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Power Science

Pilot Test Of Storing Carbon Dioxide In Rocks Shows Impressive Outcome (theaustralian.com.au) 170

For years we have been trying to find different ways to limit carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels. Some researchers believe that things would be very convenient if we could just deposit carbon dioxide in rocks. A pilot project around this idea has shown an impressive result. John Ross, reporting for the Australian: Scientists say they have demonstrated a foolproof way of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide -- turning it into rock. An international team of researchers says it has demonstrated for the first time that CO2 can be permanently locked away from the atmosphere by injecting it into volcanic bedrock. The study, reported this morning in the journal Science, could overcome the leakage problems that have plagued attempts to bury CO2 gas underground. Lead author Juerg Matter said between 95 per cent and 98 per cent of the injected CO2 had been mineralised in less than two years, "which is amazingly fast.""Until now it was thought this process would take hundreds to thousands of years," University of Southampton, which led the new study, said in a statement. "The current study has demonstrated that it can take as little as two years."
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Pilot Test Of Storing Carbon Dioxide In Rocks Shows Impressive Outcome

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then you did it wrong, and missed something.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:50PM (#52283369)

      Then you did it wrong, and missed something.

      This process is expensive and there are better ways to do it. CO2 can be used for enhanced oil recovery [wikipedia.org] which can sequester carbon while also helping improve yield. Since it has positive economic value, it is much more likely to actually happen.

      • by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:55PM (#52283403) Homepage

        Then you did it wrong, and missed something.

        This process is expensive and there are better ways to do it. CO2 can be used for enhanced oil recovery [wikipedia.org] which can sequester carbon while also helping improve yield. Since it has positive economic value, it is much more likely to actually happen.

        Technologies and solutions are not mutually exclusive. And operating costs tend to decrease with scale or better technology. If the only reason to deter use of a technology is the up-front operational cost of a pilot program, we wouldn't have a lot of the shit we take for granted nowadays.

        • I hate to be this kind of cynical, but have these tests been independently verified by someone who will not profit from "assurances that the colorless, odorless gas which naturally occurs at levels around 400ppm is not, in-fact, leaching out of the storage facility"?

      • Except that I seem to recall that most such CO2 tends to leak back into the atmosphere within several years, making it rather useless as a carbon sequestration mechanism.

        • Except that I seem to recall that most such CO2 tends to leak back into the atmosphere within several years

          No. A good site will retain 99% of the sequestered CO2 for at least 1000 years [wikipedia.org]. The CO2 is typically injected into geologic formations that were able to hold methane for millions of years. If the methane didn't leak, why would the CO2?

          • Because the methane was internally generated inside a pocket that formed over thousands, if not millions, of years of material deposition, and the CO2 was injected into a geologic formation that was ripped open with mechanical machinery and bulldozed shut by underpaid contractors in a few hours?

            • Underpaid contractors? Have you ever actually talked to drillers and heavy equipment operators?

              • I lived in Houston, and heard nearly monthly reports of some "event" or another involving contractors in the oil and gas industry, killing themselves while cleaning the inside of tanks, accidentally releasing a "minor" 600 lbs of cyanide gas, fire out of hand on a refinery sends 3 to hospital, pesticide warehouse catches fire and sends plume of smoke across city...

                Actually, the fires on the refineries are just part of how the machinery is built to operate, they're handled on a daily basis, not news. But, t

          • Hmm, I could be wrong. Or perhaps it's simply that most sites aren't good sites, so it's not a general solution.

            As for why it would leak now? Possibly because you intentionally punched holes through it to get to the oil, and probably engaged in fracking which it is seeming increasingly certain fractures the containing formations as well, allowing for groundwater contamination, and probably did a half-assed job of sealing up even the holes you know about because you figured nobody would notice at least unt

        • They are talking about the CO2 being reacting chemically with the silicates in the rock to sequester the CO2 permanently

          • The article is, the poster I replied to is not. They're talking about using pressurized CO2 to assist with oil extraction.

      • If the oil wells are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from where the oil is burned are you going to transport the C02 back to the well head?

        • If the oil wells are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from where the oil is burned are you going to transport the C02 back to the well head?

