and it is hard to see how it all gets turned around. The authorities can’t straighten out what they believe about radiation hazards, which affects everything from how to build reactors how to run them and what to do with the leftovers. They can’t figure out how to proclaim it is impossible for reactors to be a cause for a mass evacuation. They can’t figure out a process that will allow the what, 400th and something reactor to be built even in the same amount of time that the first one was, never mind some kind of improvement in the rate at which they can be built. This is a cultural problem, the kind of thing that suddenly changes, but it is the kind of thing that no one can predict when it will change. I put my two bits worth these days into educating myself so that my little bit can somehow be useful to the cause of making nuclear more viable, but, I don’t criticize the efforts of those who say CCS will be needed as well.
        So I support the US effort under Chu to try to bring the CCS technology into full scale deployable condition. The US emitted a lot of the CO2 that has accumulated in the atmosphere to this point, and now that there is a problem, it seems just that the US accepts some responsibility to research alternatives to just continuing to use the atmosphere as a garbage dump.

        1. David – my study of history tells me that changing public opinion and human imposed rules is easier than changing physical laws. I am still not quite sure how to do it, but I know it has been done in the past.
          In contrast, I am certain that Boyle’s gas law, the energy density of chemical combustion, the number of neutron produced by each fission, the quantity of energy from the sun at night, the power in in the atmosphere on a still day and the acceleration of gravity have remained constant forever.

          1. The thing about carbon capture is there are many who believe that too much has been done to the atmosphere already. I studied climate change more than twenty years ago, I talked to some of the relevant experts then, and I’ve been speaking out about it since. The case hasn’t changed. I called for stabilizing the composition of the atmosphere many years before Hansen started doing it. If what he says is in store for us is in the cards, given that our generation is not going to do the slightest thing about it, our descendants will need to remove some CO2 and some of the other gases from the atmosphere as a matter of survival. Hence, I studied carbon capture, and advocate research into how to do it. Never mind trying to capture the concentrated CO2 coming out of coal plants: our descendants, if not us, will be frantically trying to remove CO2 from ambient air.
            Another thing: FDR believed the scientists when they told him they could come up with The Bomb. But he didn’t put all his eggs into that basket. Troops were told to go out and take those Japanese held islands out there in the Pacific, no matter what the cost, right up to more than 80% casualties in some of the Marine battalions. MacArthur apparently told the Joint Chiefs that he expected to suffer 1,000,000 casualties during the attack he was ordered to plan aimed at conquering the mainland of Japan. Nuclear power may be the solution to climate, and anyone can devote their effort exclusively to furthering its success with no shame. I”m just saying, no one can say it is wise to put all the eggs civilization has into one nuclear power basket.

    1. This is a viable option, mineral carbonate sequestration, probably would increase costs for fossil power by a bit, with the large scale material handling operations needed, and the consequent energy expenditure, but it would avoid Lake Nyos-class contingencies. It’s a viable measure.
      Still, you would be diverting the plant output to do the mineral carbonation operation as well as electrical production. This would reduce plant output, and thus, profitability. Hence, it’s a stopgap measure only.
      The ultimate solution is not to do less with less energy. Less energy means a declining standard of living. Instead, while we’re bringing our carbon scrubbers online, we also need to be constructing nuclear plants so that we can do more with more – and ultimately – sequester carbon the easy way – by leaving it in the ground!

  8. Rod, looking at the “larger” image, I still can’t make out the smaller print displaying the website on the sign. Can you let us know what it is?

  9. It has been way to long since I took that course, so I may be mistaken but didn’t animals that live in the ocean that have shells sequester the CO2 into their shells, these shells fell to the bottom of the ocean and made these rocks that sequester CO2, over billions of years? and we are going to try and do this chemically for millions of pounds per day per plant? Dream on.

  10. The Secretary may have chosen a low value for geological storage densities of CO2 at 0.6 kg/m3, but if this figure is typical and it is the value Secretary Chu provided and used in his Sept. 2009 Science Magazine Editorial, then the storage volume required to be found to sequester CO2 worldwide is excessive …
    I am personally not ready to give up on Dr. Chu and think his reputation for intelligence is deserved, …

    Me too, but anyone can make a three-powers-of-ten error and the mentioned low value makes no sense at all, except as such an error.
    (How fire can be domesticated)

    1. Indeed, Graham. The value offered is less than the density of CO2 under atmospheric conditions. I think the units are wrong – it should be 0.6 tonne/m3, or 0.6 kg/L, which would be liquid or near-liquid (at the high pressures required).

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