Carbon Capture and Storage

The Press and Journal (regional newspaper covering north Scotland and Aberdeen) had a headline story on carbon capture and storage (CCS) last week that inspired me to send a letter to the editor that was published today.

Striving to enhance oil recovery factors and prolong the life of the North Sea has significant merit. Using electricity to simply bury CO2 does not.

Full letter plus some additional information below the fold:

Sir, I would like to comment on your headline article of 19 November on carbon capture and storage (CCS) which did not make clear whether the scheme planned for Longannet is a pure CCS scheme or will also involve attempts to use the sequestered carbon dioxide (CO2) to enhance oil recovery from the North Sea. Let me explain.

In its purest form, CCS involves the capture of CO2 from the exhaust gas of a power station, transporting this via pipeline to the burial site where it is compressed and pumped underground. All this uses energy. In fact best estimates suggest about 20% of the electricity produced by the power station would be used for CCS, leaving the question what will the homes that would otherwise use that electricity do for heat and light? To frame this a different way, the average energy efficiency of UK coal fired plant is 37%. Adding on CCS will reduce the energy efficiency to 30% - at a time when improving energy efficiency is a top priority for all.

A modified version of CCS is to pump the CO2 into old oil fields where it can, given favourable conditions, mobilise residual oil that would otherwise be left in the ground. Producing this oil provides a revenue stream to pay for the whole process, but upon its combustion the oil adds a quantity of CO2 to the atmosphere that is about equal to the quantity that was initially buried, i.e. it is carbon neutral.

Striving to enhance oil recovery factors and prolong the life of the North Sea has significant merit. Using electricity to simply bury CO2 does not. It is important that the public, politicians and reporters have a clear understanding of the contrasting objectives of these two very different CCS strategies.

Dr Euan Mearns
University of Aberdeen
Editor The Oil Drum

And some additional background:

An alternative to CCS is to burn less coal. Combined heat and power (CHP) generation involves capturing the waste heat from power stations and pumping this hot water to neighbouring houses in district heating systems. Danish CHP plant is over 90% energy efficient.

UK energy imports are spiraling out of control, contributing to the destruction of our trade balance, spiraling foreign debt and the decline of the £. Pursuing pure CCS, without enhanced oil recovery (EOR), will make this dreadful situation worse. It is really time to question what has warped the thinking of UK energy strategy when confronted with such simple facts?

The UK government needs to make clear whether or not they will now abandon commitment to pure CCS in favor of the somewhat more rational CO2 EOR option.

At every turn, every strategy that is implemented must be aimed at improving (not destroying) energy efficiency.

Dr Mearns

My impression of your current political situation is that the British pendulum has swung so far to the wishy washy side that your country is essentially paralyzed in respect to it's energy policy and that nothing will change until after things get so bad you suffer a major political backlash.

Whether this occurs before or after the lights and heat go off or the pound becomes a banana republic currency probably cannot be predicted.

I expect the American empire will follow yours into the history books within the lifetimes of a good many of us reading this blog today.

Fortunately for us here in the US we are a very large country with plenty of coal,farmland, and some oil.We might get thru the coming crisis more or less whole except for our lifestyle.

Of course burning all that coal won't help solve the following climate crisis unless CCS really works.

Old Farmer - I completely agree with you. I am in my mid-thirties and it is not exaggeration to say that my generation here in the UK have got nothing to look forward to. I try and explain this to my parents' generation and they simply can't see how rotten the British economy is. Even trying to explain the importance of energy to a civilized society is like pushing water up hill.

Euan - Thanks for this post, and I also totally agree with you about the volume of imports and the trade balance. One never hears it in the media do we? Even if we avoid an energy supply crisis what exactly are we going to produce to trade with those nice Quataris, Russians and Norwegians?

Euan, what are your thoughts on the announcement of the 10 new nukes? As I read it, they will only be replacing existing reactors, and then not 100% of the existing capacity. Is this how you see it? Is it merely peeing in the wind?

What about more hydro? Seems to be plenty of falling water overthere these days!

I think I am correct in saying that all the possible Hydro sites are in use already.

I was gesting ,my friend. Seems like Britain has been doing a lot of bailing lately. AGW or a natural fluke?

what are your thoughts on the announcement of the 10 new nukes?

I was away when that announcement was made, and it was not entirely clear to me form what I heard if the plan was to consider 10 sites for the 4 nukes already on the drawing board, or if the number on the drawing board had been increased to 10.

Even if the 10 are replacing old reactors, the new reactors will be much bigger, hopefully more reliable, and so their would be a capacity expansion. The EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) is rated at 1.5GW - so 15 GW nuclear capacity is a meaningful contribution. Building only 4 would be pissing in the wind.

What gets me is that is already feels like I am living in a Banana Republic.

I am over the halfway mark age wise, hitting 46 this year, at times I don't feel that old, at others I realize that I have been around an awful long time when I see so many young people. Especially when all they seem to care about, or even understand is the cell phone glued to their heads.

If something else does not kill be first, I figure I will see the Banana Republic of America come rolling over the hill in the next few years.


At least with Global Warming, Britain will be able to grow the Bananas!

And I think that instead of getting depressed about the impracticalities of Carbon Capture and Storage, people should tune in to the inspirational Biochar story - it even works with banana-plantation trash!

I've begun adding char to my gardens to improve my already great soil.
BTW, the bannana theory may not work. Plants depend on hours of sunlight as much as temp. Days may be too long in summer in Britain for most tropical plants to flower properly. Depends on the plant I guess.

They have started a study at Newcastle Uni into biochar and agricultural crop yields.

I agree with you about CC&S being a step back in energy efficiency, but governments seem all to be pushing it, perhaps to look like they are doing something.