          Very little CO2 is collected from burning oil. Oil is mostly used in transportation, where is is not feasible to collect it. Most CO2 that is collected comes from burning coal or natural gas to generate electricity, or make cement, etc. One option is that instead of moving the CO2 to the oilfield, you can move the generator there, and burn the coal/NG locally. Many oilfields generate a lot of gas as a byproduct. There are a lot of geographically dispersed oil and gas fields, so the CO2 does not need to

          • You are proposing to move the coal from the mines to near the oil fields then the electricity from the oil fields to where it is needed. That is a lot of moving to sequester some CO2.

            As for Southern California the coal would need to be shipped quite far. California only produces 5% of it's electricity from coal [ca.gov]
            I agree that sequestration is a temporary measure but temporary can be a long time.

      • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

        This process is expensive and there are better ways to do it. CO2 can be used for enhanced oil recovery [wikipedia.org] which can sequester carbon while also helping improve yield. Since it has positive economic value, it is much more likely to actually happen.

        That is an extraction technology, not a storage technology. You will never be able to store an amount of CO2 in the oil formation comparable to the CO2 potential of the oil (when burned) that was extracted. Sure, you can potentially use this to fini

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @03:04PM (#52283509) Homepage

      No, it means that it was a pilot project and it's the first time they've tried this.

      It's great news. I've been following as they've been working on this project. Most people wouldn't think we'd have much carbon dioxide here since virtually all of our power is either hydroelectric or geothermal, but we're actually abnormally high emitters per capita. Now, most of that's not easy to capture - we can pretty much rule out the fishing fleet, and two of the three aluminum smelters aren't that close to a geothermal plant (although I don't know if their technique needs to be directly coordinated with a geothermal plant or not). However, geothermal wells also can have surprising levels of CO2 emissions. They're quite varied, and generally far less than burning fossil fuels for power, but some of the worst wells can actually get up to a good fraction of the emissions of of an equivalent amount of fossil fuel power. So this experiment was conducted at Hellisheiði, which is the biggest geothermal plant in Iceland (and one of the biggest in the world), with the goal of making it eventually fully close-cycle. Maybe they'll also reduce their H2S emissions at the same time.

      Concerning one thing in the article:

      But Dr Matter said there was a risk of mobilising trace metals, potentially polluting downstream waterways. And any injection of water or CO2 into deep subsurface reservoirs carried the danger of “micro” earthquakes.

      They're already making regular earthquakes on the production end, so what's the big difference? More to the point, who would even notice [vedur.is]? Wow, gee, earthquakes in Iceland, we've never gotten those before ;)

      I also don't have much concerns about trace metals flowing into waters. Those are geothermal layers. Any waters there are geothermal waters. Which means that they're pretty "contaminated" to begin with. You don't drink geothermal waters, or anything that they flow into. I have a lot more concerns about 1) agricultural / livestock / septic system contamination, and 2) suspended particulate (aka surface water contamination). See Mývatn for the effects of both, Lagarfljót particularly for the latter. Our main areas of concern with bodies of water have generally been with either clouding them or causing algal blooms.

      Then again, though, why should we even bother helping reduce CO2 levels? Make Iceland Covered With Redwoods Again! ;)

      • From an articles at Ars Technica today:

        'So is this a breakthrough demonstration of carbon storage that can be emulated around the world? Not necessarily. It’s not entirely clear what it is about the CarbFix site that allowed such rapid mineralization. It could be some combination of characteristics of the geology and groundwater chemistry, although the researchers think their approach of dissolving the CO2 in water before injection played a role.

        Charlotte Sullivan studies CO2 storage in basalt at
    • They need to be extremely careful about this scheme of mixing CO2 with rocks. Don't forget that this is how "Mikey" got killed.

  • This is a pilot--first of its kind. It might herald a whole new era for the human race! Or it might not. We'll need many decades of work and repetitions of this study, and studies that grow forth from what we learn here, to know if this is truly a viable technology, or if this study is merely a fluke.

    • by Robotbeat ( 461248 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:59PM (#52283453) Journal

      I'm all for replications, HOWEVER: This isn't psychology or medicine. If a single, transparent, well-documented study shows that volcanic rock (of a common and well-characterized type) quickly locks up CO2, then it's not a fluke.

