The Energy Collective Group

This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

9,876 Members

Post

Why We Need CCS, Part 2: Reactive Climate Change Mitigation

Highlights

  • Based on historical trends, a climate change policy environment of delayed/ineffective proactive action followed by a somewhat desperate reactive push towards rapid decarbonization appears to be the most likely scenario.
  • CCS is especially suited to such rapid reactive climate change mitigation for three main reasons:
    • CCS retrofits can retroactively abate emissions from existing energy infrastructure
    • The capital-intensive alternatives of nuclear and renewables are not well suited for very rapid deployment
    • CCS is the only viable alternative for abating direct industrial emissions

Introduction

It is important to re-emphasize right at the start of this article that CCS is only a viable option if climate change is a very important factor. If it eventually turns out that long-term CO2 concentrations of 850 ppm are perfectly fine, we can drop all CCS research right now. If 650 ppm is acceptable, I would be satisfied with the current rate of progress. However, if 450 ppm indeed remains a priority, the role of CCS will probably expand dramatically over coming decades.

This series of articles is written on the assumption that the world will manage to, in some way or another, restrict long-term atmospheric CO2 concentrations somewhere in the range of 450-550 ppm. Based on historical CO2 emissions data and climate change policy developments, the most likely scenario appears to be one of delayed/ineffective proactive action followed by a somewhat desperate reactive push towards rapid decarbonization. This is the policy scenario in which CCS will do the best and is also the subject of this article.

Timeframes

When considering the 450 ppm scenario, the timeframes for change really become very short. The most striking example is that of emissions lock-in. In their 2012 World Energy Outlook, the IEA calculates that the most likely New Policies scenario will lock in all CO2 emissions allowable in the 450 ppm scenario already by 2017. This is illustrated for the developing world below:

CO2 lock-in developing world

Aside from the possibility of another global financial crisis, the chances that emissions dip significantly below the New Policies profile before 2017 appears to be almost zero. This implies that adherence to the 450 ppm scenario will require that the entire world ceases all construction of fossil fuel infrastructure by 2017 (completely impossible) or commit to retiring ever increasing amounts fully functional fossil fuel infrastructure prematurely and replacing it with alternatives that will probably be substantially more expensive and less practical (probably politically impossible).

Given these numbers, the chances that we meet the 450 ppm target while maintaining the rapid industrialization desired by 6 billion developing world citizens (illustrated below) appear very small indeed. For example, China is still rapidly expanding its domestic coal production and planning to curb air pollution by constructing even more CO2-intensive coal-to-gas plants. And then there is also India which will soon be more populous than China as well as many other populous developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

developing world primary energy demand

The chances are therefore high that we reach the end of this decade having already locked in all CO2 emissions allowable in the 450 ppm scenario and still rapidly building more long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure. If climate change effects start to become significantly more frequent and severe by that time, we may just start to witness a clear shift from current ineffective technology-forcing policies to a widespread technology-neutral policy environment targeted directly at CO2 abatement.

CCS in a strong technology-neutral CO2 abatement policy framework

A belated reactive push towards rapid decarbonization will probably be driven by a rapid increase in CO2 prices. If the 450 ppm scenario is confirmed as a global priority early in the next decade, it is fully possible that global average CO2 prices jump from close to zero in 2020 to as high as $100/ton in 2030. As an example, the IEA foresees CO2 prices around $90/ton in 2030 with continued increases thereafter if the 450 ppm scenario is to be met (shown below).

Projected CO2 prices

Such a large jump in CO2 prices will completely reshape the energy market. The effective price of coal will jump from below $100/ton today to more than $300/ton. Coal-fired electricity will increase from below $60/MWh today to about $150/MWh. Oil will see somewhat smaller price increases, while the price jump for gas will be about half as severe.

In China and other developing nations where the bulk of the global coal fleet is located, the choice will be between retrofitting existing plants for about 50% of the original plant value, building nuclear plants for 200-300% of the original plant value or building (intermittent) wind farms for about 700% of the original plant value (when adjusted for capacity factor) (see below). Another very important factor is that the retrofit option avoids all the economic and social turmoil created by forced capital writedowns not only of the plants themselves, but throughout the entire coal mining industry.

Capital costs of nuclear coal and wind

When rapid change is enforced on the market through a very high CO2 price, the 4-10 times lower capital expenditures and the effective utilization of sunk investments from the CCS retrofit strategy will clearly be the best option. Yes, CCS will involve substantial fuel costs which are not applicable to nuclear and wind, but the rapidly rising CO2 price will value low capital costs and rapid deployment very highly.

Capital costs are a good indication of the amount of time, materials, energy and expertise required to construct an operating plant. Thus, if deployment of low-carbon energy is left to capital-intensive nuclear and wind, rapid decarbonization will simply not be possible and the CO2 price will rise so high that it forces reductions in CO2 emissions through economic contraction rather than technology deployment. And if the economy starts contracting, our ability to achieve a technology-led decarbonization will be greatly reduced.

When also considering the economic pain brought by large-scale capital write-downs and the fact that we are only talking about the power sector here, rapid decarbonization through capital-intensive nuclear and renewable energy technologies appear to be clearly unfeasible. In this case, we will have to compromise on our climate commitments and aim for a more realistic target – say 650 ppm (the New Policies scenario in the table above) – in order to reduce the CO2 price. Such a scenario could allow for a nuclear/renewables-led decarbonization of the power sector with CCS being deployed primarily in industry, but, if climate science is correct, could activate self-strengthening climate feedback loops which can be truly disastrous in the long term.

Speed of deployment

When saying that rapid decarbonization through CCS will be substantially easier than rapid decarbonization through nuclear and/or renewables, I certainly do not wish to imply that it will be easy. Vaclav Smil gives a good analogy on the scale of the problem by stating that the storage of only 20% of global CO2 emissions (around 6 Gt/year) will require that we pump down a volume of CO2 that is twice the volume of oil that we pump up every year.

He then goes on to say that, since we took an entire century to build up the oil industry to pump all this volume up, CCS, which will require substantially larger volumes to be pumped down, is unlikely to have a sizable impact. He also states the fact that we will have to pay for the pumping down of CO2 through taxation as a major show-stopper.

