There will Definitely Be a Lot of CO2 Generated for Energy Production for Decades
There will be plenty of natural gas and coal for many decades to centuries. Unconventional natural gas and underground coal gasification are likely to provide affordable fossil fuel for a long time. The THAI (Toe Heel Air Injection) oil recovery process and Multi-fracture horizontal drilling will ensure more supplies of regular oil. Civilization will continue to generate a lot of CO2. 30 billion tons per year of CO2 now and likely to increase. In the IEO2009 (International energy outlook) reference case, world energy-related carbon dioxide emissions grows from 29.0 billion metric tons in 2006 to 33.1 billion metric tons in 2015.
Besides Reducing CO2, Other Mitigation Steps Can be Taken
BC (Black Carbon or soot) is an aerosol and is among the particle components emitted from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. Particulates from coal and diesel also cause about a millions of premature deaths each year. BC is estimated to be the second or third largest warming agent, although there is uncertainty in determining its precise radiative forcing. BC can be reduced
by approximately 50% with full application of existing technologies by 2030, primarily from reducing diesel emissions and improving cook stoves. Wallack and Ramanathan estimate that it may be possible to offset the warming effect from one to two decades of CO2 emissions by reducing BC by 50% using existing technologies
In 2000, there were 6800 container ships in the world. At the cold war peak the Soviets had or had almost built about 400 nuclear powered ships and the USA had over 200. One large container pollutes as much as 50 million cars.
Converting all commercial shipping to nuclear power would be a more logistically achievable goal than electrifying all cars. Commercial shipping releases half as much particulates as all of the worlds cars.
Carbon Sequesteration is Expensive and Would Take Decades to Have a Major Impact
Carbon sequestration is at a few million tons per year now. Canada is planning a $2 billion/year project to sequester 5 million tons of CO2 per year by 2015 and then a $3 billion/year project to sequester 30 million tons of CO2 per year. $400 per ton down to $100 per ton sequestered each year. Norway is planning to get carbon neutral by sequestering 50 million tons per year by 2020. MIT wrote a study that sequestering the CO2 generated from coal plants in the USA by 2050 would take 11,000 to 23,000 miles of dedicated pipe.
The technology for removing CO2 from the atmosphere is improving.
Carbon sciences and companies like it could recycle a lot of the CO2 directly into fuel. Recycled CO2 could displace fresh CO2 from fossil fuels that are taken from the ground. CO2 fuel will also take a long time to scale up to significant levels.
How Can We have a Significant Impact on CO2 Over the Next Ten Years and Beyond?
The Gigaton Throwdown is an initiative to encourage investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers to “think big” to massively scale clean energy during the next 10 years.
The USA avoids 700 million tons of CO2 from the 800 billion kwh of nuclear power that are generated from standard nuclear plants.
1. A program to accelerate the research and development of annular fuel [ultra-uprates] (MIT, Westinghouse) to allow for 50% power increase to existing nuclear reactors with ultra-uprates. (beyond the traditional power uprates of up to 20%. This could be achieved with research budget allocation and policy changes to ensure prompt deployment. Full deployment in the United States would be avoid about 300 million tons of CO2/year. (30% boost to boiler water reactors.) Full deployment worldwide would avoid 1 billion tons of CO2/year.
2. The USA needs to adopt the Idaho national lab plan for conventional nuclear reactors.
Speeding the build out of nuclear reactors. China is adding 86GWe of new nuclear power from now to 2020. The US can accelerate the buildout of nuclear power plants (currently on track for 4-8 by 2020). Politically possible fast tracking would be about 10 nuclear reactors.
1. Life extension of the current fleet beyond 60 years (e.g., what would it
take to extend all lives to ~80 years?); and
2. Strong, sustained expansion of ALWRs throughout this century (e.g., what
would it take to proceed uninterrupted from first new plant deployments in
~2015 to sustained build-rates approaching 10+/year?).
Achieving a build rate of 10 plants per year, which on a sustained basis equates to about 50 plants under construction at any point in time, will require substantial investment in workforce training and new or refurbished manufacturing capability.
3. Develop factor mass produced deep burn nuclear reactors
In terms of transportation:
4. Deploy electric bikes (free like Amsterdam) and also have electric buses/vans for ensuring that people and the free electric vehicles have optimal logistics
China makes and adds 20-30 million electric bikes and scooters each year. 100 million peddle bike sales worldwide. China has 450 million peddle bike users.
