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Earth Science Technology

A Modest Proposal For Sequestration of CO2 In the Antarctic 243

Posted by timothy
from the no-salt-domes-in-sight dept.
First time accepted submitter Alienwise writes "Judith Curry reports a scientific concept of an atmospheric CO2 sequestration plant. It would be based in the Antartic to profit from the cold weather, which would facilitate the creation of CO2 snow — which would then be buried. The plant could be powered by windmills." The lead author has agreed to let Curry link to a copy of the final manuscript, if you'd like to read more.
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A Modest Proposal For Sequestration of CO2 In the Antarctic

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  • Seems feasible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday August 25, 2012 @07:32PM (#41125977)

    This actually seems like a feasible plan.

    It plans not just for the extraction of atmospheric CO2, but the long-term storage of it. The power source is wind, so it doesn't fall into the trap of generating more CO2 than it generates.The choice of location makes sense for both the temperature and for the political neutrality. They don't list an actual cost, but it would likely be only in the tens of billions, hundreds of billions in the worst case. Which is a lot of money, yes, but not the trillions or quadrillions some plans have required. And it calls for a demonstration plant first, which would be just a few dozen million.

    The only thing I see stopping it is politics. In particular, America and China. Europe seems to at least recognize the need for action, and they're willing to work together to try things. China is generally too selfish and shortsighted to worry about the environment, but you could probably convince them if you could make it somewhat-profitable for them (just have the wind turbines and such made in China, that should satisfy them).

    But then it falls on to America. And you're going to need America at least not fighting this plan, because if the US decides to actively fight it, it's not happening. Period. You'd also need them to at least chip in a good chunk of the funding if you're going to do the full plan, make a serious dent in CO2. Problem is, denying the very existence global warming is a political *requirement* for half the country. They'll fight it just on principle, and I can't see the rest of the country fighting back for a project that doesn't have any immediate gains for the US specifically. While some sort of "compromise" could probably pull it off, or with luck it could be swept under the rug and never become a political issue, that's not guaranteed.

    Still, it's the best plan I've seen so far.

  • Some observations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday August 25, 2012 @07:43PM (#41126037)

    Hm... the abstract appears to convert 1 B tonnes (1 billion, I assume) into 1012 kg. It also omits a lot of words and is generally difficult to read because of it. They appear to use the coldest ever recorded temperature as their working temperature. They also don't talk about how they're going to keep all that CO2 frozen, or how much energy that's going to cost. Or what you do with the plant after five years when it's surrounded by CO2 dumps.

  • Re:Also known as (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday August 25, 2012 @07:51PM (#41126105) Journal

    uuh... what?

    It's Judith Curry [scientificamerican.com]

  • Re:Also known as (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday August 25, 2012 @09:11PM (#41126509) Homepage

    That's odd. I seem to remember rather heated...oh discussions not all that long ago about this. And people keep saying that the sun has a negligible impact on the earths temperature? Especially in relation to Co2 levels. Especially with past relations to sunspot activity. And yet, this study came out the other day.

    http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2012/2012-39.shtml [agu.org]

  • Re:Also known as (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sabri (584428) * on Saturday August 25, 2012 @11:02PM (#41127047)

    It's Judith Curry

    Now I'm confused. Are you suspecting me of being a skeptic?

    Either way, I simply just don't understand the logic. Antarctica is being threatened by melting ice, and now a scientist (who I'm sure is very intelligent) comes up with an idea to install huge heaters in that area. I'm sure they will remove co2, but won't the side-effects be worse than the medicine?

    (honestly, not trying to troll here).

  • Re:Seems feasible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday August 25, 2012 @11:16PM (#41127117) Homepage Journal
    So I am assuming that this proposal is meant to be tongue in cheek. While completely workable, it kind of throws the baby out with bath water, so to speak

    To break it down, the climate change has to do with the production of energy, either to run our machinery or run our bodies. It is basically a result of a system that has not scaled well to out current level of consumption. For an end user solution we might help fix this problem by using less energy. This can be done by eating lower on the food chain, using more efficient appliance, such as LED for light, or releasing fewer pollutants form power generation facilites. This paper does not of these, so is not really a solution.

    For a productions solution, we can change the kind of inputs we use to deliver energy to the end user. Cattle can be a source of pollutants, so maybe fish and vegetables instead. Coal can be very polluting, so maybe natural gas or nuclear or solar or wind. This paper suggests using a less polluting input, but this energy is not delivered to the end user, so is not a solution either.

    So the tongue in cheek part is that we have an idea that can and will remediate the problem without solving any of the problems. It might lead to a solution, in that if we build lots of windmills for this, presumable we will have mass produced windmills we can use elsewhere. It might give us time to solve the problem, in that the "greenhouse gasses" will accumulate more slowly. One thing I must disagree with is that this plan would be favored by those who agree with human caused climate change. Quite the opposite is true. This plan is for those who climate change is a natural process. If climate change were man made, then the sensible solution would be for us to change our habits to stop it. If it is not man made, then something like this, technology to fix the problem at the atmospheric end, is the only justifiable solution.

    That said I am not sure that machines like this are inevitable. There was a time when humans could just hunt and gather. At worst they could do limited agriculture. Now look at the amount of machinery the complexity of the supply chain just to get an ear of corn out of the ground. And look at flowers. We can't just keep bees around to pollinate them, they have to brought in special. And if cross pollination between orchards occur, and entire crop can be ruined. Is it inconceivable that as our population grows, as we cut down wild forest for crops of ranch land or managed timber, that the ability of the troposphere to support human life will begin to degrade. I can see atmospheric machine to insure oxygen content, CO2 content, even heat and humidity to be developed and deployed in the next few generations. Is this bad? I don't know, but it is something to think about.

  • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 25, 2012 @11:59PM (#41127285)

    Biochar. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar

    Lock the wastes up in a high-temperature, low oxygen charcoal. The carbon will be locked for centuries to aeons, and the process creates 3-9 times the energy necessary to run the pyrolysis process itself.

  • Re:Modest Proposal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @12:03AM (#41127313)

    If you are saying that you need to create a power source to convert the CO2 from the atmosphere into a form that can be buried, then the logical choice is why you can't simply use this power source to eliminate CO2 producing power sources in the first place.

    It takes far less energy to compress CO2 into a liquid than you get from burning fossil fuels. Most estimates of CO2 sequestration and storage are that it will add about 20% to the cost of power generation.

    But this is still a silly idea because even though it requires less energy to compress cold CO2, there is no market for CO2 in Antarctica. But if you compress the CO2 in someplace like Texas, you can sell it. The buyers pump it into oilfields where it flushes out and displaces the oil, which floats above the liquid CO2 and is then pumped out. Once all the oil is recovered, the well is sealed and the CO2 remains underground.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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