I understand there is a new database keeping track of CCS projects:

Global carbon capture and storage projects on the increase

The number of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects around the world is on the increase, according to a new US Department of Energy (DOE) database, and the rate of increase is accelerating.

The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) lists 192 proposed and active CCS projects in 20 countries.

Of the total, there are 38 capture, 46 storage and 108 capture and storage projects. But just eight of those are currently capturing and injecting CO2.

The active projects include two in the US (SECARB Cranfield and Mountaineer CCS), Canada (Weyburn-Midale and Zama Field) and Norway (Sleipner and Snøhvit Field), along with Salah in Algeria and the Netherlands’ CRUST project.

Is there any data regarding the geological and/or thermodynamic effects of creating these huge reservoirs of highly compressed CO2?

The CO2 is in solution. It is acid, so will dissolve carbonate minerals in the sub-surface, producing more CO2, I believe.

Kind of like shoving Mentos into a bottle of Coke, huh?

Sequestered CO2 will turn alkali carbonates like limestone and carbonic acid into solution bicarbonates which are alkali and stable over time.
CO2 + H20 -->H2CO3(carbonic acid--dissolved CO2)
Ca(CO3) +H2CO3 -->Ca + 2HCO3(bicarbonate)

Carbonic 'acid' isn't stable and isn't very acidic in most cases.

If you 'uncork' bicarbonate the CO2 comes out and the alkali carbonate is precipitated. That's unlikely under 2000 meters of overburden.

Impressive - something I should have known / remembered.



I am no expert in the pressure of reservoirs, however from my limited understanding, the pressure of oil and natural gas can be up to several hundred atmospheres. Given that the principal cost of carbon sequestration is the pressurization of gaseous CO2 to pressure sufficient to send it underground into "empty" formations that often previously contained natural gas and/or oil for millions of years (usually without leakage), I don't think the potential leakage or damage to subsurface formations is the biggest problem. I believe it to the be the energy cost to separate and raise the pressure of CO2 from the partial pressure in an exhaust (~0.05-0.1 atmospheres) to the pressures necessary to store it deep underground (e.g. 50-100 atmospheres). Without separation from all the nitrogen, you would end up pressurizing all that extra gas. All of those steps (especially the huge increase in pressure) take a lot of energy (as Euan has said).

Another option is to dissolve the CO2 in waste water (e.g. saline). There is already a lot of saline water in aquifers around the world (or sea water). CO2 is rarely present in such water near the solubility limit and pressurizing an incompressible fluid (water) is a MUCH lower energy proposition (e.g. it takes about 100X more energy to pressure water to 100atm from 1 atm than to do the same with a compressible fluid).

Hope this helps,


Its pretty rich having that published in Energy Efficiency News. And how can they have schemes that are capturing CO2 and not storing it?

I looked on the US DOE site to see what it said about the costs and benefits of CCS. The opening screens mentioned no downsides at all. I finally found the cost and benefit FAQ. They find ways to present the benefits of CCS in a way that sounds like it there is nothing possibly objectionable. I imagine when they are aiming for a 10% cost increase, this is a 10% of retail electricity costs.

Providing a cost-effective carbon capture and removal solution that enables the U.S. to continue using its abundant fossil fuel resources without a significant increase in delivered energy costs is a key goal of NETL’s Carbon Sequestration Program.

Even at the lowest likely coal cost, the LCOE of NGCC is less than IGCC and PC at the baseline natural gas price of $6.75/MMBtu. For the coal-based technologies at the baseline coal cost of $1.80/MMBtu to be equal to NGCC, the cost of natural gas would have to be $7.73/MMBtu (IGCC) or $8.87/MMBtu (PC). Alternatively, for the LCOE of coal-based technologies to be equal to NGCC at the high-end coal cost of $2.25/MMBtu, natural gas prices would have to be $8.35/MMBtu for IGCC and $9.65/MMBtu for PC.

NETL is undertaking a wide range of RD&D in its Sequestration Program to develop new technologies to lower the cost of carbon capture and sequestration to affordable levels. The carbon sequestration RD&D goals at NETL work towards the Program goal of developing by 2012 fossil fuel conversion systems that offer 90 percent CO2 capture with 99 percent storage permanence at less than a 10 percent increase in the cost of energy services.

The situation in the US is somewhat different, with your large coal resources. There is little doubt that the coal industry will be 101% behind this since it will result in an increase in the demand for coal - to provide the energy for CCS.

It would make much more sense though to try and cut demand for coal by 2/3 - don't see the coal lobby getting behind that one.

I Googled "Carbon Capture Efficiency" to see how this is being spun. The top paper that comes up is a meta-analysis that was written in about 2001 or 2002 by Jeremy David and Howard Herzog under a DOE contract. When I look at the report, they are hypothesizing that by 2012, there will be huge improvements in efficiency. Also, CCS will become much more efficient. This is Table 2 from that report. It manages to get to an energy penalty of only 9% or 10% in 2012.

What are IGCC, PC, NGCC etc? - different capture technologies? If you look at the line on thermal efficiency (4th from bottom) you see that much of the fall in energy cost is result of improved efficiency of new plant - so they are still improving efficiency - then sacrificing it.

I'm also suspicious of numbers like this potentially produced pushing an agenda. I spoke to an engineer actually working on design of pilot plant in UK and on mentioning 20% she replied it would be worse than that.

From memory, one of the main energy penalties is compression - and that stays pretty constant regardless of capture technology.

Pulverized Coal Simple Cycle (PC) is what most of current technology is. IGCC is integrated coal gasification combined cycles. It is quite expensive, but is being pushed as the way of the future. NGCC is natural gas fired combined cycle. Now that I look at it, I wonder why it is being shown here, except for comparison purposes.