5. X prize program for the retrofitting of existing vehicles for fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic retrofit of existing vehicles can enable 30% reduction in highway driving fuel usage. Need to have prizes for figuring out deployment that makes economic sense that people will adopt.
6. there is a computer system that works with cruise control (developed in the UK by Sentience) and GPS which allows for proper computer controlled/assisted acceleration and breaking for 5-24% more fuel efficiency. Basically computer assisted hypermiling.
Policy to force the aerodynamic and engine retrofits of high mileage vehicles likes cabs and other high mile fleet vehicles.
7. Biochar sequestering
Charcoal is traditionally made by burning wood in pits or temporary structures, but modern pyrolysis equipment greatly reduces the air pollution associated with this practice. Gases emitted from pyrolysis can be captured to generate valuable products instead of being released as smoke. Some of the by-products can be condensed into “bio-oil,” a liquid that can be upgraded to fuels including biodiesel and synthesis gas. A portion of the noncondensable fraction is burned to heat the pyrolysis chamber, and the rest can provide heat or fuel an electric generator.
Pyrolysis equipment now being developed at several public and private institutions typically operate at 350–700°C. In Golden, Colorado, Biochar Engineering Corporation is building portable $50,000 pyrolyzers that researchers will use to produce 1–2 tons of biochar per week. Company CEO Jim Fournier says the firm is planning larger units that could be trucked into position. Biomass is expensive to transport, he says, so pyrolysis units located near the source of the biomass are preferable to larger, centrally located facilities, even when the units reach commercial scale.
Steiner and coauthors noted in the 2003 book Amazonian Dark Earths that the charcoal-mediated enhancement of soil caused a 280–400% increase in plant uptake of nitrogen.
Preliminary results in a greenhouse study showed that low-volatility [biochar] supplemented with fertilizer outperformed fertilizer alone by 60%.
Because the heat and chemical energy released during pyrolysis could replace energy derived from fossil fuels, the IBI calculates the total benefit would be equivalent to removing about 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. That would offset 29% of today’s net rise in atmospheric carbon, which is estimated at 4.1 billion metric tons, according to the Energy Information Administration.
8. Regular Carbon Sequestering – how much can it help
The MIT Future of Coal 2007 report estimated that capturing all of the roughly 1.5 billion tons per year of CO2 generated by coal-burning power plants in the United States would generate a CO2 flow with just one-third of the volume of the natural gas flowing in the U.S. gas pipeline system.
The technology is expected to use between 10 and 40% of the energy produced by a power station.
In 2007, Jason Burnett, EPA associate deputy administrator, told USINFO. “Currently, about 35 million tons of CO2 are sequestered in the United States,” Burnett added, “primarily for enhanced oil recovery. We expect that to increase, by some estimates, by 400-fold by 2100.”
The Japanese government is targeting an annual reduction of 100 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions through CCS technologies by 2020.
Industrial-scale storage projects are in operation.
Sleipner is the oldest project (1996) and is located in the North Sea where Norway’s StatoilHydro strips carbon dioxide from natural gas with amine solvents and disposes of this carbon dioxide in a deep saline aquifer. Since 1996, Sleipner has stored about one million tonnes CO2 a year. A second project in the Snøhvit gas field in the Barents Sea stores 700,000 tonnes per year.
The Weyburn project (started 2000) is currently the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project. It is used for enhanced oil recovery with an injection rate of about 1.5 million tonnes per year. They are investigating how the technology can be expanded on a larger scale.
A natural gas reservoir located in In Salah, Algeria. The CO2 will be separated from the natural gas and re-injected into the subsurface at a rate of about 1.2 million tonnes per year.
Australian has a project to store 3 million tons per year starting in 2009. The Gordon project, an add-on to an off-shore Western Australian Natural Gas extraction project, is the largest CO2 storage project in the world. It will attempt to capture and store 3 million tonnes of CO2 per year for 40 years in a saline aquifer, commencing in 2009. It will cost ~$840 million.
Wide plan proposes €1.25bn for carbon capture at coal-fired power plants; €1.75bn earmarked for better international energy links. The European commission today proposed earmarking €1.25bn to kickstart carbon capture and storage (CCS) at 11 coal-fired plants across Europe, including four in Britain.The four British power stations – the controversial Kingsnorth plant in Kent, Longannet in Fife, Tilbury in Essex and Hatfield in Yorkshire – would share €250m under the two-year scheme.
