Why is JunkScience.com so opposed to CCS?

August 2009

The question has been asked many times. Let me try to show you why Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is of no value as a global thermostat:

The stated purpose of CCS is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) accumulating in the atmosphere and so limit enhanced greenhouse warming. Let’s put in some real numbers to see how that works out.

According to the U.S. EPA, the average emission rates in the United States from coal-fired generation is 2,249 lbs/MWh of carbon dioxide. We convert 2,249 lbs to 1.02 metric tons for the purposes of calculation.

Using 2007 (the last full year available from EIA here), coal-fired generation accounted for 2,016,456,000 of 4,156,745,000 Megawatthours (MWh) U.S. electric power generation (~48.5%). Thus 2,419,747,200mt CO2 emission from U.S. coal-fired generation (rounded up to 2.42 billion mt).

For simple expedience using CDIAC’s FAQ :

Q. What percentage of the CO2 in the atmosphere has been produced by human beings through the burning of fossil fuels?”

A. “Atmospheric CO2 concentrations rose from 288 ppmv in 1850 to 369.5 ppmv in 2000, for an increase of 81.5 ppmv, or 174 PgC. In other words, about 40% (174/441.5) of the additional carbon has remained in the atmosphere, while the remaining 60% has been transferred to the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.

[Note for those not familiar with the units:  PgC are petagrams of carbon, petagrams are one billion metric tons and carbon, with an atomic weight of 12, combined with 2 oxygen, atomic weight 16 (12 + 16 + 16 = 44) is 12/44 of the mass of carbon dioxide. We are only interested in the percentage emission accumulating in the atmosphere here.]

Atmospheric accumulation from U.S. coal-fired generation is then 2.42 (emission) x 0.4 (persistence) = 0.968 billion metric tons carbon dioxide (2007).

Again using CDIAC’s FAQ :

Q. In terms of mass, how much carbon does 1 part per million by volume of atmospheric CO2 represent?”

A. Using 5.137 x 1018 kg as the mass of the atmosphere (Trenberth, 1981 JGR 86:5238-46), 1 ppmv of CO2 = 2.13 Gt of carbon.”

[note: I believe they are using Gt (gigaton) for 1 billion metric tons here since their calculation begins with mass in kilograms.]

And converting the carbon value to carbon dioxide: 2.13 * 44/12 = 7.81 billion metric tons carbon dioxide = 1 ppmv of the atmosphere.

Total atmospheric persistent carbon dioxide emitted from all U.S. coal-fired generation (in full year 2007) = 0.968 / 7.81 = 0.12 ppmv.

The conclusion then is the total contribution if all U.S. coal-fired generation emissions are captured and stored immediately and permanently is a slowing in atmospheric accumulation rate by 0.12 ppmv/year. Given the number of U.S. coal-fired generation plants not being approved or constructed in the name of constraining carbon emissions I see no reason to increase this value when projecting forward.

How much can this help assuming all claims about enhanced greenhouse warming are true?

Well, assuming we could start that much CCS from the beginning of 2011 and maintain avoidance of 0.12 ppmv/year through 2100 (90 years) that would avoid an exciting 90 * 0.12 = 10.8 ppmv atmospheric carbon dioxide by end of century, wouldn’t it?

Is that a big deal? Will it make an appreciable difference to projected temperatures in 90 years?

Using the IPCC’s simplified expression for calculation of radiative forcing due to CO2 (mirrored heredeltaF = alphaLN(C/Co) and 380 ppmv for our base year 2007 we get a difference of 5.35 * ln(390.8/380) and thus we get a change in forcing of slightly less than 0.15W/m2, which, depending on whose lambda values we use (climate models use λ values of 0.75 ± 0.25 °C per W/m2; Nir Shaviv derives 0.3 K/W/m2 here) we derive 0.045 to 0.15 °C avoided warming over the 90 years to end of century.

Indeed even if we allocate the total guesstimated warming of +0.75 °C since the Industrial Revolution to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide it is still the result of +100 ppmv, so 0.75 * 10.8/100 = 0.081 °C avoided warming from complete coal-fired CCS even if carbon dioxide is in total control of global mean temperature.