      Science works differently in different fields because some things are easier to fundamentally understand, even with a sample size of n=1, than others where fundamental understanding is basically non-existent (i.e. we don't actually know how the mind works on a fundamental level) and you have effects so small (with so many confounding factors) that you need n=1000 to have any hope at statistical significance.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Store the carbon in something much easier and cheaper. Trees!!!!. You'd think all these smart guys would have thought of this. Wait, you can't get a $2M research grant for planting trees. Guess that answers that question.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @03:02PM (#52283481)

      You can't just plant trees, you have to harvest them when they're grown up and sequester them. Otherwise you'll just run out of land. People don't really like the idea of cutting down forests and burying or sinking the wood into the ocean.

      We'd have a nice little carbon sequestration economy going if we made it illegal to recycle paper or wood products.

      • There has been some interesting work on making wood laminates with very impressive mechanical properties. I think there was a TED talk a while back about making skyscrapers out of wood - wood is already one of the strongest materials per unit weight that we use in construction, and engineered laminates can scale that strength up to large-scale construction levels using young-growth timber.

        That could simultaneously sequester carbon and reduce the demand for the carbon-rich production of iron and concrete.

    • Let's crunch some numbers.

      The largest tree planting project that I know of is the Civilian Conservation Core which planted about 3 billion trees in the US over about a decade (source [wikipedia.org]).

      Let's say that a 40-year-old tree is sequestering about 1 ton of CO2 (source [ncsu.edu], and yes, I realize this will vary a lot based on species and location, but we need to start somewhere).

      So, let's say that we magically plant 3 billion trees tomorrow. That will sequester 3e9 trees*2e3 lbs/tree*4.54e-13 lbs/gigatonne / 40 years = 0.06

    • Store the carbon in something much easier and cheaper. Trees!!!!. You'd think all these smart guys would have thought of this. Wait, you can't get a $2M research grant for planting trees. Guess that answers that question.

      When you're burning the equivalent of thousands of years of tree growth in one year there is no way to plant enough trees to keep up with carbon emissions. Trees help but they're not the answer.

    • There simply is not enough land for the number of trees required, even if you covered every square inch of the planet in trees you still would not have half the number of trees you need.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:33PM (#52283245)
    >> Scientists say they have demonstrated a foolproof way of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide -- turning it into rock.

    Let me tell you about something called "plants," which are an exotic form of life that use clean solar energy to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide. Some people even believe that dead plants can be converted into an equally rare form of sequestered carbon called "coal," though this theory has yet to be proven.
  • Cars? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:36PM (#52283267)

    My very first thought was this can be used as part of the Venus terraform

    • Theoretically it could work, but we are nowhere near being able to set up a large manufacturing facilities on other planets. Just the launch costs will add up to hundreds of billions. On top of the surface of Venus is gruelling - the temperature reaches over 800F and the atmosphere is made out of CO2 and sulfuric acid.
  • The vast majority of the CO2 we've been pumping into the atmo has been from the use of fossil fuels. That's carbon that was in the slow carbon cycle. By burning fossil fuels, we've been pumping that carbon out of the slow carbon cycle and injecting it into the fast carbon cycle.

    Before we declare victory on the greenhouse gasses issue, what's this gonna cost? There are already several effective solutions to this problem, but nobody seems willing to pay for what they want. Much of that energy is spent fe

    • This would only be used to sequester CO2 from power plants and other large emitters, not from tractors. The problem is that in order to capture the CO2 from the exhaust it takes 25% to 40% more energy than just releasing the exhaust with the CO2. Since you seem to be so worried about the poor then how are they going to pay for that? Some sources of electricity that don't emit CO2 are getting close to the cost of electricity generation with fossil fuels. Having to pay for the extra fuel to power the carbon

    • Actually, a lot of low-development countries expend high amounts of labor on food production. In North America, it's usually under 2%; in Africa, it can be as high as 40% of the labor force.