As a practical matter, almost all existing capacity is PC. I checked on the EIA database of 2008 installed coal capacity, and found a total of 4 units out of 1447 that are listed as other than PC. These four units have a total nameplate capacity of 630.8 megawatts, or a little less than 0.2% of total installed capacity. When I look at these individual units more closely, I am doubtful that even they are IGCC. Once is clearly NGCC, but listed in the coal data base; one was built in 1953. I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of 2008, there were no IGCC units in commercial operation. (There are no units coded as CC in the database, which is the code I would expect for IGCC).

Without units in commercial operation, it is hard to believe these folks have a very good idea exactly how efficient these operations will be.

Without units in commercial operation, it is hard to believe these folks have a very good idea exactly how efficient these operations will be.

The 262 MW Wabash River in Indiana IGCC plant, which was retrofit to a 1950s conventional coal plant has been running since 1995.

These projects are expensive and CCS is also expensive. Only the government has been willing to invest in CCS up to now. That will change when business has to PAY for CO2 emissions.

No mystery here, Gail.

IGCC-CCS has failed, it hasn't started.

I tried to find a little more about IGCC. Apparently, there are a handful of plants around the world using the technology, but not for carbon capture. The technology is very expensive, and still is undergoing its initial shakeout period. Wikipedia talks about reliability problems, especially for plants using coal as an input.

This is what purports to be a Fact Sheet on IGCC plants. It includes quite a few footnotes, so tries to be responsible in what it says.

CO2 Capture

IGCC is being promoted by the coal industry as having the potential to “capture” CO2. However, studies show that capturing CO2 reduces plant efficiency and increases water use. According to the Electric Power Research Institute, installation of CO2 capture equipment has been found to decrease plant output by at least 25%;26 while installation of CO2 capture equipment increases water consumption by approximately 23%.27

Additional “capture” costs beyond the plant gate, plus transportation and storage costs, are not factored into the efficiency loss or cost increase.

A July 2006 EPA report estimated CO2 capture costs at $24/ton, and says that “widespread introduction” of carbon capture and sequestration technology into the commercial market is “highly uncertain.”28

26Electric Power Research Institute, Feasibility Study for an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Plant at a Texas Site, Technical Update, October 2006, p. v.

27Id. The EPRI study is the first to evaluate IGCC with CO2 capture using low rank, high moisture Powder River Basin (PRB) coal.

28EPA Final Report, Environmental Footprints and Costs of Coal-Based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle and Pulverized Coal Technologies, July 2006, EPA-430/R-06/006, p. ES-6 and p. 5-1.

"From memory, one of the main energy penalties is compression - and that stays pretty constant regardless of capture technology."

I take it this means the EROI of compresed air vehicles, which have been all over the News lately, is not good either.

Exactly Euan. I've worked with injection projects and the cost of compression is huge especially when the initial pressures are relatively low. The capx costs are also big and maintenance is another expensive item. As far as significant improvements in compression efficiency don't hold your breath IMHO. The compressor companies have been beating on that issue of more then 50 years. Not much room for significant changes there IMHO. In most cases the most efficient injection programs, such as NG storage, are done in pressure depleted reservoirs, thus lower injection pressures needed. But that advantage obvious diminishes as you raise the reservoir pressure via the injection effort. Such pressure depleted reservoirs demand top dollar as most are targted for NG storage. I haven't seen any discussion of the capital costs to acquire injection reservoirs. Unless they're owned by the gov't you're not going to inject anything into privately owned reservoirs without paying for the right. It would also be nice if every CO2 source were sitting on top of a potential injection reservoir. Most aren't. Now comes the big capx to lay many thousands of miles of pipelines.

Sequestation always sounds good until the realistic costs float to the surface.

The ammonium-carbonate capture scheme avoids the compression costs by pumping the captured CO2 as liquid and liberating it under pressure.  The amount of volume to be handled (and thus P*V=work) is vastly smaller.

I personally think that the future is something even more exotic than IGCC, because both the efficiency and emissions can be improved.

Poet -- All new and interesting technology to me. Thanks. Do you have a handle on the cost comparison between liqiification and compression? I can see a potential for trucking liquified CO2 when the pipe line costs would be long as the liquification costs are acceptable

There's a link to a PDF in another reply to you down the page.

Mucho thanks Poet

This looks fairly cheap to me.
Several German studies expect costs of electricity from new coal plants with CCS at around 7 eurocent per kWh. This is supposing a mature technology, the first plants are expected to be much more expensive and will only be viable with public support, public funded CO2 pipelines etc.
I suppose that when the first commercials CCS projects will be launched in the 20s they won't be economically competitive with most renewable energy sources.

Euan, shouldn't we see coal+CCS as competition for nuclear? Both are low(ish) carbon baseline power. Of course if we want to give up on the climate, then we would reject CCS as expensive and wasteful. That is not to say that efficiency shouldn't come first. CHP is an increase in efficiency. Is CHP incompatible with CCS? I would think the combo, plus better insulation for buildings etc would make a decent combo. And then perhaps you can build a coalition of:
coal companies benefit cause they can still do business.
insulation contractors benefit.
CCS expertise is developed could be exported.
On net, if efficiency is pushed as well as CCS consumer bills need not go up.

