Monday, January 09, 2006

Carbon Capture

The Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) is initiating a geo-sequestration demonstration project in Victoria, Australia, to prove that CO2 can be separated from other gases and stored below the earth. This shows that somebody is taking the Greenhouse Warming problem seriously! The US is in on the project.

I'm not sure, though, that it's the most effective way to solve the problem. I prefer reducing our fossil fuel production by encouraging nuclear power sources and raising the carbon taxes, but if you won't swim across the river, then at least start building a boat. The good thing about building a boat is that you'll have it when you need it in the future. We may discover that we need the geo-sequestration technique in addition to our other measures.

The attractive attribute of this project is that it involves harvesting a supply of methane that is combined with large amounts of geologic CO2. The CO2 will be separated and piped to a depleted gas field where it will be reinjected into the bowels of the earth. The CO2 is not actually being removed from the atmosphere. This is why they call it a demonstration project. The methane, itself, will presumably be burned the normal way creating CO2 and other combustion products to be vented directly into the atmosphere. I hope I'm wrong about that part.

I'm glad this project is being done, but I wonder if, when we get serious about this effort, there will be enough places to inject the stuff or enough money and energy to put it there. It's usually harder getting the genie back into the bottle than it was getting him out. Or, here's a good one, you ever try to unbake a cake?

1/9/2006 1:18 AM

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At Monday, January 09, 2006 8:32:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

unbake a cake is a good analogy. Another one to look at is insulating foam. Foam takes lots of space compared to the materials it was made from. CO2 has the exact same issues. It is a bear to store. I must further agree, we are better off not making the stuff in the first place

At Monday, January 09, 2006 2:53:00 PM, Blogger James Aach said...

Readers might be interested to know there is a new techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry available at no cost on the net. Written by a longtime nuclear engineer, it provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of a nuclear power plant and how an accident might be handled. “Rad Decision” is at

The nuclear industry is nothing like that portrayed on film or in magazines, and readers on both sides of the issue will find much to ponder.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, futurist and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog.

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 6:12:00 AM, Blogger Nicholas said...

Coal and oil are pretty dense ways to store CO2. At least, the carbon part of it. The O2 can happily float about in the air.

Coal is pretty easy to make, too. Plant some trees, let them grow, then bury them. At least, that's how I've been told coal was formed. Any reason we can't do this artificially?

This is assuming CO2 is actually a problem, I'm not yet convinced. The fact that CO2 in the atmosphere has been very high in the past, presumably without humans around, without any recorded greenhouse effect to accompany it is suspicious. However I don't feel like we really have a solid history of data of the planet yet. Of course, there could have been other differences at the time.

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 9:23:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

James Aach,

Welcome and thankyou for your suggestions. I found the Steward Brand article to be helpful and very positive. I'll try to read your book if I ever get through my current pile. I'm kind of a slow guy. I sort of move at the speed of a Mushroom.

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 9:39:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...


Welcome and thanks for the comment. I like your thinking about the idea of encouraging coal to grow, but I think there is a practical problem with that approach. A good chunk of the energy we obtained by burning the coal came from converting it from C to CO2. Converting it back to C would take more than an equivalent amount of energy. We could think of it as a good way to harvest solar energy from the trees, but I suspect that the land use would be uneconomic and the energy density inadequate for the job. Better to use biomass processing techniques to lower our demand for fossil fuels. Unfortunately, biomass is not going to provide us with the level of energy we need to prevent economic devastation. Brazil proved that. Even an equatorial country cannot turn enough sugar cane into ethanol to sustain their economy.

At Wednesday, January 11, 2006 11:50:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...


I don't really know how much CO2 can be compressed. I'm guessing that the compression is only to the extent that mechanical pumps can attain. Maybe they could force dry ice down the hole, which would provide its own pressure once it gets heated by the earth. I've poked at dry ice with a stick. It seems pretty hard, not very compressible. Either way, it's not a free operation, but it's probably a good idea to learn how to deal with the stuff.

At Monday, January 16, 2006 9:18:00 AM, Blogger Nicholas said...

jj, exactly, the sun will provide the energy in growing trees to turn CO2 back into solid carbon, and as a bonus the oxygen will be released back into the atmosphere. Basically, we can make burning coal renewable in this way. You're right, maybe it's not the best land use possible, but there's plenty of land on the planet and I can think of worse things to do with it than plant trees or other plants.

It may not be possible to capture all CO2 produced by burning that way, but surely at least some of it which is better than none.

At Tuesday, January 24, 2006 9:44:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

The profitable use of land is the most relentless force in history. Given the rules of economics, we have to assume that land is currently being used in the most profitable way possible, with the exception of common ownership and the stipulations that lag time does occur and information is not perfect. Government intevention can slow things down, but even the US government cannot prevent use of public lands for over-grazing and marijuana plantings. The idea that there is available land that will support massive crops of trees is a pipe dream. There is also some question, recently published, about the possibility that forests release greenhouse gases in the form of methane that is not compensated for by the amout of CO2 that they sequester.


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