      When you expand production beyond a certain amount, the secondary resources feeding that production require more effort to collect. Run out of fertile land and you can grow more by bringing fertilizer and irrigation to rocky soil; that may yield less, and so you have to farm a greater area of soil, requiring more fer

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @02:46PM (#52283339) Homepage
    Atmospheric CO2 is about half a percent (400 PPM), though it's rising. Most of these "sequestration" ideas only work if you have high concentrations of CO2 to begin with, so you take the high CO2 concentration from some kind of industrial process and instead of dumping it in the atmosphere, you pump it underground, or in this case into volcanic bedrock. It's not a good way to get existing CO2 levels down. Still, it's a much needed improvement if it works.
    • And the problem with capturing the CO2 is that it requires a fair bit of energy which usually creates more CO2 that needs to be captured.

      • Potentially, it would, but you could also use excess energy from solar or wind during peak production. If there's enough money in it, you could even build a small nuclear plant and keep that running.
        • Also the there is the ability to capture the CO2 right at the source and pipe it directly into the volcanic bedrock. Think pipes to ground vs smokestacks. Or a thing you attach to automotive exhaust pipes that you then have to empty at the gas station while you are refilling your tank. Etc.
          • Yep, those could definitely be part of the solution. I doubt something like that would work for planes, but cars and plants put out a lot, so getting that out of the picture would be huge.
        • It would have to be a source of power available whenever the original plant is running because the only time to capture the CO2 is when it is being sent through the exhaust system. Once it's in the atmosphere it's too diluted to capture efficiently. The energy requirements are around 25% to 40% (I know a couple of years ago it was 40% so I'm assuming it's coming down). The easiest way to get this power is to run the current plant at a higher rate or accept that you have a lower amount of output. Building

          • Presumably you could just compress it as exhaust and then use the other energy sources as available. And yeah, atmospheric CO2 can't be efficiently captured yet, but presumably there's some sort of effort to develop a system to do that. We'll probably need it at some point.
    • There are new processes that burn fissile fuels in supercritical CO2 that is enriched with O2. This allows high efficiencies and allows you to capture the CO2 easily.

      • Fissile fuels are U235, U237, plutonium, stuff used in a nuclear fission reactor, Fossil fuels are Natural Gas, Petroleum and coal are stuff used in combustion devices; I assume you meant fossil.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @04:17PM (#52284065)
      CO2 can be extracted from the atmosphere for about $160/ton. [biofuelsdigest.com]

      Gasoline emits 8.887 kg of CO2 per gallon of gasoline [epa.gov], so that's 112.5 gallons of gasoline for one ton of CO2. At current prices, that's about $225 worth of gasoline, so this process is "worth it" in terms of recapturing CO2 produced by burning gasoline (basically stick a $1.42/gal tax on gasoline to pay for it).

      Electricity generation results in 0.703 kg of CO2 per kWh (same EPA source), so that's 1422 kWh per ton of CO2. At a U.S. average of $0.115/kWh, that's $163.50 worth of electricity. So it would basically double the average price of electricity in the U.S. Still doable, although the similarity of the price means this is getting close to the break-even point where the energy cost to recapture the CO2 approaches the energy gained by producing it (by burning fuel) in the first place.

      Cost of sequestration would have to be added on top of this though.
      • by RobinH ( 124750 )
        So I just read that article, and they're talking about using CO2 from an industrial source, not getting it from the atmosphere ("The Keyes ethanol plant already uses a dual-pass wet scrubber to produce 99.9% pure CO2"). It's referred to in the article as Carbon Capture and Use (CCU). That's what they're doing for $160/ton.
    • Double the glacial low. It may have been as high as percent several hundred million years ago. Life can adapt if over hundreds of thousands, but not centuries like now.
    • It's not a good way to get existing CO2 levels down.

      Sure it is, the imbalance of what CO2 is released from all sources and what is Absorbed is about 6Gt, [skepticalscience.com] Anthropogenic emissions are 29Gt so a little will go a long way. If the rest of the world matches our reductions and the Net Primary Production keeps going up and we sequester a bit the Alarmist are going to have to find a new "End of the World" to complain about.

    • by RobinH ( 124750 )
      My math is of course off. 400 PPM is 0.04%, not 0.4%. My bad.
  • Great, if you have a coal power plant sitting on top of bedrock... Capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and transporting it to a sequestering facility will most likely be prohibitively expensive.
    • Why transport it? If you're capturing it from the atmosphere you can just do it at the sequestering facility.

