EPA ignores the vexing problem of CO2 storage; Once you’ve captured it, where do you put it?

Robert Bryce writes:

The third, and most vexing, problem has to do with scale. In 2009, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States totaled 5.4 billion tons. Let’s assume that policymakers want to use carbon capture to get rid of half of those emissions – say, 3 billion tons per year. That works out to about 8.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per day, which would have to be collected and compressed to about 1,000 pounds per square inch (that compressed volume of carbon dioxide would be roughly equivalent to the volume of daily global oil production).

In other words, we would need to find an underground location (or locations) able to swallow a volume equal to the contents of 41 oil supertankers each day, 365 days a year.

There will also be considerable public resistance to carbon dioxide pipelines and sequestration projects – local outcry has already stalled proposed carbon capture projects in Germany and Denmark. The fact is, few landowners are eager to have pipelines built across their property. And because of the possibility of deadly leaks, few people will to want to live near a pipeline or an underground storage cavern. This leads to the obvious question: which members of the House and Senate are going to volunteer their states to be dumping grounds for all that carbon dioxide?

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15 thoughts on “EPA ignores the vexing problem of CO2 storage; Once you’ve captured it, where do you put it?”

  1. This article seems to imply that CO2 is an inert gas. It is not. Mix it with water and with minerals that contain alkali (Sodium and potassium) and alkaline earth (magnesium and calcium) and it will react to form carbonates. Also, if you don’t think CO2 can be sequestered, go look at what mother nature does with the stuff on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The vertical cliffs are limestone and those limestone deposits extend underground for hundreds of miles in the west. I will agree with you wholeheartedly that pumping CO2 in the ground is one of the dumbest and most wasteful solutions imaginable but mother nature has found a way to re-purpose or sequester all the CO2 emitted naturally and half the CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels (98.5% of all CO2 emissions) with little effort by us. Can mother nature be nudged to do the other 1.5%? Maybe. Will it be necessary, I doubt it but I think its time we stop applying dumb solutions like pumping it into the ground which will consume a quarter to a third of the energy generated from coal.

  2. Spend millions if not billions of dollars to stuff it into holding tanks, and one major leak lets it all loose again. Worse, as was witnessed a while back with China threatening to release HCFC-22 in 2010 ( http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2010/2010-12-09-01.html ), and now we have a wild potential for enviro-extortion where it is not a ‘dirty bomb’ being waved around, it’s a ‘dirty GHG release’. I can just imagine all the Greenpeace loyalists cowering in their bunkers wearing gas masks……

  3. I hope you left the [/sarc] off. Limestone is mostly calcium carbonate. Converting CO2 to CaCO3 is done by reaction of Calcium oxide with CO2. So, 8 million tons/day of CO2 would require ~7.34 million tpd of calcium and ~3.7 million tpd of oxygen assuming 100% yield. That leaves you with an annual pile of calcium carbonate of ~7 billion tons. That’s assuming 100% efficiency. Where do you plan to find the calcium and process it? Limestone? You can convert that to CaO with a lot of heat, but the byproduct is CO2. So, your solution at best will produce more CO2 than you capture.
    You getting your science from Bill Nye? Or, are you one of the brilliant minds in the government?

    Thanks for the laugh.

  4. I believe the origin of limestone is corals and mullosks. They do do it from CO2 dissolved in water with calcium ions, but they are really, really slow about getting it done.

  5. There are only two ways I can think of that a CO2 leak would be dangerous. First, a catastrophic failure could cause damage like a compressed air tank being holed and going off like a bomb, sort of. Second, a CO2 leak that was concentrated in a small area could raise the local CO2 to toxic levels, as has happened on rare occasions. The last one I recall was a volcanic leak from under a lake in Cameroon; if I remember right, the CO2 lay in a valley and killed several thousand people.
    But if you don’t spend a silly amount of money storing something that doesn’t need storing to begin with, you won’t have these issues.

  6. It almost seems like the best thing to do with a gas that’s dangerous in high concentration is to dilute it with copious ammounts of safe gasses like nitrogen and oxygen. We should deal with CO2 the same way we deal with all other dangerous gasses, by only releasing them outdoors or in well ventilated areas.

  7. Norway has just announced cancellation of their “moon-landing” CCS project in Mongstad because it was too expensive and was taking too long.


    For Norway, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (they keep the revenue from their oil production in a separate account for the day it runs out) to call this project “too expensive” really means that it was a complete failure. The sitting government coalition (left-wing) couldn’t admit this in the run up to the recent election, but now that they have lost they announced the cancellation before the new right-wing coalition could claim the credit. The out-going Prime Minister called this Norway’s “moon-landing” project many times over the past 6 years – I wonder if he will be reminded of this in the future?

  8. There’s got to be a vulgar gag in there about having enough time to get outdoors but I think I’ll leave it to everyone’s imaginations.

  9. This seems easy to me.

    We build a fleet of super tankers that can handle high pressure gas. We ship the CO2 to countries with low GHG emissions, like Sierra Leone. They release it to atmosphere, then send the empty ships back to us for another load.

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