Carbon Captured

Today for some reason I found myself reading a bunch of breathless articles on carbon capture and storage. But aside from one assertion that it would only double the cost of coal-generated electricity pretty much everyone was sweeping in their admiration and silent on the costs. It was lamented that a number of promising projects in the US and Europe had been shutdown — seemingly due to cost. And pretty much every article babbled on as to how essential this technology was to a future powered by ‘abundant’ (fraked) natural gas.

Nice pipedream (we won’t speculate as to what was in the pipe…). Somehow it sounds like another ethanol project — where due to the processing costs and depressed efficiency of the product as a fuel this oil-saving initiative, mandated by law, ended up increasing oil consumption.

Somehow I think the carbon capture process will work like this — the exhaust gas stream will need to be cooled and run through a separator of some sort, maybe a gas centrifuge or liquification process. And did I mention that there will be a lot more heat rejected into the atmosphere? The extracted carbon dioxide and other combustion gases will be shipped to a distant reservoir and pushed underground. I have seen little on the energy cost of the basic process but guess it would be substantial. And it is likely that not all of the waste gas could be captured. To compensate for the power absorbed by the separation process the plant will need to be much larger to produce the same level of useful power — also increasing the amount of fuel it consumes proportionally. So we will blow (literally) through our fossil fuel reservoirs faster than ever. And the underground reservoirs will be a ticking bomb waiting for the next geological stress (local fracking?) to set the demon free.

But on the plus side, politicians can claim for years how much they are doing for (to?) the planet. And lots of money will be made by the lucky construction companies who get to create these monsters. And our electricity bills will be even higher. But between the excess heat from the process, increased fossil fuel consumption and higher costs for everyone will the planet start to cool down? Probably not. It has been noted that the seafloor methane deposits have already started to sublime so I suspect that some critical temperature has been exceeded.

And will this do one thing to help the millions who are already suffering from the impacts of climate change? Or the countless millions yet to be affected? I am afraid that the answer will be no. All we have really done is fight some more about who gets to use this issue to make money. And the world continues to be worse off because of it.


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