However, if real-world climate change impacts force a commitment to a 450 ppm or 550 ppm target, causing a global CO2 price to quickly rise above $50/ton and beyond, the outlook will change totally. Such a situation will create an enormous demand for CO2 storage services simply because CO2 can be captured and compressed for $30/ton or less and will be worth $50/ton or more if successfully stored.

Consider that China alone could expand its yearly coal consumption by 2300 Mt (about 30% of current global consumption) in only the last decade (see below). This is truly remarkable: one country which represents about 12% of global GDP could build out a third of global coal infrastructure in a single decade. It can be conservatively estimated that capturing, transporting and storing CO2 will be roughly half as expensive as mining, transporting and productively utilizing coal (e.g. currently available CCS technology will increase the LCOE of coal-fired electricity in the US by about 35%). This implies that China, if the market demands it, could potentially scale up CCS twice as fast as they scaled up coal production.

China vs world coal consumption

In the video above, Vaclav Smil also alludes to what could well be the primary headwind facing CCS deployment in a strong technology-neutral CO2 abatement policy framework: NIMBYism. It will therefore be up to the CCS industry to thoroughly demonstrate and clearly communicate the safety of CO2 transport and storage. If this is not successfully done, CCS could underperform in a similar manner to nuclear at present. That being said, however, correct CO2 market design enforcing an emissions pathway towards a 450-550 ppm target will impose such enormous price pressures on the population that NIMBYism may very well become a significantly smaller issue than expected.

Conclusion

If the world ever commits to an atmospheric CO2 target of 450-550 ppm and economic growth can be maintained against the wide range of headwinds that have persisted since the 2008 crisis, a very strong technology-neutral climate change mitigation policy framework is likely to emerge in the next decade. Such a framework, spearheaded by a high and rising price on CO2, will lead to very rapid deployment of CCS.

Growth will stem from a need to protect large investments in unabated fossil fuel infrastructure, from the need to reduce direct industrial emissions, and from the capital-intensive nature of nuclear and renewable alternatives. CCS should be able to scale up very quickly in such a policy environment, but could face substantial resistance from NIMBYism. It is therefore up to the CCS industry to demonstrate and communicate the safety of CO2 transport and storage in a highly effective manner in order to proactively mitigate this potentially large headwind.

Schalk Cloete's picture

Thank Schalk for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Recent Comments

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on May 7, 2014
  • The capital-intensive alternatives of nuclear and renewables are not well suited for very rapid deployment


Huh?  Renewables are growing exponentially, their costs are amoung the most rapidly decreasing, and are thus eminently suitable for rapid deployment.

CCS is inherintly hazardous and will very likely at some point in time result in a catastrophic release of the stored CO2 thereby negating all benefit of that storage site, hardly a neutral technology.  If it is CCC, carbon capture and CONVERSION where it becomes a solid such as a form of plastic, that would arguably be a good technology.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 7, 2014

The only forms of sequestration that would be considered or approved are all inherently safe.  Pumping into a deep saline aquifer, for example, produces a CO2-brine solution that is significantly heavier than the original brine, and will diffuse downward, not upward.  Over time, the CO2 content diminishes, as the CO2-brine mix reacts with silicate minerals to transform them to carbonates.

Renewables have an inherently low energy density that puts a fairly high lower limit on the cost that they might eventually attain.  They’re several times as expensive, in terms of capital cost per delivered energy unit, as dispatched fossil fuel plants.  Rapid growth in renewables has been entirely dependent on the willingness to pay high subsidies.  As Germany discovered, that willingness is not unlimited.  They’re now building new coal-fired plants, and their net CO2 emissions are rising, not falling.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 7, 2014

Schalk,

I agree with you about the likely trajectory of “ignore, ignore, and then panic”.  I also agree that CCS is the most likely recourse once we reach the panic phase.  It almost certainly offers the least capital cost per annual ton of avoided CO2 (after conservation and improvements in energy efficiency, of course).

You don’t say anything directly about the particular form of CCS you think will be used.  By talking about retrofits to existing power plants, however, you’re pretty much implying flue gas scrubbing, or perhaps boiler conversion for oxy-fuel combustion.  Those are the “mainstream” options for capture. But they do require quite a bit of new infrastructure for transporting compressed CO2 to sequestration wells.  That will probably be a limiting factor in deployment speed.  

Let’s also not forget that emissions from large stationary sources account for only about half of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions.  And while anthropogenic emissions have been the dominant source of increased atmospheric CO2 to date, it’s likely that biogenic emissions of CO2 and methane from arctic thawing will ultimately eclipse anthropogenic emissions.  By the time that happens, it will be too late for the mainstream CCS options to do much good.

I don’t think there’s a consensus as to just when that will happen, but it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be by the middle of this century.  We could delay or even forestall it altogether if we could bring ourselves to slash our own emissions sooner, but there’s little evidence of that happening.  There’s a fair chance that it will be observation of runaway growth in biogenic emissions from the arctic that will finally convince us that, “hey, I guess we really do have a problem here.”  By then, CO2 capture from large point sources won’t be much help.

There’s a possible alternative that I think should be investigated.  That’s ocean uptake via enhanced alkalinity of surface waters.  It’s too big a topic to tackle here, but it would have the advantage of not being tied to individual point sources.  It’s the only realistic option I can see for dealing with emissions from arctic thawing.  

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 8, 2014

 It will therefore be up to the CCS industry to thoroughly demonstrate and clearly communicate the safety of CO2 transport and storage.”

That seems like a big risk to me.  Given the energy industry’s massive ability to sway public opinion, isn’t it more in their interest to persuade us that delaying action is more prudent?

After all, the day the CC&S retrofits starts marks the last generation of coal plant that will every be built.  According to the EIA, new-built coal with CC&S can’t compete with the cost of new build nuclear.  Wealthy nations like Germany could probably afford to keep building coal plants, but growing nations like China and India probably won’t (assuming their cost follow the US trend).

