Monday, March 29, 2021

"Carbon Capture and Storage: The Negative Carbon Option?"

We'll re-use the intro from January's "Elon Musk to offer $100 million prize for 'best' carbon capture tech":

Carbon capture is an approach the Norwegians among others are exploring but it is not easy. Because the concentrations of CO2 in air are so low, ~415 parts per million, you have to move a lot of air through your systems to get meaningful amounts of CO2 to sequester.

The other reasons are ideological. A lot of folks in the authoritarian crowd don't like it because it means that things don't have to change as much as they would like things to change. Wealth transferers don't like carbon capture because it directly attacks their rationalization for "climate reparations", always set with a starting point far enough back in time so that only Northern Hemisphere and in particular, western, countries owe x-number of trillions of dollars to southern and eastern countries. And then there are the....

Yeah, I've been doing this a long time.

Putting all that aside, prizes are good, a very efficient way to mobilize talent and creativity in a focused pursuit. I may even see if I can recruit a team of folks smarter than I to claim Elon's money.....

And from The Conversable Economist, March 18: 

here used to be one coal-fired electricity generating plant in the US using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the Petra Nova plant outside of Houston, Texas. It's now been shut down. It's not that the plant was a roaring technology success; for example, the process for scrubbing out the carbon required so much energy that the company had to build a separate natural-gas power plant just for that purpose. Still, I was sorry to see it go. There are other US plants, not coal-fired, learning about carbon capture and storage. But the way to learn about new technologies is to use them at scale. 

Here, I'll take a look at the Global Status of CCS 2020 report from the Global CCS Institute (December 2020) and the Special Report on Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage: CCUS in clean energy transitions from the International Energy Agency (September 2020). These reports make no effort to oversell carbon capture and storage. Instead, the argument is that in specific locations and for specific purposes, carbon capture and storage technology could be a useful or even a necessary part of reducing carbon emissions. 

Brad Page, chairman of the Global CCS Institute, notes: "Just considering the role for CCS implicit in the IPCC 1.5 Special Report, somewhere between 350 and 1200 gigatonnes of CO2 will need to be captured and stored this century. Currently, some 40 megatonnes of CO2 are captured and stored annually. This must increase at least 100-fold by 2050 to meet the scenarios laid out by the IPCC." Nicholas Stern adds: "We have long known that CCUS will be an essential technology for emissions reduction; its deployment across a wide range of sectors of the economy must now be accelerated."

The basic point here is that even if there can be an enormous jump in non-carbon energy production for most purposes, there are likely to remain a few uses where it is extremely costly to substitute away from fossil fuels. Common examples include the iron, steel, and concrete industries, as well as back-up power-generating facilities that are needed for stabilizing power grids. For those purposes, carbon capture and storage technology can keep the resulting emissions as low as possible. Carbon capture and storage might have a role to play in a shift to hydrogen technology: hydrogen generates electricity without carbon, but using coal or natural gas to make the hydrogen is not carbon free. Moreover, it would be useful to have at least a few energy technologies that are carbon-negative. Examples would include if it is possible to combine biofuels with carbon capture and storage technology, or perhaps even in certain locations to use a cheap but local noncarbon energy source (say, geothermal energy) to capture carbon from the air....