  • That's nice, glad they found a way to make it work. However, how do you store the CO2 in the meantime? Are all ICE vehicles supposed to carry a compressor and a giant tank around behind them, or a gigantic balloon or something, to trap all the exhaust gasses? The article doesn't say anything about how you're supposed to get the CO2 from vehicles burning fossil fuels (or anything else burning fossil fuels for that matter) to where they inject it underground.
  • Lime + carbon dioxide = limestone..

    AKA
    Ca0 + C02 = CaC03

    Crap-load of the stuff lying around already. And, oh golly someone already thought of it.

    https://www.technologyreview.c... [technologyreview.com]

  • That's actually an EXTREMELY novel approach to sequestration. And likely one of the best I've seen thus far as it becomes about as near to "permanent" sequestration as we're likely to see.

    And there's a HELL of a lot of volcanic sites that can be utilized for this sort of thing. So humanity could, conceivably, sequester VAST quantities of surplus carbon this way.

    I hope further testing accelerates this project's scheduling and allows it to jump start a full-blown industry...

    This way, skeptic or believer, we

  • How do these groups collect the CO2 in order to have enough to inject into the rocks?

  • What difference does it make? There is no way we will get 3rd world countries, China and Russia to curb their emissions instead of going for cheap energy anyway, so pumping CO2 into the ground or pushing it into rocks is pretty much all cost and zero benefit for us. It's like trying to stop a hurricane using a household box fan or empty the ocean with a 2 gallon bucket... You will have zero measureable affect on the real issue.

    What we should be doing is developing better SOURCES of energy which are cheap

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Doing this Carbon sequestration stuff is short sighted and largely useless anyway

      It's the distraction of choice because oil companies were already aware of pumping gas underground to drive out more oil.

      • Doing this Carbon sequestration stuff is short sighted and largely useless anyway

        It's the distraction of choice because oil companies were already aware of pumping gas underground to drive out more oil.

        What are you talking about? Yes, I've heard about this oil extraction process, but it doesn't mean that it makes sense to just willy-nilly pump CO2 into the ground wherever we want. Besides, read TFA and you will see that this is talking about a different kind of process, that needs research money (of course).

        I'm saying that we should forego the investment into this kind of research and instead concentrate in development of the technology to REPLACE the processes we currently use which emit stuff we don

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          It should be obvious from what I wrote. Sequestration keeps getting chosen because oil companies are well aware of it and it's a cheap way to do some superficial demonstrations to pretend some sort of care.

          Our priority should be in R&D in areas that promise

          I never said otherwise but instead just outlined why something that is short sighted and largely useless keeps on coming up instead of putting real effort into something better.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      China is reducing their CO2 output, or at least are doing their best to. Any problems encountered in that task will not be down to China not wanting to reduce CO2 emissions. Flat out denying that is happening doesn't paint the rest of your comment in the best of lights, as clearly you've not been paying too much attention to this.

      • Claiming to be Trying and actually Doing are totally different things, but you are missing the whole point here...

        My point is that there is zero chance we can make enough difference and actually curb emissions world wide while we are dependent on our current sources of Energy. Alternate forms of energy which have NO EMISSONS need to be developed to the point where they are cheap enough to be used or it doesn't matter how much we try here in the western world, emissions will continue to grow with the world

  • So how much energy, i.e. how much oil, gas, and/or coal do we need to burn to provide the energy, to capture, compress, and transport the CO2 in the first place? And can anyone imagine an energy company actually doing this?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      That's the problem since at the moment cheap energy comes with carbon dioxide output.
      Look at modern society - cheap energy solved a huge number of things at the cost of pollution.
      There are other sources of cheap energy but there is no magic only costs and benefits.
  • So, they showed that C)2 can be crystallized in a couple of years instead of thousands of years and the best people can come up with is "maybe this is viable"? How about, maybe the belief about it taking millions or hundreds of millions of years to produce oil and coal is just crap because we now have proof that it doesn't?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Different things are different.
      However, I'm a bit astonished that someone is able to write English at an adult level without grasping where the phrase "fossil fuels" comes from, but I suppose you could just be taking the piss and pretending to be astonishingly ignorant for some sort of fun.

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