At some point I really see us having a problem sourcing energy and being able to pay for it on the international markets. Much better to plan for using lots less IMO. Nuclear is a sensible route cos the cost of U is so low (now I got to keep my head down for incoming artillery)

Nuclear is a sensible route cos the cost of U is so low (now I got to keep my head down for incoming artillery)

We are clearly headed for a U supply crisis in the five to ten year time frame. After that it is harder to poredict. The coming crisis may be an artifact of the fact that prices had been too low for too long and investment in new mining capacity was not made.
I do see your point, that the UK situation with respect to coal differs from say USA, Austrailia, China, India. CCS in those countries is probably crucial to attack climate change. So I would view a UK CCS experiment as useful for the accumulation of worldwide knowhow, and personally am not concerned about whether if helps the UK.

Does anyone know about the prospects for CCS from methane plants? Obviously the concentration is lower, as half the oxygen goes into H2O and half into CO2. But if we can simply bubble the gases through saline water and aborb 70-90% of the CO2, then maybe the energy cost wouldn't be very high. One paper I had seen claimed the economics (per ton captured) is much better if you only try to capture 60-70% from the waste stream, rather than the widely touted 90% figure.

We are clearly headed for a U supply crisis in the five to ten year time frame.

You've been reading too much Dittmar.  Two posts are in the queue detailing what he missed.

The problem I have with CCS as a mitigation measure is that it increases energy consumption even if it decreases carbon output. Attaching CCS devices to power plants or whatever is nice now, but once the energy situation gets worse, those devices will get disabled to maximize efficiency. It would be far better to look at demand reduction rather than a way of increasing demand while reducing CO2 output. Of course, going to CCS/demand reduction would be the smartest choice, but "right idea, wrong species".

I see it this way. Once we are done with fossil fuels whatever remains of civilization will learn to live off of sustainable energy. The tragedy as I see it is that we found those durned FF in the first place. We would have developed slower, but we would have done it much more sustainably. But at the end of the FF era, the CO2 concentration will be lower if we do CCS than if we don't, so the net harm over time is lower. Of course CCS does slightly advance the timing of the transition.

I wonder, if this were a giant game of Sim Earth, if there is a mix of resources which could be put on a world which would maximize the probability of humans creating a sustainable civilization.

One way of looking at it, on a galactic scale and timescale, is that all intelligent life might as well shoot for industrial civilization in order to attempt to develop interstellar travel. If faster than light travel is possible, then it is possible for a species to leave their planet. On those scales and timescales, it does not matter whether a species burns themselves out with industrialization or goes extinct due to natural processes or some cataclysm despite the sustainable nature of their civilization. It would have been possible to industrialize in such a way that spread the benefits to all people on earth so long as population was kept stable. It would not have yielded the levels of wealth that North Americans have had in the past decades, but that does not really matter because once you have good food, good medicine, a good (not large) house and electric lights you have it made. The goal should have been to maintain this level of civilization while controlling population at some level and researching FTL travel and means of lowering the resource consumption and impact of civilization.

But that would require a central planner whose rule spans generations. If FTL travel is not possible, or we fail to achieve it, then we go just as extinct as we would anyway. I'm not saying it's a realistic goal at this point, but it is what I see as the truth. Right idea, wrong species.

Euan -

Good post. I'm glad someone brought this up, as it appears that the reality of CCS often gets submerged by all the cheery rhetoric.

I will go way out on a limb and make a blanket, sweeping prediction: Carbon Capture and Storage will prove to be a complete and total technological dead end. Period.

The current demo projects will eventually be revealed for what they really are: self-perpetuating boondoggles, the real purpose of which is to create well-funded programs for all manner of academics and technocrats to occupy.

There are some things that can be dismissed as rubbish, almost by inspection, and this is one of them. It doesn't take much more than a few back-of-the-envelope calculations to reveal the inherent flaws in the entire concept.

I agree with all you say here. The engineering firms are salivating at the thought of all that engineering work - new power stations - with CCS attached, pipelines, compressors etc. All that effort could go to building CHP plant, painful I know at construction, but once you have it, the heat distribution system can be employed to capture waste heat from a variety of industrial processes.

We could just tell everyone to plant a tree. Some of those fast growing species would work, one a day per person. 365 this year for me, 365 for you and so on, in 3 years we start cutting them down one a day and we bury them, or drop them in the ocean or lake. 6,700,000,000 buried trees every day after 3 years should be a nice storage device.

What!? You don't think my idea will work! Snarky Laugh. It might be more cost effective than poring money down the hole of pumping CO2 into the ground to combat what we did in burning all the ancient sunlight these last 200 years or so.

Schemes to solve the problems we have facing us just seem so pointless, when we aren't changing our habits any.

Angst in 2009, argh! And here I missed Pirate day.

I will go way out on a limb and make a blanket, sweeping prediction: Carbon Capture and Storage will prove to be a complete and total technological dead end. Period.

Let me pull you back from that limb:  If nothing else, CCS will be developed as a way to extract more domestic oil reserves.  Instead of burning half a BTU of coal to distill a BTU of corn ethanol, burning 0.07 BTU of coal to extract 1 BTU of oil from an otherwise-depleted reservoir is an excellent deal.

The technologies which make coal cleaner to burn (not to mine, unfortunately) work well with CCS.  Because of the high heat of vaporization of water, it is more efficient to run a coal gasifier with a coal-CO2 slurry than with a coal-water slurry.  It is much cheaper to clean up sulfur, mercury, etc. from high-pressure syngas than from a far greater volume of boiler stack gas.  Syngas contains hydrogen, which can be extracted as a high-value byproduct; CO can be burned with oxygen, producing a stream of CO2 with minimal dilution.

None of this is going to be particularly cheap, but scrubbing PCC effluent clean isn't cheap either and has no worthwhile byproducts.

CCS involves use of more energy and creation of MORE WASTE HEAT.
More waste heat aggravates global warming.
So CCS is a wrong technology wasting precious resources and aggravating global warming.