Japan and China have a project will cost 20 to 30 billion yen and will involve the participation of the Japanese public and private sectors, including JGC Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. The two countries plan to bring the project into action in 2009. Under the plan, more than one million tons of CO2 annually from the Harbin Thermal Power Plant in Heilungkiang Province will be transferred to the Daqing Oilfield, about 100 km from the plant, and will be injected and stored in the oilfield.
9. CO2 into Cement
Novacem is a company that is making cement from magnesium silicates that absorbs more CO2 as it hardens. Normally cement adds a net 0.4 tons of CO2 per ton of cement, but this new cement would remove 0.6 tons of CO2 from the air. There is an estimated 10 trillion tons of magnesium silicate in the world. 0.6 tonnes times 10 trillion tons is 6 trillion tons. The amount of CO2 generated by people is 27 billion tons worldwide and this could increase to 45 billion tons. So 6 trillion tons is about 200 years worth of CO2 storage.
Calera cement is a startup funded by Vinod Khosla, technology billionaire. Calera’s process takes the idea of carbon capture and storage a step forward by storing the CO2 in a useful product. For every ton of Calera cement that is made, they are sequestering half a ton of CO2.
Calera Cement Process uses flue gas from coal plants/steel plants or natural gas plants + seawater for calcium & Magnesium = Cement + Clean water + Cleaner Air
Calera has an operational pilot plant.
10. Low Carbon Energy Sources
Nuclear power worldwide offsets 2 billion tons of CO2 per year. Scaling nuclear power, wind energy, solar power, geothermal and hydro-electric power can offset a lot of CO2 by displacing coal power, oil and natural gas.
11. CO2 Capture from the Air – for Fuel or Storage
Technology for CO2 capture from the air is progressing.
Carbon Sciences estimate that by 2030, using just 25% of the CO2 produced by the coal industry, they can produce enough fuel to satisfy 30% of the global fuel demand.
The company’s plan for 2009 includes the following:
* Develop a functional prototype of its breakthrough CO2 to fuel technology in Q1 2009. This prototype is expected to transform a stream of CO2 gas into a liquid fuel that is: (i) combustible, and (ii) usable in certain vehicles.
* Enhance the prototype to demonstrate a full range of cost effective process innovations to transform CO2 into fuel.
* Begin development of a complete mini-pilot system to demonstrate the company’s CO2 technology on a larger scale.
* Prepare for the development of a full pilot system with strategic partners sometime in late 2010 or 2011.
CO2-to-Carbonate technology combines CO2 with industrial waste minerals and transforms them into a high value chemical compound, calcium carbonate, used in applications such as paper production, pharmaceuticals and plastics. This is also bordering the various using CO2 as part of cement.
Geoengineering proposals compared.
The Gigaton Throwdown, a project by Sunil Paul. Mr. Paul started the project under the auspices of the Clinton Global Initiative on Stabilizing the Climate. He organized a fairly large group of venture capital companies, some from the renewable energy sector, and some academic and think tank policy analysts, all concerned about climate change and the need for dramatic action to mitigate such change.
The Gigaton Throwdown defined, briefly:
“The Gigaton Throwdown, launched in 2007 at the Clinton Global Initiative by Sunil Paul, is a project to encourage entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers to plan to grow companies to a scale that they change the climate. The project is evaluating a portfolio of cleantech pathways that could lead to 1 gigaton per year of CO2-equivalent reduction by 2020, and the implications for capital, policy, and industry. The pathways currently in analysis are solar PV, solar thermal, wind, biofuels, nuclear, geothermal, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and buildings.”
The Gigaton Throwdown report was released June 24, 2009 in Washington DC.
For more background on the Clinton Global Initiative at which the Gigaton Throwdown was launched.
You will note that Dr. John Holdren, Science Advisor to President Obama, was a lead participant in this particular Clinton Global Initiative meeting.
1. Energy efficiency in buildings and appliances (710-870 megatons of carbon)
2. More fuel efficient vehicles (340-660 megatons of carbon)
3. Industrial efficiency (620-770 megatons)
4. Bigger carbon sinks (like more forest) (440-580 megatons)
5. Less carbon intensive power generation (800-1570 megatons)
This last one is more nuclear power and renewables and cleaning up coal.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.