Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Canadian Carbon Sequestration Scheme

Of the "pitch it overboard and let it sink" variety:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2008) — Imagine a gigantic, inflatable, sausage-like bag capable of storing 160 million tonnes of CO2 -- the equivalent of 2.2 days of current global emissions. Now try to picture that container, measuring up to 100 metres in radius and several kilometres long, resting benignly on the seabed more than 3 kilometres below the ocean's surface.

At first blush, this might appear like science fiction, but it's an idea that gets serious attention from Dr. David Keith, one of Canada's foremost experts on carbon capture and sequestration.

Well, actually, you would pump it through long pipes way out into the middle of the ocean past the steep slopes of the continental shelves and fill up a whack of these long bags on the flat ocean floor and...

Apparently, one of the more workable carbon sequestraion schemes. Dr. Keith's homepage is here.

Funny, nobody has taken up my Carbopult(TM) idea


Ti-Guy said...

I'm still waiting for a space elevator-type solution to appear somewhere in one of these

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I admit I ain't studied this idea too hard. I'd be happy as Larry if somebody come up with a good CO2 sequestration method. I got big doubts about this one.

We're only beginning to fully explore and understand the deep sea bed. New species are being discovered as we develop and deploy unmanned submersible exploration vessels.

As soon as I saw this idea, I started to wonder about its effect on life forms. Plankton and other microscopic food sources are on the sea bed. What will happen when we cover the seabed with a plastic bag that's kilometres in length? This idea seems like an extension of the ocean-as-a-dump mentality.

Maybe the plastic bags would work better if they were laying above ground. Maybe in the desert somewhere. There are puncture and leak hazards to consider. If the bag springs a leak 3 km underwater, it'll be harder to repair than if the bag was above ground. Maybe even impossible to repair at such depths.

The energy required to pump CO2 from coal-fired electricity plants located 100's of miles from the seacoast will be considerable. Will there be a net gain with such a plan? Or will it turn out to be like ethanol -- creating as much GHG as it saves?

Schemes like this are "have your cake and eat it too" schemes. We need to be working more on energy efficiency, conservation and renewables. These are proven methods of reducing GHG's and they really do work -- if they are sufficiently funded. How many KWH could be saved by investing the cost of one of these undersea air mattresses into replacement of energy hogging old refrigerators and air conditioners?

New technology is sexy but we already have the technology to reduce GHG's. What we don't have is the political will that earmarks sufficient funding to deploy existing proven technology on a large scale.


bigcitylib said...


One of the advantages of deep sea storage is that frozen C02 is heavier than water and won't rise to the surface and disperse if the bag breaks.

But, basically, everything sitting under the bag is gonna die. And if the bag breaks you wind up with liquid CO2 covering some portion of the sea floor. Anything in it dies as well. That's why they would look for a relatively barren area.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Since I wrote such a bigass comment, I recycled it into a post over at my boog. I expanded on it a little.

My big problem with some of these ideas is the lost opportunity costs -- both in money and research. While millions are being spent to dream up ways to have our cake and eat it, too, we're failing to fully capitalize on existing technology.

Ontario has earmarked $40 billion for future nuclear development while funding to energy conservation, efficiency and renewables is in the low millions.

Renewables -- wind and solar -- have already added 1000MW to the grid. That's equivalent to a Candu. If we put that $40 billion into ramping up existing projects and technologies, we'd have much of our problem solved before the new nuke plants are even off the drawing boards.

Small scale, distributed electricity generation holds the greatest promise and it's already available. Across Ontario, almost every little town has a waterfall or disused dam. Towns sprung up because of the water power available to run spinning mills, flour mills, etc. Some towns even generated electricity over 100 years ago.

The dams are still there but the power is just running downstream. Today, we have high-efficiency turbines made from stainless steel and plastics. Much of the electricity used in small towns and cities could be generated cleanly and locally. This could be done at a fraction of the cost of carbon sequestration or nuclear generation.

There's no high paid lobbyists arguing for small scale hydro generation like there are for big industry. Going back to a 100 year old technology is definitely not as sexy as atoms for peace or carbon capture.


Anonymous said...

What a joke. Fight the boogeyman! Never surrender! Capture that carbon so it doesn't destroy us!

P.T. Barnum described you guys to a 'T'.

Anonymous said...

At one point, the best scientific minds thought the earth was 24 million years old. Within our lifetime, came about the theories of plate tectonics and dinosaur extinctions due to meteorite impact. Around the start of the previous century (1900 I mean) it was thought that everything about Physics was known. And the list is endless. To say at this stage that "climate science is settled" about global warming is the zenith of both arrogance and ignorance.

Only a scam artist would have you believe that. Only a fraud hides the scientific data he used to make his conclusions. Only someone with a hidden agenda would ask for scientific input on a subject, and then completely disregard and misrepresent the recommendations of those scientists.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Remind me, what are Suzuki's climatology credentials again? I mean, he must have something, right? Is it atmospheric science, or organic chemistry? Paleoclimatology, meteorology, thermodynamics, physics? Maybe it's statistical analysis . . . Which is it?

Maybe Al Gore knows.

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