The root cause for following the wrong technologies which would aggravate global warming (CCS,Nuclear energy,Hydrogen economy,electric vehicles etc), is the assumption that Carbondioxide is more responsible for global warming.

But water vapor is THE MOST POWERFUL greenhouse gas and its accumulation in the atmosphere (due to extensive agriculture,Power production,increased populations,red roofs,dark roads etc), in the last 4 decades, is the reason for the global warming.Please see the following link for further explanation in support of water vapor based global warming,

We should talk in terms of moles instead of % or ppm while dealing with the release of greenhouse gases, for better understanding.
For example for each KWHr electrical energy production 13 moles of Carbondioxide molecules and 111 moles of water vapor molecules are released into the atmosphere, from a coal based power plant. Total 124 moles of greenhouse gases released per KWhr produced.

But in nuclear powerplants, 167 moles of water vapor molecules are released per KWhr produced.

Each human being releases around 22 moles of carbondioxide and 140 moles of water vapor everyday.

For the production of 1 Kg rice, around 75000 moles of water vapor (based on virtual water concept)are released while REMOVING few hundred moles of Carbondioxide from the atmospheric air.

So only by reducing the energy use and reducing the unnecessary absorption of solar energy by redroofs&dark roads we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmospheric air.

Whiteroofs on a massive scale will reduce unnecessary absorption of solar energy and can help to reverse the global warming.

In general, a PDF document is inversely correct to the amount of bright colored fonts and huge font sizes. It hurt my eyes to read the one you linked to;-) A reference to a study that determines humans controlling water vapor is more important than humans controlling greenhouse gases would be appreciated.

I'll go out on a limb here and guess that, while water vapor is important in temperature fluctuations, the earth's atmosphere is self-correcting over time simply by using rain. I throw out this idea not to defend it, but to encourage some comments. Nothing like being wrong or slightly wrong to bring on an education:-)

Although water vapor does act as a greenhouse gas I dont think there is anything we can do about it. Think about how much vapor comes off of the worlds oceans each day concidering 70% of the Earths surface is water. I think the article you linked to was writen by anti nuke campaigners.

We CAN DO something about it.

Heat and water vapor are inter related.

If we reduce the heat input to the atmosphere(1. reduce energy use-leads to reduced dumping of waste heat into the atmosphere, that too in the form of water vapor! 2. Reduce absorption of solar energy by roofs and roads by opting for white surfaces), we will reduce the amount of water vapor in the air.

Water vapor needs to reject its latent heat and also needs condensation nuclei to become liquid water.If both conditions are not met, it will remain as water vapor. So we CAN NOT ASSUME that whatever water vapor goes into the atmosphere will come as rain unless those two conditions are met. If it remains as a water vapor, it will delay heat loss from earth to sky.

The amount of water vapor from seas is too huge. I agree. But THIS FACT should knock off carbondioxide based global warming first!!!

Please think of "trimtab" principle of Buckminster Fuller. Small forces at right places can produce massive effects.

The number of water vapor molecules released by activities of humans might be negligible when compared to water vapor from oceans. But they are TOO HUGE WHEN COMPARED TO the number of carbondioxide molecules released by activities of humans!!!!


You should also consider the strength of the molecule wrt to greenhouse effect, not only the emissions.
Then you must consider the removal rates. Water is removed rapidly, weeks, but CO2 decades to centuries.
The effects of human "emissions" of water vapor are really negligible for the greenhouse effect,
the concentration of water vapor is instead governed by temperature in atmosphere and its circulation patterns.
There exists a feedback from CO2 to warmer global T to an increased water vapor concentration,
but again, is not influenced by human "emissions" of water vapor.

Further the amount of waste heat generated by all human processes is negligible compared to incoming radiation, and has no effect on climate known today.

Please, use an atmospheric basic text book to verify "my claims" above ;)

So much water goes into and out of the atmosphere by natural processes that direct human injections are negligible.  For instance, here is a projection of what would happen if all water was removed from the atmosphere instantaneously and then natural processes allowed to go from there (graph from this post):

Let's not have any more of this nucleo-phobic nonsense, okay?

Much misinformation here.

Waste heat doesn't matter much for global warming, because it goes away too quickly. It warms up the planet a little, once.
Greenhouse gases matter for global warming, because they don't go away quickly (exception: see below) and so they keep back a little heat, again and again, for a long time.
There is one greenhouse gas that does go away quickly. It's water vapour. It rains down again. This is why it is modeled as a feedback in the climate model, not a forcing (driver) of global warming.

So, forget waste heat and water vapour emissions (unless when the latter interacts with cloud formation in complex ways, which it might do for contrails, but let's not get into that). Dropping a glass of water on the floor may be inconvenient, but not compared to a burst pipe in your kitchen.

CCS is a desperate attempt at maintaining business as usual. Unless it can be done on-site, without costly infrastructure and energy inputs, it is the wrong path for society.

I concur completely.

The development of CSS is yet another form of subsidising the FF industry. For example: here in The Netherlands, Shell gets 30 million to do a small scale test and they literally blackmailed the government by saying that Shell was to let use a former gas field below the city of Barendrecht instead of an offshore gasfield because that would cost too much and Shell would cancel the project. What does the government do after hearing the threat: it turns around, bends forward and lets Shell rape the country again.

My studies of the odd multiplying rebound effects of efficiency have led to lots of odd things, in addition to how improving efficiencies generally accelerates resource use.

Doesn't an effort to improve the efficiency of oil extraction, to perpetuate growth and growing rates of energy use, make for the soonest and most sudden end to the supply we could arrange to have,... and then also make us the least prepared for adapting to it possible too?

I think the problem is Britain is facing some serious mid term energy shortages. CHP could be a solution to this problem even if in the long term it will increase energy use.