To achieve this CCS would require something in the order of 30% more coal consumption to drive the capture, transport and storage, plus we need to amortize the financial impost of retrofitting all coal-fired generation, provision of pipelines or other transportation (railcar tankers or tanker trucks, road/rail transport costs? ), injection costs and monitoring. What should we call it — conservatively 50% consumer cost increase? That would take the U.S. industrial electricity price (2007) from $64.00/MWh to $96.00, something guaranteed to harm industry and employment and to increase consumer costs across the board.

Even if we assume Hansen’s most extreme climate sensitivity estimate of 1 K/W/m2 to be correct we would be consuming 30% more coal and increasing industrial electricity cost by 50% in a effort to “save” at most 0.15 °C avoided warming over the 90 years to end of century.

That “saving” of 0.15 °C over 90 years stems from a magical cessation of all U.S. coal-fired electrical generation carbon dioxide emissions from the end of next year while increasing coal consumption by 30% with its associated collateral environmental damage from mining operations. Can’t consider that environmentally friendly when it increases resource demand by so much and yet yields such imperceptibly small result.

Can’t call it people friendly either, since it significantly increases costs and so reduces U.S. industrial competitiveness, employment opportunity and consumer spending power. Effects which will be compounded by restriction of new coal-fired generation capacity leading to further electrical price increase as less useful and more expensive options are employed to maintain the baseload electricity supply.

The corollary, of course, is that since shutting down all U.S. coal-fired power plant emissions has so little potential effect on global mean temperature over the rest of the century then obviously we have very little to fear from rising levels of CO2 in the first place.

And that’s why we don’t think CCS or any form of carbon constraint has any place among potential mitigation strategies should global mean temperatures rise dangerously for any reason.

There are things we could usefully do to cap global mean temperatures if required but carbon control is not one of them.

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17 responses to “Why is JunkScience.com so opposed to CCS?

  1. The entire global warming , climate change, man made climate change or whatever the wacky environmentalist calls it now is 100% fake science!!

  2. Since all humans only produce, not 25% of green house gas, but 2.5%, and most of the green house gas comes from humidity I agree that the environmentalist are nothing more than 100% fake science. We have to stand up and put an end to the ruling environmentalist class before they end our countries ability to take care of itself. We need to spread the word, and tell our politicians to end this.

  3. In the European Union we have excellent legislation regarding CCS. It all works perfectly fine.

    • “Perfectly fine” in what respect? VAT fraud? Yes, that seems to be thriving (you probably know it as “carousel fraud”). Net emission reduction? No, destroying the economy of the EU bloc took care of that already. Raising big funds to support “renewables”? Price collapse kind of killed that, huh? And then there’s the little problem that “supporting renewables” sticks it to the population while doing nothing useful – wouldn’t crow too much about that.

      Denmark is using CO2 injection for enhanced oil and gas recovery on an inshore North Sea field but the EU’s only pure CCS trial has been shut down in Germany due to public angst.

      Apart from the fact you make a living off ETS table scraps, much like jackals around a lion kill, to what real world benefit can you point? Hint: we have already found it will not influence earth’s temperature one way or the other.

  4. There was an irony and a some sort of provocation (to start discussion) in my remark. Currently deploying CCS is a big problem in the EU and some projects failed at an early stage of the investment. The situation is far from projected, we’ll see what happens with this concept.

  5. Carbon prices are currently too low for the investment in CCS to be profitable in the operational phase. The one of the main problems is the power plant efficiency, which decreases significantly after the CCS is installed. The decisive advantage? The fossil fuel fired power plant does not emit CO2.

    • You assume emission of CO2 is a cost and that failure to do so is an advantage, something with which I vehemently disagree. Atmospheric CO2 is a biosphere resource and restoring some of the abundance of this critically depleted resource is the best thing humans have ever done for aerobic life on earth, however accidentally. Your “advantage” is one of the biggest demerits against CCS.

  6. So, we are at the point: is CO2 a pollutant or not. But considering Durban agreements and recent cap-and-trade legislative instruments in Australia, South Korea, Mexico (besides California) there could be supposed that excessive amounts of CO2 have certain harmfull effect on the environment. Could all these countries be wrong? EU-27 Member States not mention.

    • Is CO2 a[n atmospheric] pollutant? No, it is an essential trace gas in critically low supply and whose increasing abundance is very fortunate for aerobic life on earth.

      Can they be wrong? No question – they are wrong.

      Don’t bank on Australia either, the Gillard rainbow conglomerate is terminal and Abbott’s guarantee is to remove the carbon tax in its entirety.