It just seems to me that the general public will not support a scary new technology (whether it is CC&S or nuclear) unless and until that technology is actually supported by the environment movement. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 8, 2014

“…emissions from large stationary sources account for only about half of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”

Right.  That’s why I like ammonia and H2 as carbon-free fuels.  They can provide energy services like transportation fuel and fuel for direct heating.  Like the electric power sector, they can utilize fossil fuel with CC&S as a near-term energy source, while maintaining the option to phase-in sustainable energy in the future.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 8, 2014

Well, the delaying of action is exactly the case that I view to be the most likely at present. The world will keep on building new coal plants (although I think it is probably more because coal power is outright the cheapest form of energy in the developing world than because of massive manipulation of public opinion by the fossil fuel industry) until the point where real-world climate change events cause a substantial change in viewpoint within the electorate. 

Regarding the environmental movement, I think it is pretty clear that the most ideologically attractive technologies will continue to be supported regardless of the objective reality. My postulate here is that, if climate science is correct, the market will take over from the environmental movement somewhere within the next decade or two. It will of course be nice if the environmental movement embraces technology-neutrality and start proposing realistic very-large-scale solutions for the developing world, but I am not very optimistic about that. 

About new-build CCS vs. nuclear, I alluded to the technology of Chemical Looping Combustion in Part 1 of this article. This technology can almost completely avoid the energy penalty associated with CO2 capture and could capture CO2 from coal-fired plants for as little as $10/ton. It will be interesting to see how this competition pans out in the free market when a high and reliable CO2 price is finally implemented. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 8, 2014

I briefly touched on the technology-aspect in Part 1 of this article. Second generation post combustion is the most likely candidate for retrofits (capture at about $30/ton) and CLC is the most likely candidate for new builds (capture at about $10/ton). It should be noted, however, that these technologies are not yet commercially ready and will only become available in 2020’s when we might start to see a meaningful CO2 price. 

The fourth part of this series will be about the instance where we need to achieve substantial negative emissions in the second half of this century. Here CCS combined with bio will play an important role. The IPCC spends quite some time on this in their latest report. Interestingly, the majority of models cannot reach the 450-550 ppm scenario if CCS is eliminated as an option. Also, the cost of reaching this target expands dramatically if CCS (or bio) is removed (limited), but hardly budges in a nucelar phase-out or low-renewables scenario. 

In summary, I view CCS as a kind of ensurance policy in the case where both the current concensus on climate change and the current consensus on the global energy future turn out to be correct. If that is the case, real climate impacts will sooner or later trump ideology, forcing true technology-neutrality – a situation in which CCS will do very well. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 8, 2014

Global wind power deployment has turned linear in the last five years at a stage where it only delivers 1% of global energy, implying that intermittency is not yet much of a factor. Solar power remains 5x smaller than wind and will have to reach about $1/Wp fully installed in order to reach the state where wind is now. 

But yes, as explained in the article, it is the distribution of costs over time that is the primary thing here. Wind/solar demands almost everything up-front while coal with CCS incurs most of the costs over the lifetime of the plant. If a rapid buildout is enforced by belated market signals to decarbonize, this gives CCS a big advantage. 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on May 8, 2014

Thanks Schalk for offering an approach with honest qualifiers.

No solution will be easy or certain or cheap. If you see good prospects for CCS, keep on plugging away. None of us are great multitaskers. As the joke goes, an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing. A lot of expert critics, too.

I’m not trying to sell anyone that biology will magically restore the Garden of Eden in our lifetime; or in time. But higher CO2 does help plants grow faster. And I suspect food shortages will reappear this year. Kind of like the return of polio. No, biology will not likely provide equivalent carbon fuels and sequestration, but it will help offset our continued need for fossil fuels.

We will need a little better multitasking. The tone of your presentations definitely help.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on May 8, 2014

The problem in Germany isn’t the cost of solar but that coal etc gets unreasonable subsidies by foisting many costs off to the general public as externalities.  Put the real cost of carbon onto the product and you’ll find an entirely different outcome.  CCS is still a disaster waiting to happen.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 8, 2014

Schalk, what is it exactly that will induce the universal spirit of cooperation you’ve envisioned (which has no historical precedent, by the way) – as opposed to the wealthy heading for northern latitudes while leaving their equatorial brethren to eventually perish for lack of resources?

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 8, 2014

“… if climate science is correct, the market will take over from the environmental movement somewhere within the next decade or two.”

As I understand the IPCC prognostications, there is a range of probable outcomes.  If climate change only effects poor people, but not corporate profits, then I don’t see how the market could intervene???

But I could definitely see CC&S retro-fits being the cheapest option for transitions with a timeframe under 20 years.  It is just hard for me to envision the world moving that fast.  It has just the opposite problem of the moon-shot (Apollo had to succeed within a decade in order to limit costs and maintain political support; infrastructure replacement has to be slow in order to be affordable).

On the topic of high CO2 prices and carbon-negative bio-energy:  a lot of ammonia fuel nay-sayers seem to think that in the future we’ll have lots of carbon-neutral biofuel to power our high-MPG cars (those which are not electric).  But if the market value of CO2 sequestration gets very high, it will be more attractive to take the carbon out of the biofuel and bury it, so even biomass will be turned to H2 or ammonia.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 8, 2014

Hmm, perhaps one could say that the problem in Germany isn’t the cost of solar — or not the cost of solar installations at least, measured against nominal panel capacity.  Because of the scale of deployment there (and traditional German efficiency, perhaps), installation costs for residential solar are well below what they are in the US, for example.  

The problem in Germany is sunlight.  Or the lack thereof.  Way too cloudy and way too much variation between winter and summer hours of sunlight.  All  that solar capacity would never have been installed in the first place were it not for truely ridiculous feed-in tariffs. They instantly made solar an attractive investment. Installations quickly outran expectations, and broke the bank for tariffs that would have to be paid for the next 20 years.  The artificial boom in the solar market did succeed in cutting the cost of solar panels worldwide, before German ratepayers got fed up.  Even with all that, I believe only about 10% of Germany’s non-hydro RE is from solar.  The rest is wind.  And the two together still provide only a small fraction of what Germany consumes.  So good-bye nukes, hello coal.