Comparing CCS with CHP is a false choice.

For example in the US 2/5th of energy goes to make electricity, 1/3 goes to transport fuels and about 1/10th goes to heating, the rest of our energy use goes to industial processes.
But in a CHP unit, 1/5 of the input energy goes to electricity and 1/2th goes to heating.

Therefore you could at best save less than 4% of total energy by going with CHP for all space heating; .1 x .2/.5 =.04.

A CHP/ethanol plant might make some sense but just looking at electricity
it make no real difference.

The real problem is not heating, which can be solved by insulation measures.
It's our need for electricity and transport fuels which gobbles up 3/4 of our energy.

Good point for USA - horses for courses. In Aberdeen we have our gas fired furnace on for about 9 months of the year. In Florida I guess you are pushing AC for a similar amount.

Denmark has gone about 100% CHP, Finland and Holland have extensive networks as does Sweden (sorry can't be bothered finding the numbers). So in cold temperate climates it makes sense. Hot climates, less sense.

Insulate your house, man.

Ever hear of a Wind Furnace?
Scotland has 35 GW of wind potential, more than the 10.5 GW power grid.
Small wind turbines run heat pump water heaters or resistance water heaters and store the energy in a big tank then pump it thru radiators--proven technology.

Here's a suggestion I gave Gail but she ignored it.
Scotland has 3 billion barrels of shale oil at Lothian. Use Shell's trick of cooking it in the ground. 25 GW of steady offshore wind can cook .5 mbpd of shale oil which you can locally refine, should last at least 20 years.


I found this site which has more detail on wind furnaces along with other uses for small wind turbines.

We have high quality double glazing throughout and excellent insulation up top. Unfortunately, the 1927 granite block construction does not lend itself to easily insulating the walls.

The cost of our gas is still not high enough to warrant further investment. The most frustrating thing is that we have a relatively old gas furnace that we want to replace with a condensing furnace - means moving current location (fireplace) to outer wall - cost £4800.

in a CHP unit, 1/5 of the input energy goes to electricity and 1/2th goes to heating.

Wrong.  Total CHP efficiency can go well over 90%.

you could at best save less than 4% of total energy by going with CHP for all space heating

You would be more credible if you weren't asserting things already analyzed and proven to be quite different.

Poetical troll,

1/5(22%?) +1/2 = 70%. You say 90%. You're wrong but who cares. The point is that we need electricity far more than waste heat and with CHP you make lots of waste heat and little eletricity.

Ammonium carbonate(smelling salts) for CO2 removal is not a proven carbon capture technology.
As usual E-P is pushing unproven futuristic technology like breeder reactors over actual commercial application.

Before asking whether CCS is affordable in terms of electricity costs we should ask whether the required storage space is available. Richard Heinberg has argued CCS will require 2.5 times the storage volume of the original coal. If there's nowhere to physically put all the CO2 at any price the economics are irrelevant.

Tough as CCS is for landlocked coal burning power stations the offshore gas industry is having enough problems. CO2 'cold' scrubbed from the Gorgon gas field off Western Australia will be stored in a saline aquifer under Barrow Island, some 120 million tonnes over the project life. The possibility that it could escape was brought home by the recent gas leak on the West Atlas rig in that area.

CCS generally means injecting of CO2 in oil or gas wells, saline aquifers and in unmineable coal seams not in underground coal mines.

Your(Heinberg's?) objection is childish.
The density of supercritical CO2 is about that of water and we inject water into old oil wells all the time, etc.
The idea of injecting CO2 gas into coal beds is based on the extraction of coal seam methane where methane hides in small voids inside coal.
The US gets 10% of it's natural gas from coal bed methane--those voids are real.

The DOE has hundreds of CO2 projects with reputable scientists going on.
Are they all on the take?

These objections are unscientific and frankly weird.

Here's the link
with CCS at the end of the article. Heinberg says CO2 storage at 0C 200 bar which could be above ground or below ground in any kind of rock not necessarily coal seams.

As to why researchers might take the job if they don't believe in it I guess it's better than flipping burgers. A senior researcher interviewed on Australian TV shrugged his shoulders and said success was twenty years away. The way both governments and the coal industry are putting up the cash reminds me of a gambler's last hand.

maj -- Interesting point about the much lower costs to inject a liquid CO2 vs. a gas CO2. Do you have a handle on the costs to get CO2 to supercritical?

I didn't say liquid, I said supercritical fluid.
You get a density of 830 kg/m3, 83% of the density of water at a pressure of 170 bar or 2465 psi.

Do you have a handle on the costs to get CO2 to supercritical?

Theoretically for adiabatic compression of CO2 from 1 bar(2 kg/m3) to 170 bars,

1/2 x 1.31/.31 x 10197 x 1.39 x ((170)^.237 -1)x 3600/278 = .924MJ/kg but with the inefficiency in the real world it is more like 1.5 MJ/kg

So it takes about 1.5 MJ/kg of electricity to compress CO2 from atmosphere to supercritical. Bituminous coal has an energy density of 24 MJ/kg so a thermal plant produces a little more than 8 MJ/kg of electricity or 18.75% of the plant electricity(1.5/8) goes to compression. With IGCC the pressure in the gasifier is much higher (20-30 bar) and only requires .9MJ/kg for compression.

The cost depends on the initial pressure and of course on the price of electricity.

Thanks maj. As far as the cost of e if the plant is burning coal to generate e then it would be supplied at cost. Makes the numbers look a lot better I suspect.

BTW...remember I'm a geologist so 83% of water density is close enough to liquid for me. Must I remind you of the riddle: what is 2 + 2?