  7. And how do you comment on recent inclusion of CCS projects in CDM schemes (and consequent ability to earn CERs) according to Durban agreements. If the CCS idea was completely wrong, would they bother? By the way, isn’t CCS Global Institute established in Australia?

    • Yes, funds were allocated for the grandly named “global institute” here, another of the current conglomerate’s fantasies (and one of the reasons they have absolutely zero hope at the next election, whether that be at full term or the result of a single resignation/vacancy at any time).

      Who cares what dioxycarbophobics and carbon scammers think is a good idea – the simple physics (using their own inflated numbers, incidentally) demonstrate CCS can not achieve the desired aims, making it extreme cost (in finance and energy) for no measurable gain.

      Just because a bunch of people are gullible or stupid does not make CCS a good idea and it isn’t. It is, quite plainly, one of the dumbest ideas in captivity.

    • Hi. I’m German. Yes, they can all be not only wrong but corrupt beyond all bounds; they are the UN. Google Oil For Food. UN diplomats are all immune. They all got vouchers in the Oil For Food program that they expediently exchanged for their market value on the black market.

      The entire “Durban” etc UNFCC / IPCC process is a setup for their masterpiece; fraud on a global scale. Notice that the proposed “quick start fund” is proposed to be immune from prosecution EVEN BY THE UN’s international court!!!

      What does this tell you? Do honest people need such protection?

  8. Addressing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere attributable to humans: I disagreee with using “atmospheric CO2 concentrations rising from 288 ppmv in 1850 to 369.5 ppmv in 2000. About 96 percent of the emissions were natural. In addition, according to Ernst Georg Beck’s collection of direct CO2 measurement data, the atmosphere contained more CO2 in 1940 than now. Why not assume, for example, that CO2 doubles, so the additional forcing is 5.35 x ln(2) = 3.71 watts per square meter. Using Sherwood Idso’s sensitivity of 0.1 C per watt per square meter yields .371 C increase. If humans are responsible for 4 percent of that we have responsibility for 0.04 x .371 C = .0015 C. Also note that Segalstad says the retention time of atmospheric CO2 is only about five years. now. Why not assume, for example, that CO2 doubles, so the additional forcing is 5.35 x ln(2) = 3.71 watts per square meter. Using Sherwood Idso’s sensitivity of 0.1 C per watt per square meter yields .371 C increase. If humans are responsible for 4 percent of that we have responsibility for 0.04 x .371 C = .0015 C. Also note that Segalstad says the retention time of atmospheric CO2 is only about five years.1940 than now. The main point is, why not assume approximately 4 percent of the CO2 warming from CO2 doubling as: Increased forcing = 5.35 x ln(2) = 3.71 Watts per square meter. Then, using Idso’s sensitivity of .1 C per Watt per square meter gives .371 C increase for all additional CO2 and the human attriburtion would be 4 percent of .371 C = .015 C, or say .03 C if the human emissions become as high as 10 percent. Note also that Segalstad arrives at five years as the retention time of atmospheric CO2.

  9. Addressing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere attributable to humans: I disagreee with using “atmospheric CO2 concentrations rising from 288 ppmv in 1850 to 369.5 ppmv in 2000. About 96 percent of the emissions were natural. In addition, according to Ernst Georg Beck’s collection of direct CO2 measurement data, the atmosphere contained more CO2 in 1940 than now. Why not assume, for example, that CO2 doubles, so the additional forcing is 5.35 x ln(2) = 3.71 watts per square meter. Using Sherwood Idso’s sensitivity of 0.1 C per watt per square meter yields .371 C increase. If humans are responsible for 4 percent of that we have responsibility for 0.04 x .371 C = .0015 C. Also note that Segalstad says the retention time of atmospheric CO2 is only about five years.

  10. Question: If it takes 30% more coal to generate the same power output with CCS, how much CO2 does the mining operation release from the extra activity? And how much additional fossil fuel does that consume? Doubt we would save 0.15 degrees C.

    • Indeed, Grouch, externals such as the impact of acquiring the additional fuel are not included, nor are effects like sulfate aerosols and albedo/atmospheric scattering (clear air is supposed to be a positive warming feedback). Then there’s the little matter of the climate being remarkably insensitive to enhanced greenhouse forcing – see discussion linked from here. Could we “save” 0.15 C warming but shutting down coal-fired electrical generation? It seems highly unlikely and would depend on unknown and unforeseen climate mechanisms.

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