You won’t get any argument from me that coal enjoys unreasonable subsidies, if by “subsidy” you’re including the right to avoid paying for its external costs.  It sounds like you are bothered more by the environmental impact of mining operations rather than coal plant emissions.  CCS would take care of the latter, but you’re dead-set against it.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 9, 2014

Yeah, I too have trouble seeing how the market could take over from the environmental movement. Perhaps what Schalk is taking about is what would follow once undeniable / undismissable consequences of AGW finally break through the fomented resistance to carbon pricing.  Facts did eventually prevail in the case of tobacco.  With appropriate carbon taxes in place, dealing with carbon emissions would be handled by the market.  But it seems to me that legislation has to come first.

John Oneill's picture
John Oneill on May 9, 2014

     If CCS is only likely to happen as a panic response to climate change starting to run away, it’s unlikely to get an initial boost through being used for oil recovery – oil would need to be cut back as well.

   Have you considered retrofitting coal plants to nuclear, instead of to CCS? The UK Magnox reactors were designed to make steam of the same quality as coal plants. Although they ran much hotter than modern light water reactors, and so had a higher heat to power efficiency, they were unable to match coal on price. They used CO2 as coolant; since it has a low heat capacity compared to water, the reactors had to be very large for a modest power output, and so expensive to build. Using a better coolant, a compact reactor could replace the combustion end of a coal plant, using the same turbines, generators and grid connections. Molten lead, sodium or salt, running at 500-700 C instead of 350 or so for water, would not require a large containment dome, as the coolant is at atmospheric pressure and the steam generators would be outside the radioactive area. China, Russia and India are all building or designing plants that could be so adapted. China is also building a small high temperature helium cooled reactor, but again its gas coolant means the reactor is large for its output, and so probably too expensive for a massive replacement of coal.

     Even if conversion to nuclear had higher capital costs than conversion to CCS, the running costs would be far lower- none of the mining and transport for the coal ( coal is about half the rail traffic in China and in the US ), plus none of the piping and drilling costs for the carbon dioxide.

    Since this is an emergency scenario, a cheaper way of getting rid of CO2, instead of having to remove it from the waste stream and then bury it deep near where the power was generated, would be to get it straight out of the air or ocean, by mining and grinding up surface ultramafic rock such as olivine. This could be done wherever such rocks are easily accesible, perhaps using some of the now redundant coal mining machinery, with off-peak nuclear power going to the grinding mills. This would be much more secure than pumping high pressure fluids underground, and would also work to de-acidify the ocean. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 9, 2014

Roger, your tobacco analogy is an interesting one because I think everyone is groping a bit on how the human species will react when things get really bad.

Let’s assume we took a similar approach to dealing with tobacco as is being proposed for CCS. Instead of focussing most of our efforts on education and prevention, we devoted them to cancer research and improved surgical techniques for removing tumors. Instead of attacking the tobacco industry head-on with liability and regulation, we surrendered to market forces and accepted that our role would be limited to cleaning up after the fact. Tobacco companies would be ecstatic, as would healthcare providers at the windfall of new patients. But we’d be forsaking public health for profit derived from misery.

Now let’s assume it’s 1980, and we’re deciding which of these routes to take. Tobacco companies are proclaiming that there’s nothing to worry about, because there will be a cure for cancer and emphysema by 2014. Fortunately, we have the sense to ignore them.

A gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure.

Robert Emery's picture
Robert Emery on May 9, 2014

I agree “a climate change policy environment of delayed/ineffective proactive action followed by a somewhat desperate reactive push towards rapid decarbonization appears to be the most likely scenario” because it is obvious.  I was involved with Kyoto in the early 90s and where are we in 2014?  But I don’t believe CCS is the only answer or scenario.  We are a carbon based species and just about everything around contains carbon. The underlying cause of high CO2 emissions is industrialization and industrialization is being driven by explosive population growth.The world population is currently 7 billion individuals with the last billion boarding between 1999 and 2011.  By 2023, the world population will have increased 33% over 1999.  The average individual carbon footprint is 4 tons/yr (20 tons/yr US).  The 78,000,000 more individuals born each year will produce an additional 312,000,000 tons/yr of CO2 by population growth alone.  Ivanpah Solar 400 Mwe will offset 400,000 tons/yr of CO2 and will require construction of 730 similar sized Ivanpahs/year just to offset population growth alone. CO2 is only one issue, clean drinking water and food are others. The likely scenario will not be CCS.

Keith Henson's picture
Keith Henson on May 9, 2014

The carbon problem is mostly an energy economics problem because coal is such a cheap way to make electricity, on the order of half the projected end point of solar (zero cost for the PV surface).

So if you want something to displace coal without opposition, it needs to be less expensive.  If you want it to take over in a hurry, then it needs to be much less expensive.

If you can figure out a way to get the cost to lift solar power satellite parts to GEO down to where it is perhaps a third of the total cost, then they clearly win in the energy market.

Cheap enough electric power will also solve the transport fuels problem.  Once cent per kWh power will make $30/bbl synthetic oil, two cent will make $50/bbl.  (Straight forward chemistry and existing plants in the billion dollar class).

So one way to solve the carbon and climate problem (to whatever extent carbon contributes) is to reduce the cost to $100/kg or less for lifting million of tons of power satellite parts to GEO.

 

 

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on May 9, 2014

I would like to see the conversation shift to CCUS. Utilization is the key to incentivizing investment and getting facilities deployed.  USA and Canada are uniquely positioned to deploy substantial Enhanced Oil Recovery operations on top of the industry that already exists today.  There are ~4000 miles of CO2 pipelines already in operation in North America and hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 have been successfully sequestered in oil fields over the last 40 years.  Ironically, most of the CO2 that is used in EOR is from natural deposits underground that are drilled.

In the oil business CO2 is considered a valuable commodity and demand exceeds supply today.  The CO2 mixes with oil to make it more viscous and flow easier.  The production from EOR is pretty impressive, though it is considered a dull workaday business compared to discovering gushers from big elephant fields.  Without getting into technical detail in this comment, I will write a proper article another day, analysts working in the EOR industry project that billions of tons of CO2 can be sequestered in North America while producing billions of barrels of oil from known oil fields.  No new exploration required. Projections for the Middle East are tens of times larger.

