Thursday, October 22, 2020

"Breakingviews - Stored carbon could morph into investment gold"

Our preferred end-product* has always been some sort of solid binding the carbon, calcium carbonate (pearls, marble) being one example, or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) but sadly the cost for this more secure option is still out of reach. So it is gaseous CO2 that gets the focus despite the risk of carbon dioxide burps that could release an awful lot of the stuff if there are any flaws in the engineering.

From Reuters BreakingViews:

If wind and solar power are zero-carbon energy’s golden boys, carbon capture is its problem child. Climate activists often see the process of removing the pollutant from fossil fuel emissions as an expensive and untested way for oil majors to stick to business as usual. That’s about to change, and in a way that will interest investors.

CCUS – carbon capture, utilisation and storage – is a catch-all term for technologies that remove carbon dioxide produced when generating power, by heavy industries, or, less frequently, from the air itself. Once the CO2 is removed it can be used as an input to assist other industrial processes, or compressed and stored in a suitably secure venue. CCUS is increasingly seen as a way to help eliminate today’s 35 gigatonnes of global carbon emissions by 2050, thus creating a chance of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era temperatures.

Attention usually focuses on wind turbine and solar panel installation, rather than CCUS. That’s fair enough. A massive increase in capacity is needed if they are to generate the majority of global electricity by mid-century. But one-fifth of carbon emissions come from heavy industrial processes like steel and cement, which are much harder to decarbonise using wind or solar-powered electricity.

That’s why forecasters pencil in a massively expanded role for CCUS. To hit 2050 targets, the International Energy Agency estimates the volume of carbon captured every year will have to jump 200-fold, to 8 gigatonnes from 40 million tonnes currently. The Energy Transitions Commission, a think tank chaired by former UK financial regulator Adair Turner, estimates governments and companies need to spend $5 trillion by 2050 to create sufficient capacity for all this carbon removal.

The IEA identifies 16 big projects around the world representing $27 billion of investment which are at the advanced planning stage, and which could double carbon storage capacity to around 80 million tonnes. But it’s difficult to move faster. Major emitters still lack a strong enough economic incentive to capture carbon – few countries tax it yet, and the European emissions trading scheme’s carbon allowances trade at around $30 a tonne. That doesn’t cover the cost of the infrastructure to remove the carbon in the first place, nor the need to find suitable places to store it. Right now, that’s a deterrent for the private sector....

*From a July 2019 post "A (Very) Close Look at Carbon Capture and Storage"

I too have heard the siren song of carbon capture and storage.
There are two ways to use carbon once it is captured (still theoretical because of price but the cost is dropping, see below), either sequester it and remove it from the carbon cycle or reuse it in a closed loop hydrocarbon fuel infrastructure.
From 2007: "Can baking soda curb global warming?":

I have a fascination with calcium carbonate. But, being flexible, I am willing to consider the bicarbonate of various metals.
Some scientists have proposed compressing carbon dioxide and sticking it in underground caves as a way to cut down on greenhouse gases. Joe David Jones wants to make baking soda out of it.
Jones, the founder and CEO of Skyonic, has come up with an industrial process called SkyMine that captures 90 percent of the carbon dioxide coming out of smoke stacks and mixes it with sodium hydroxide to make sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The energy required for the reaction to turn the chemicals into baking soda comes from the waste heat from the factory.
"It is cleaner than food-grade (baking soda)," he said.
The system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, as well as most of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds, Jones said.
And a few months earlier:
... Right now I'm looking at calcium carbonate. Literally. Got a hunk of limestone. CaCO3. That's sequestered carbon, right?. Hmmm.
Make a green pitch, wrap it in recycled fiberboard; et voila! Return of the Pet Rock, eco-version! And seashells, same stuff, calcite. There's the hook! Mom, you're going to Miami Beach.
And many, many more. Use the 'search blog' box if interested.

Here's another approach to capture, from IEEE Spectrum:
A material called ZIF-8 swells up when carbon dioxide molecules are trapped inside, new images reveal....