Lawyer -- what do yoy want it to be?
Engineer -- 4.0000000
Hooker -- Depends on what you're willing to pay (not that different then the lawyer's answer)

Geologist -- somewhere between 3 and 5

Do you have a handle on the costs to get CO2 to supercritical?

Look at ammonium carbonate capture.  There is no need to compress gases; the liquid solution is pumped to high pressure and the CO2 is liberated by heating it somewhat.  This process requires far less energy than MEA capture, and most of it is low-pressure steam.

With all due respect to Euan and most of the commenters, this subject is just a symptom of the disconnect from reality which is so common at present.

You don't need an engineering degree or whatever to see that CCS is a no goer as it can't be scaled up,even at prohibitive expense in energy and resources.
The sole purpose of the CCS scam is to allow the coal industry to contiue BAU for as long as possible.Nuclear appears to be the most effective option for the UK.

Here in Australia we have government subsidized CCS research and now a political crisis over another scam,carbon trading.So,Poms, welcome to the Club For The Insane - it's a big one.

The sole purpose of the CCS scam is to allow the coal industry to contiue BAU for as long as possible. Nuclear appears to be the most effective option for the UK.


As a pom who has lived in both Australia and Aberdeen, I endorse the view that CCS is a pointless diversion wherever you are. Humanity is proving itself incapable of agreeing that it should address global warming at all, let alone how to do it, so (currently) wealthy countries experimenting with carbon sequestration at a cost of a sizeable proportion of their energy output is a waste of both effort and fuel. In Australia your problems are climatic (over which you have very little control) and cultural (muscle cars and cheap petrol). In Scotland the problem is access to affordable heat now that Londoners have stolen your hydrocarbons, though I'm sure the deep-fried mars bar is safe.

The only workable solution has to be contraction and convergence but this won't come out of the democratic process until the people are frightened enough, and that won't happen till it's far too late.


Bugmeister quite plausibly says, "The only workable solution has to be contraction and convergence but this won't come out of the democratic process until the people are frightened enough, and that won't happen till it's far too late."

It is also true that CCS can distract us from the problem of, "too little too late" bugmeister identifies, and it is this that is the real worry now.

Dr Myles Allen of Oxford has said that a "trillion tonnes carbon" from CO2 in the atmosphere is 'safe'. This will take us to ~480 parts per million by volume [ppmv] CO2. This value will significantly help global temperature to rise beyond the average '2-degrees' still touted as 'safe' by some commentators.

As stated by the UNFCCC executive in 2004, whatever value is the limit, a full-term emissions Contraction-and-Convergence [C&C] event is needed to theoretically keep within that limit. So they agree with bugmeister.

Moreover, in evidence to the UK House of Commons this year, Chairmain of the UK Climate Change Committee [CCC Chair Adair Turner] agreed that the UK Climate Act is based on C&C and agreed that "if, for reasons of urgency the rate of global [emissions] contraction has to be accelerated, then for reasons of equity the rate of international convergence [within that] has to be accelerated relative to that."

Presented with this logic, the UK Met Office/Hadley Centre has now confirmed - as shown in the images at the link below - [a] the CCC’s odds are worse than 50:50 for keeping witin a maximum 2 degrees with their Contraction and Convergence [C&C] Scenario and that [b] the odds are better than 50:50 for keeping within a maximum 2 degrees with GCI’s accelerated Contraction and Convergence [C&C] Scenario.

Myles Allen gave evidence to the House of Commons Select 'Environmental Audit Committee' and should be aware of this. Perhaps bugmeister would care to write to him about this in case he isn't.

Information concerning the above and C&C is here: -

The evidence from e.g. ice loss (causing a drop in albedo) and the recent increase in methane (apparently from melting of permafrost) shows that even 390 ppm is not "safe".  Contraction won't do, we need to go zero or negative in the very near future.

. . . . "more than zero in the very near future" - C&C the model will compute that if you ask it to, but how do you propose we organize that politically i.e. at COP-15? That 'process' won't do it because you tell it to.


I'm not much at sales, but it might work as a sales job:

  • Coal and construction interests will go for sequestered coal; natural gas and bio-liquids can be co-fired with coal in the sequestered plants.
  • Domestic oil interests will go for domestic crude recovered with CO2 into old reservoirs replacing imported crude.
  • Nuclear interests will love nuclear.
  • Bio-fuels upgraded with hydrogen (a byproduct of coal gasification) can replace more oil.
  • Urban and rail interests will love electric vehicles and electrified rail (exempt the infrastructure from property taxes and watch it go); it would be powered by zero-carbon electricity.

My Tutor who lives in Bremen said his home is heated by CHP. Do you know how many of these plants there are in Europe?

During the Labour conference here a few months back, I attended a workshop entitled "Brown's Green Vision for Coal" - it's the only political meeting I've come out of, sat down and cried. What is Joan Ruddock thinking? Is she thinking? Or any of them? She is basing all future coal-fired stations on CCS (there will be "no more unabated coal"). Several people pointed many of the tecnical issues around CCS and she eventually said "Well, if we find it doesn't work then we'll have to think of something else" (My emphasis). And where exactly might we all be by then, whenever then is? She brooked no comparison between our level of renewable installations in the UK and that of other countries, especially Germany. When the audience member said "Yes, but they ...". She just cut it off with "You can't compare the UK with other countries. We had North Sea oil and gas and so we're starting from completely different places. You can't make any comparisons."

I came out of the talk very strongly reminded of one of my email signatures:

"We have only two modes - complacency and panic." - James R. Schlesinger, the first US energy secretary, in 1977, on the country's approach to energy.

... sound familiar?

Oh, and how about guaranteed tried and tested over millennia CCS - plant trees!

Maybe there's some understanding after all.