Sequestering CO2 while producing more oil is obviously not a complete solution for climate change but it is a big step in the right direction for a number of reasons.  1. The numbers are big; billions of tons of CO2 is a measurable slice in working towards overall CO2 reductions.  2. EOR finances the infrastructure and deployment of carbon capture equipment which is needed to bring costs down over time. 3. Reworking old oild fields reduces the need to explore for new ones in increasingly expensive and difficult off-shore or arctic locations.  4. Public acceptance by local communities tends to be high as they are already accustomed to oil production. 5. Energy security, we need domestic production to rise even as we reduce demand in order to eliminate the strategic threat of dependence on overseas supplies.

On a final note, carbon capture does not apply only to coal.  We need CCUS on natural gas, biomass, ethanol, chemical, steel, and cement production, any large point sources of CO2 emissions.  Coal represents one of the most expensive sources for CO2.  Chemical plants and ethanol prodcution vent large quantities of high purity CO2 that is much more economic for EOR.  The more uses we find for CO2 beyond EOR the better, but today EOR is by far the biggest demand center.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 9, 2014

The 78,000,000 more individuals born each year will produce an additional 312,000,000 tons/yr of CO2 by population growth alone.

Robert, there’s nothing inherent in population growth nor industrialization which adds CO2 to the atmosphere.

~17% of American industry is powered 100% carbon free with nuclear energy. Significant adoption of nuclear worldwide would drastically reduce our global carbon footprint.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 9, 2014

Edward, what’s the approximate ratio of CO2 sequestered using EOR, compared to the CO2 produced when the oil is burned?

Greg Rau's picture
Greg Rau on May 9, 2014

Thanks for a nice overview of the problem. Agree that point source CO2 mitigation is essential, however, CCS as currently envisioned is not going to be the (whole) answer. The thermodynamics of making concentrated CO2 will remain too expensive, and opportunities for safely transporting and permanently storing supercritical CO2 underground will be limited. This is why we need to consider mitigating CO2 using technologies that do not make conc CO2, that do not require recycling of reagents, and do not require underground storage.

Plenty of examples exist in mitigating other gaseous pollutants such as SO2 where wet limestone scrubbing is used to spontaneously make CaSO4 in a once through process; no costly endothermic reactions, no risky transport and underground storage of conc SO2. We can employ a similar process to spontaneously convert CO2 to Ca(HCO3)2aq, details here:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es102671x

http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/10/planId/1304174

So: 1) the cost and risk of making and storing conc CO2 are eliminated, 2) the vast C storage potential of the ocean (dwarfing underground storage) is safely exploited, 3) the alkalinity thus added to the ocean helps offset the chemical and biological effects of ocean acidification, 4) the technology is way more retrofittable than CCS and way more applicable to the developing world, because 5) unlike CCS this is approach is not rocket science but simply an adaptation and acceleration of a natural process (mineral weathering) which will ultimately mitigate all of our CO2 (on a geologic time scales) if we fail to mitigate it ourselves.

Admittedly, you’ve got to be near an ocean and a source of limestone for this to work, but there are plenty of coastal power plants many of which already pump massive quantities of seawater for cooling and for SO2 mitigation.

Finally, point source CO2 won’t be the whole answer either. We’ve got to consider pro-active CO2 removal from air. Doing CCS on air isn’t the answer; if it’s too expensive for point sources it most certainly is too expensive for air capture:

http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/assessments/upload/dac2011.pdf

 Again, processes that do not make conc CO2 are the answer, and again, accelerating mineral weathering I believe can be a major contributor, but let’s find out:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/30/1222358110.full.pdf

http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/20/planId/1304119

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6140/1522.2.full.

Thanks again for your review, and may I suggest that in future ones that you stress the need to think outside the usual CCS box if we are ever going to have a chance of stabilizing air CO2 at safe levels.

Regards,

Greg

ghrau(at)sbcglobal.net

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on May 9, 2014

It varies depending on the productivity of the oil recovery, some fields require more CO2 than others.  The important count is the net quantities of CO2 being sequestered.  I have seen different estimates on whether CO2-EOR makes the oil CO2 negative, but I don’t believe that it does.  Depending on how you do your accounting, you can simply say the petroleum’s CO2 impact stays the same and the industry providing the CO2 gets the benefit of the CO2 sequestration.

CO2 is a tool for the oil producers so they seek to recycle it as many times as possible before it is lost underground, which always happens, and then they go buy more.

Sid Abma's picture
Sid Abma on May 9, 2014

CCS maybe a good thing if the CO2 is being used to assist at bringing oil and natural gas for recovery. Then the CCS has a purpose, but to spend all that money to just put into a hole in the ground and hope it stays there. This soundslike it is translated into: expense – expense – expense, and hope it was a worthwhile expense.

There is another way to deal with the CO2, and it is called CCU, ~ Carbon Capture Utilization. Convert the CO2 into usable saleable products. Create jobs processing this CO2. This seems to make a lot more sense.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

Yep, sorry about being a bit vauge. I meant that the market will intervene once the invisible hand is guided by a strong CO2 price which, in turn, is created by the votes of more and more people (poor people especially) experiencing direct effects of climate change. 

I like the tobacco analogy. Most developed countries tax cigarettes very heavily nowadays, causing a slow but steady reduction in demand (cigarettes, like oil, is fairly price-inelastic). However, climate change is potentially quite a lot more serious than cigarettes in that the chances of uncontrollable runaway climate feedback loops being formed increases significantly above 450 ppm. If real-world climate effects start to make this possibility more real to the general electorate sometime in the 2020’s, I think we could see a tax on fossil fuels rise at least as fast as the tax on cigarettes.

One notable difference is that we don’t have “nicotine capture and storage” (NCS) technology that can be rolled out in each cigarette to remove most of the harmful effects of smoking, while giving an identical benefit to consumers. If we had a technology that was about 30% more expensive than normal cigarettes, had exactly the same desired effect as cigarettes, and successfully avoided the main harmful effects, these market signals would have caused a fairly rapid displacement of standard cigarettes by the new “NCS” cigarettes which would now provide the effects that smokers want for a lower price (no more sin-tax).  

