Posted on October 28, 2019 |
by Michael Barnard
October 28, 2019 by Michael Barnard
This article originally appeared on the website of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. It is reprinted here when CleanTechnica launches the case for Carbon Engineering on air-fuel technology and improved oil regeneration technology.
Popularized by the many attention-grabbing titles of late technology called air-carbon capture (ACC) has a moment in the sun. But all the noise meets dark clouds with technical and economic viability, not to mention poor environmental performance.
One Canadian-based Carbon Engineering (CE) is touted as the future of air-carbon capture, they recently received $ 68 million in funding, most coming from a handful of wealthy investors and three major fossil fuel companies – Chevon , Occidental and BHP.
Capturing air-carbon as a climate solution is based on an extremely challenging technical proposal : release the very diffuse carbon dioxide mixed in the air we breathe and capture it using a variety technologies or biological processes. This will happen at a much faster rate than the Earth's carbon cycle will remove and sequester if left alone. As you can imagine, it would require huge amounts of energy.
The CE decision will require the equivalent use of natural gas of 70,000 Canadian homes per year, only to capture 1 million tonnes of CO2. Capturing that 1 million tons would require a wall of fans – 65 feet high, 25 feet thick and 2 kilometers – running 24/7 without interruption for 365 days. His work n will generate half a million tonnes of new CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels to power the technology.
The company claims that they use all that carbon to make replacement synthetic fuels. But gallons of this fuel will cost 18-25 times more and have 22-35 CO2e emissions than simply using electricity in an electric vehicle. CO2 emissions would be one-third that of normal gasoline, but the cost would be roughly three times the US average.
If approximately $ 80 million received so far was used to build a wind farm, a 40 MW facility with 16 2.5 MW wind turbines could be built. Electricity from this wind farm would allow about 35,000 Tesla Model S or X cars to travel the average distance traveled by American drivers a year.
For freight, you can travel 4 times up to a fifth of CO2 emissions and less than half the cost of an electric truck, as in one powered by synthetic diesel from Carbon Engineering. The only viable market is to allow fossil fuel companies to pump more oil.
There are about 3200 billion metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, and about 1.250 billion of those metric tons have been added by us since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, Although they are very large quantities, CO2 is only 415 parts per million of the atmosphere. If it was a single layer, it would be a 41 meter thick Earth cover, but it would spread through about 100 kilometers of atmosphere.
Carbon Engineering is an air-carbon capture company based in the British Clinic. This is the reason many are paying more attention to the approach, as they recently received $ 68 million in funding. And much of that funding comes from three major fossil fuels: Chevron, Occidental and BHP.
All the technical processes for removing carbon into the atmosphere stumble into the first issue, which is that there is not much CO2 in the air per cubic meter, so you have to find a way to move a lot of air through a small space or move a lot material through a lot of air. Both involve a lot of energy that can be done in any quick way. Then they run into the second problem, which is that everything that associates with CO2 from the air is difficult to decompose, which requires a lot more energy, usually in the form of heat.
Carbon Engineering's approach to this high energy requirement is to use 5.25-8.81 gigas of natural gas per tonne of CO2 trapped by the air. This is a month-and-a-half supply for the average Canadian home.
The company talks about the low carbon currents in BC that they use as a subset of their processes, but it's actually a big consumer of natural gas. And since BC has one of the lowest carbon networks in the world, any other jurisdiction where it is located would have a higher carbon footprint.
Even at low BC emissions, Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University estimates Carbon Engineering's total carbon debt, both upstream and downstream, is 73% of every tonne of CO2 captured .
Then there are the subsequent problems, which are that CO2 is a low cost commodity that requires significant pressure, expensive to deliver to where it is sequestered or used, and has few markets. The first two add more energy and carbon debt to every tonne of CO2, but the problem is the market, which is a real problem.
Most of the carbon capture has taken place so far, involving the pumping of CO2 into the drained oil wells, where CO2 makes the oil easier to pump. Each ton of CO2 produces underground results for about a quarter of a ton of oil that returns. And as the oil burns, it turns into CO2, about 3.2 times the mass. Each ton of CO2 placed underground, in other words, produces about 0.8 tonnes of CO2 in the air. That sounds like a net gain, except that the Carbon Engineering process is already 50% to 73% new CO2, depending on how far you count. This means that any oil produced still adds net CO2 to the atmosphere.
Improved oil recovery is certainly one reason Occidental Petroleum invests in the company. The two companies have just announced an air-carbon capture facility in the Permian Basin that will be used to better exploit oil.
As Jacobson points out, capturing air-carbon will always have worse results than spending the same money to shift the use of fossil fuels entirely with mostly wind and solar generation. Even if it is completely carbon neutral, we will still have other challenges of fossil fuels, such as water and air pollution. The total funding, which Carbon Engineering has received up to $ 80 million so far, can build a 40 MW wind farm that generates about 150 GWh of low-carbon electricity each year, electricity that in one study after study displaces fossil fuel generation and leakage of which CO2 emissions and pollution at a 1: 1 ratio.
The study of air-carbon capture after 2050 remains a very good means of establishing intellectual capital and basic technologies when o it makes sense to use them. But attempts to commercialize them today are premature, and illuminating headlines about solutions allow concerns for fossil fuels to continue as usual. Soil carbon approaches have more perspectives and are mostly more operational and worth pursuing.
This exclusive CleanTechnica report is available now. It is basic information for policy makers, investors and educators about this poor but highly encouraged wedge in the necessary battle against climate change.
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