Does anyone have an idea on how much CO2 CSS actually is able to extract from the gasses escaping through the chimney of a coal plant? I guess it depends on the techniques involved and how much energy you are willing to invest in it, but does is it in the range below 50% or up in the 90's?

I guess this is the real question: is it worth buying the ground needed (or will owners be forced to allow the piping or will they be relocated) and building the pipelines, the extra machinery and especially is it worth burning the extra fuell?

That is done by the sending the exhaust of a pulverized coal(PC) plant thru an exchange bed where a solution called methylethylamine(MEA) which changes CO2 into bicarbonate, the combined solution is sent to a regenerator where it is heated releasing concentrated CO2 gas.

The process is old technology from the oil and gas business created to remove sulfur and CO2 from natural gas as sulfuric acid eats metal and CO2 reduces the heating value of natural gas.

An IGCC plant usually burns with pure oxygen so its burning produces pure CO2 to begin with.

I guess this is the real question: is it worth buying the ground needed (or will owners be forced to allow the piping or will they be relocated) and building the pipelines, the extra machinery and especially is it worth burning the extra fuell?


But we will have to pay for it.
The table that Gail posted above shows that the incremental cost for
IGCC with year 2000 technology is 1.7 cents per kwh and 3.32 cents per kwh
for PC with year 2000 technology. How much is you 'electricity supply charge'? Try 8 cents per kwh. Could you afford to pay 11.3 cents per kwh for electricity?

Consider that the Germans are paying 30 cents a kwh and are beating the pants off the US economically.

Is it worth it? 50% of US electricity comes from coal and we have a 250 year supply and you can only use it if you burying the emissions.

Try living on 50% of the electricity you use now before answering!

The US has very little uranium left and 85% of uranium reserves in the world is concentrated in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan,Russia, Niger,Namibia, South Africa, USA and Brazil. Today,the world mines 40000 tons per year so if no new reactors are built we have a 75 year supply left. But if we magically replace coal with nuclear we will need to consume 3.5 times more so uranium so that supply will last 21 years.

It is impossible for nuclear, in its curent form, to replace coal.

So if the tech is old and well understood, then why should there be any need for pilot projects where the cost is paid by the tax payer instead of the electricity consumer?

Germans don't pay 30 cents per kWh, probably 25 ct/kWh and industry pays much less then that.

70% of the dynamic section of my energy bill is for heat, cutting that by half should be easy (extra floor insulation, wall cavity insulation, HR++ glazing, LT heating, balanced ventilation, solar hot water etc. I'm working on those one by one, they pay for themselves quickly with 60 Eurocent per m3 gas and 24 ct/kWh. Electrically saving 50% for an ordinary household is easy too, although I have gone to great lengths already: laptop instead of PC, router with usb disk instead of server, killswitches on almost every appliance, CFL's lighting, A++ fridge, hotfill on the washing machine, etc. I'm cooking electric which has become a major factor on the bill (besides the connection fees which are the bulk of my costs). All these adjustments improve comfort instead of loosing it (as some suggest when talking about this issue).

The average e-use in the Netherlands is 3500 to 4000 kWh, I'm at 2000 kWh last year (probably even less this year) does that give me the right to urge anyone else to do it too ;-) ?

I've installed 2.5kWp PV producing around 2.1 kWh yearly. That's enough to cover my e-needs. I don't care if the e-price goes up, it will only mean that my panels pay them back faster! Since money on the bank only looses value these days, investing in PV is very attractive.

The tricky nuclear bit is clear to me. After reading 'Energy autonomy' by Hermann Scheer I tell everyone that buying a nuke now means a massive investment which might never pay itself back (due to wind and solar being cheaper), and then there is Hubbert's curve as well. The Danish are going from 25% now to 50% wind, the public there is seeing the benefits and invests private money in new wind power. One of many countries to come?

In the light of Hubbert's curve we might want to choose to forget about CSS and try to make the plants as efficient as possible.

Good letter Dr. Mearns. It's good to read a letter which contains both good logic and common sense. Such letters are hard to come by these days. Good luck tilting against these wind mills.

Although EPRI won't release clear data, DOE officials have indicated that CCS plants will use twice as much water per kWh generated. This is alarming, since the industry is already responsible for 45 percent of all water withdrawals.

There are other issues with water tables and quality.

Very interesting comment.

That is "use" as in pump for coolant and return to the source, or "use" as in evaporate or otherwise remove from the area?

Powerplants pump a lot more water through their condensers than is lost to the environment; evaporation is a small fraction of the total, even for plants using cooling towers.  If you're doubling the condenser coolant flow, you're going to get a very misleading number.

Here's an energy economics theory argument, relates to plenty of these posts:

Does a growing % of electricity in total commercial energy or final energy, or economic value of energy (cash units per MJ or kWh or kgoe or erg, etc)create a more, or less energy efficient economy ? Measured by criteria like reactivity to external economic shock through cutting energy consumption

Does a growing % of elec produce or trigger, after a certain time, faster growth of oil, coal, gas energy demand ? Rising dependence on electricity could lever up total energy intensity of the economy, spilling over to fossil energy demand growth.

Sure there are tech basics like what % of electricity is thermal and what % is long distance transported, but the question is relevant now and in the future because nearly all non-hydro renewables produce electricity

Taking 6 big OECD economies for the period 1975-1995 (USA, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy) the countries with fastest-growing and highest share of electricity in total energy did worst in adapting to oil shock, and least-compressed their oil (and electricity) consumption

This kind of study seems to indicate that where its rational, using solar, geothermal, wind energy storage as heat for local heating, and any kind of local mechanical utilisation (grinding grains when the wind blows !) is a lot better strategy than only producing electricity