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

It is not so much a global spirit of cooporation as the simple fact that the threat of potential runaway global warming will become a lot more real to the democratic electorate around the world if real world climate effects become substantially more severe in the 2020’s. 

Also, I don’t think a global (international) northward migration of the world’s rich within only a few decades has a historical precedent either. Anyway, the global rich are very much dependent on the global poor for manufacturing cheap consumables. Even under the assumption that all rich people will rather pack their bags and squeeze themselves into Canada, Scandanavia and Russia than pay a carbon tax constituting ~3% of their income, it is likely that most rich people will understand that their living standards will also drop tremendously if they extract all their capital and expertise from the rest of the world. 

In countries (essentially only the US) where a more practically feasible northward migration within the country itself is possible, the democratic vote of the poor will force them to pay for CO2 abatement anyway. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 10, 2014

Well, if we go over the list of things that have to happen for this scenario to play out, it appears highly unlikely. 

Firstly, the world should get over its nuclear-fobia in a very dramatic way. Despite its rational merits, nuclear is the only energy source that actually went down since the turn of the century. 

Secondly, the world would have to be willing/able to spend 4-6 times more time and effort during the very uncomfortable rapid decarbonization phase than would be the case with the CCS retrofit strategy. 

Thirdly, the economic turmoil created by massive capital writedowns in the fossil-fuel industry will have to be politically acceptable and successfully handled. I have serious doubts about whether the very vulnarable global financial system will be able to handle this. 

Fourthly, there will have to be an outright ban on CCS which would be preferred by the free market in an environment of a rapidly rising CO2 price as discussed in the above article. 

Fifthly, we would need a fairly dramatic tehnological overhaul of industries such as steel and cement.

In conclusion, I agree that the best solution would have been to start building nuclear reactors two decades ago and driving innovation in all the highly attractive nuclear potential out there (the essentially infinite energy from breeder reactors probably being the most attractive), but this is simply not feasible in the global scale.

Fossil fuels will continue expanding until real world climate change effects force a dramatic turnaround in public opinion. In the somewhat chaotic rapid decarbonization effort that will then follow, the rapid deployment and capital preservation offered by CCS will most likely emerge as the preferred strategy. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

These more technical topics will be covered at a later stage in my Seeking Consensus column.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

Bob, do you really think it is feasible that the world will ditch fossil fuels for nuclear without a very high and rising CO2 price? Aside from costs, there are numerous other reasons why coal alone expanded by more than double the total global nuclear output (converted to primary energy) since the turn of the century (while nuclear actually declined). I covered some of these reasons earlier and cannot see any of them changing any time soon. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

If there are better ways in which to store and utilize CO2 than pumping it underground, that is great. The point is just that we need clear market signals promoting the production (capture) of large quantities of CO2 before that is going to happen. 

Thanks for the intesting links. We definitely need a lot more research in this direction. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 10, 2014

True, CCS without any form of utilization can only be more expensive than unabated fossil fuel combustion. That is why we will need the high and rising CO2 price described in the above article to make it happen. 

I am confident that, once even a moderate CO2 price (around $30/ton) is implemented, the free market will start to come up with lots of innovative ways in which to utilize CO2, thereby cutting the costs of CO2 abatement through separation and capture. I hope that we can reach this stage fairly soon. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 9, 2014

The IEA calculates the well-to-wheel emissions of oil from EOR to be roughly 60% that of conventional oil (see below).

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 10, 2014

Schalk, a preface: in a strict sense I don’t think any remediation ideas are feasible. On a less grim note, some are more feasible than others.

Reactors using the thorium breeder fuel cycle could be sealed for up to 200 years and produce carbon-free power cheaper than coal (significantly cheaper if we include the cost of CCS). Making these predictions are not pie-eyed activists but Livermore physicist Ralph Moir and Nobel prizewinner Edward Teller:

Past studies have shown a potential for the molten salt reactor to be somewhat lower in cost of electricity than both coal and LWRs. There are several reasons for substantial cost savings: low pressure operation, low operations and maintenance costs, lack of fuel fabrication, easy fuel handling, low fissile inventory, use of multiple plants at one site allowing sharing of facilities, and building large plant sizes.

ralphmoir.com/media/moir_teller.pdf

So I’ll cite economic reasons in support of nuclear and add that cost can be based on external factors which have nothing to do with technological or raw materials considerations. The technology  is at least as promising as CCS; more importantly, it exploits a proven profit motive (selling something we can use) vs. one of dubious effectiveness (properly disposing of something we don’t want).

Greg Rau's picture
Greg Rau on May 10, 2014

To reiterate my point, we DO NOT “need clear market signals promoting the production (capture) of large quantities of CO2”. We do need clear market signals that promote the mitigation of CO2 emitted from point sources, by methods that include those  that do not make large quantities of CO2.  Such approaches are taken in mitigating all other gaseous pollutants that I am aware of. What is so special about CO2 in this regard? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 10, 2014

Schalk, to improve on your NCS analogy: if we didn’t take the captured nicotine and permanently store it somewhere, at significant expense, it would somehow sneak back into clean tobacco and render it deadly again. And it would be impossible to tell whose nicotine was responsible.

That’s the real problem.

Robert Emery's picture
Robert Emery on May 10, 2014

First there is a world of difference between 17% nuclear in the US and the WORLD.  Even if the 78,000,000 extra people born each year do nothing but lay there they exhale CO2 and if they eat they fart. Anyway the subject of the article is whether at the last minute countries will step in and implement CSS. I do not believe so and laid out a couple of reasons why they won’t and will further elaborate.

1.  A number of countries are actuallly looking forward to melting of the polar ice cap opening up shipping lanes and mineral exploration and are filing claims with the UN.  China fires up a coal plant every week. Austraila may be shift to clean fuels but is expanding coal export facilities. Historically cheap fuel will be used by someone without a global consenses and this is one world. There are no Sincere efforts at preventing or mitigating carbon emissions.  The few facilities so far go to making a few political insiders more wealthy than solving the issue, like peeing against the wind.

2.  I grew up in Alaska and have recently returned and noted the Melting Permafrost there and in Russia.  The decayed frozen vegetation is now melting releasing CO2. We appear to have passed the tipping point.

3.  A 33% population growth over roughly a 22 year period cannot be ignored when considering the demand on the planets resources and whether CSS will implemented or slip in priority.

The author has his view and I mine and these are only comments

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2014

Robert, you make a common error in conflating ecosystem carbon-cycle CO2 with that from fossil fuels.The carbon that 78,000,000 extra people “add” to the atmosphere by biological processes (breathing, farting, decaying) was taken from the atmosphere by those same people, or the food they ate, within their lifetimes. It makes no net contribution outside that time period.

Carbon derived from fossil fuels constitutes extra carbon – that which has been sequestered for millions of years before humans and many of the species alive today evolved to their current state. They’ve adapted to a climate which in physical terms has very narrow boundaries, and are rapidly going extinct as those boundaries are exceeded.

I agree with you that we won’t have any significant effect with CCS, now or later. I’m also aware there is a pro-climate-change minority which seeks to stymie efforts to prevent it, thoughbeit at the expense of billions of the world’s poorest. My sister lives in Fairbanks and last year sent me a batch of beautiful Habanero peppers she grew in her garden, their first growing season which was long enough. Possibly she counts herself as a member of this group.

While coal will always be burned somewhere, I believe 4th-generation nuclear technology has the potential to replace the vast majority of coal and do so economically. My point was to separate the idea that more people necessarily results in a proportionally higher amount of carbon. It’s not only possible for 7 billion inhabitants to occupy the earth with an energy-intensive lifestyle and not destroy it, but providing this lifestyle may have a self-correcting influence as birth rates go down when quality of life goes up.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 10, 2014

I agree that the best way to store CO2 is in the ocean, as dissolved inorganic carbon (carbonate and bicarbonate ions).  I also think that dissolving limestone in carbonic acid may be the most practical, low-cost way to capture CO2 — in those situations where it will work at all.  Working a few numbers, however, shows why it only applies to coastal locations with nearby sources of chalk or limestone.  It requires seven tons of CaCO3 to sequester each ton of carbon.

A large coal-fired power plant consumes roughly one train-load of coal each day.  The “limestone lagoon” associated with it would need to consume the equivalent of seven train-loads of limestone daily.  The flow of seawater into the lagoon and the outflow of bicarbonate-rich sea water out of the lagoon would be a major river.  And that’s for just one large coal-fired plant.  There are thousands of them in the world.

Kind of illustrates the scale of the problem.  We’re dumping a *lot* of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Greg Rau's picture
Greg Rau on May 11, 2014

Thanks Roger. Yes you do need about 7 tonnes of limestone per tonne of coal, but that’s for 100% CO2 mitigation.  It might take half that limestone to get the emissions from the coal down to EPA standards (say = CO2 emissions/KWh for NG). OK, that’s still a lot of limestone, but so what?  It all comes down to economics, so consider the alternative. CCS adds a 30% energy penalty to the power plant (ups the coal demand to 1.3 trainloads/day). Then there is the capital cost which is probably an order of magnitude greater than for limestone scrubbing. Add it up and it’s $100/tonne CO2 avoid, even after the $B’s have been spent on R&D. We believe that AWL can be done at coastal sites for at least half that cost and in most cases cheaper.  So trainloads of limestone (and tonnes of seawater pumped) is irrelevant, it’s the bottom line that counts, and CCS’s will remain way too high to be relevant anytime soon.

So why not invest a fraction of CCS’s R&D war chest in investigating alternatives like AWL? That hasn’t happened because CCS continues to be viewed as the only game in town (case in point, Schalk’s review), to the apparent great benefit to power companies (and certain members of Congress) who can continue to point to the high cost CCS and say “we (and our customers/patrons) can’t afford it”.  So is the planet going to be held hostage to the fantasy of cheap CCS, or are those in charge of CO2 mitigation policy and R&D going to finally admit that CCS cannot singlehandedly solve the point source CO2 problem? It’s time for these folks to think beyond CCS, and actively solicit and invest in alternative strategies so that hopefully a range of technologies will be ready for deployment when the CO2 tax or avoidance credit begins to climb, and not wait until it hits $100/tonne. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 11, 2014

Well, the best market signals for capture of CO2 will be exactly the same as those for mitigation from point sources – a CO2 price.

The special thing about CO2 is that it is produced in quantities several orders of magnitude greater than other pollutants. It is therefore much easier to find effective utilization/storage of other pollutants than for CO2. Roger made a good point about the scale of this operation above by stating that 7 tons of limestone will be required for every one ton of coal. Personally, I find it a bit unlikely that 7 tons of limestone can be mined, transported and efficeintly contacted with plant fluegas and huge amounts of water (which is also heavy and expensive to move around) for a similar price as feeding one ton of coal into a boiler, but I guess we will have to wait and see.  

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 11, 2014

Chalk and limestone are relatively soft and easy to crush. Deposits, where they occur, tend to be thick. The problem isn’t an absolute shortage of material, but rather the cost of transporting so much material any distance. Ideally, you’d be able to run a conveyor belt or a slurry pipeline from the quarry site to the power plant.  There are places where you could, and others where you couldn’t.  The approach isn’t applicable to just any point source of CO2.  But where applicable, as Greg suggests, it would seem to offer a comparatively low cost and energy-efficient means to mitigate CO2 emissions.

If reductions in CO2 emissions are mandated by regulators (as opposed to being “encouraged” via pricing on emissions) then this could offer a low-cost way for some coal-fired plants to achieve compliance and remain in operation.  But I think most of us will agree that mandates are the wrong way to attack the problem.  It’s the way we seem to be headed, but it focuses on minimizing the cost of compliance with the rules as written — which includes hiring lawyers to dispute the rules or find loopholes. It doesn’t encourage innovation in the way a market-based solution would.  A carbon tax would be simpler and more efficient.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 11, 2014

One CCUS approach that hasn’t gotten much attention yet is CO2 plume geothermal (CPG).  It’s a triple play: carbon sequestration (with optional EOR), geothermal power generation, and energy storage.  

The reservoir of porous rock where the CO2 would typically be stored is typically deep, and therefore hot. If injected CO2 is subsequently withdrawn, it can generate more power than it took to pump it into the reservoir.  But pumping and withdrawl are largely decoupled.  That allows it to serve as an energy storage system with energy gain.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 11, 2014

Ah, so making hydrocarbon fuel by extracting CO2 from seawater does release sequestered carbon!  (so Jim Baird will have to hope that the hydrogen market materializes in order to build OTECs).

And I must smile at the mention of inorganic carbon (the word organic has an amusing number of definitions).

What’s your concern with deep saline aquifier CO2 storage?  Isn’t that considered the defacto solution (being potentially much larger than EOR) by most CC&S people?

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 11, 2014

Saline aquifers have a potentially enormous storage volume and are quite readily available, but the most common concern remains that of long-term leakage. Most studies show that this risk is small and that at least 99% retention should be the norm, but the understanding of trapping mechanisms in these formation remains incomplete, implying that this risk remains. 

I gave the onshore CO2 storage cost curves for the US and China in Part 1 of this article. The first 10-15% of the curve typically results in negative costs due to EOR, while the rest (typically sufficient to sequester CO2 from large point sources) has a positive cost as the emphasis switches to saline formations. 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 11, 2014

    Ah, so making hydrocarbon fuel by extracting CO2 from seawater does release sequestered carbon!


Yes and no.  The process of removing it leaves the seawater from which it was removed more alkaline and depleted in CO2, relative to the equilibrium between atmosphere and ocean CO2 concentrations.  Since the depleted seawater is released back into the well-mixed zone at the ocean surface, it fairly quickly absorbs a corresponding amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.  Functionally, extraction from ocean surface waters is the same as extraction from the atmosphere.  The NRL researchers apparently figure extraction from seawater is more practical — or at least more “fitting” — aboard a ship or ocean platform.

Hey, “disolved inorganic carbon” is a common term in the literature.  You can smile, but don’t blame me for it.  I guess it doesn’t become “organic chemistry” until hydrogen enters into the act.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 11, 2014

About deep saline aquifer CO2 storage — I have no problem with it, per se.  It’s perfectly safe and you’re right that it’s the de facto solution assumed by most of the CCS community.  The problem is simply all the infrastructure needed for capture, compression, and transport.

The attraction of ocean capture is that it uses the surface waters of all the worlds as a “free” CO2 collecting surface.  No need for fans blowing huge volumes of air over special sorbants which then need to be processed and regenerated. The plants creating the alkalinity for enhanced ocean capture can be located anywhere where there’s energy to run them.  At most, one might have a fleet of tanker ships for mixing the alkaline water from the plant with sea water, and using fire hosees to broadcast it over a wide swath in the tanker’s wake.  The point would be to avoid raising the pH of any volume of seawater enough to harm the local sea life.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2014

Roger, it seems the more details which emerge from consideration of various CCS proposals, the more obviously impractical they become.

It’s not just infrastructure they need for capture, compression, and transport, but energy itself (how are we powering this fleet of tanker ships?). Just as solar enthusiasts have invented various ways to inflate the value of their offering with disingenuous metrics and math, the constructors of Rube Goldbergian CCS processes will have a variety of options for projecting the appearance of success without actually achieving it. And tinkering with the pH of the ocean on any scale large enough to help with climate change enters the realm of geoengineering, with the same uncertainties and potentially disastrous results.

Inorganic carbon is an endless source of confusion for the simple reason that there are distinct definitions for the word organic in biology and chemistry. To a chemist, an organic compound is any one with carbon in it – so inorganic carbon is an oxymoron.

David Newell's picture
David Newell on May 12, 2014

In my opinion, 450 PPM exists as a target goal only because those levels which allow civilization to continue have already been exceeded. 

Although I have posted a plan for direct air capture at www.EarthThrive.Net which has never been refuted, there is no question (again in my opinion) that SOME methodology of direct air capture MUST be implemented for “US” to have a chance.

 

As Mr. Arnold mentions above:

………….(But they do require quite a bit of new infrastructure for transporting compressed CO2 to sequestration wells.  That will probably be a limiting factor in deployment speed. )….. 

the possibility of capturing, compressing, transporting, and injecting CO2  will limit the effectiveness of “the point source options” of sequestering CO2.  (Not to say that they are not important, but they cannot be deployed rapidly enough…) 


However, the methodology at the website I’ve referenced above requires none of those activities, and furthermore emulates “nature’s” path towards mineral carbonation.

If there is in fact a reason why this utilization of the many gigatonnes of reactive, finely divided, highly alkaline, materials will not work..

Please iterate those reasons either here, or E Mail me at david@EarthThrive.net


Thank you.



Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on May 12, 2014

David,

For what it’s worth, I find your proposal intriguing and very plausible.  You’ve drafted a nice report, well illustrated and well researched.  Of course, given my lack of standing, my endorsement may not mean much. Nonetheless, you have it.

I’ll be reviewing your draft more thoroughly over the next few days, doing some calculations, and will provide more feedback.  Offhand, however, I’m not sure how much water spraying is necessary or desirable.  It might be simpler and more environmentally beneficial to let the pumped seawater form lakes and salt marshes. With the dry air and prevailing westerlies, it’s guaranteed that any amount of seawater that can be pumped into the region *will* evaporate and *will* fall as enhanced rain and snowfall in the Colorado River drainage.  

Another point you might bring out is that by including a series of small storage reservoirs along the route(s) for pumped seawater, the pumping can be done entirely using “as available” power.  The scale of the pumping would be sufficient to eliminate any issues with grid integration of renewable resources for the next 20 years. For that matter, it would slash the need for contingency reserves and peaking units.  That might actually reduce the cost of electricity for California residents.  It would depend on how the pumping was financed, and how the state was compensated for the carbon sequestration and enhanced Colorado River flow.

Feel free to write to me directly, “Silverthorn44” at G-mail.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 12, 2014

Thanks.  Now I see the significance of releasing the depleted seawater at the surface, rather beneath the thermocline as would be done with OTEC discharge water.   Sounds like ocean CO2 capture is not a good fit for OTEC.

Pages

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »