100 Special Planes and $2.5 Billion per year for Sulphate Geoengineering

Researchers reviewed all lofting technologies that seem plausible as methods to put 100,000 tons per year of sulphur to an altitude of up to ~20 km in 2033. The program then scales to 5 million tons per year. Their main research involved engaging directly with commercial aerospace vendors to elicit what current and near-term technology platforms can achieve at what cost. We have met or corresponded directly with: Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman; GE Engines, Rolls Royce Engines; Atlas Air, Near Space Corporation, Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company, Virgin Orbit, and NASA, the latter in respect of its high-altitude research aircraft fleet.

They eliminated aerostats and hoses because the technology is not ready or untested. Modified business jets, noted prominently in McClellan et al (2010, 2012) study, are incapable of reaching altitudes above ~16 km. High payload, high altitude aerostats have been hypothesized but not yet successfully tested, and in all events, are operationally fragile, unable to operate in adverse weather conditions. Tethered hoses are even less technologically mature and to-date untested. Military fighters such as the F-15 have reached altitudes of ~18 km in the context of record-setting ballistic climbs in ideal conditions, but they are incapable of either sustained flight or regular operations at such altitudes.

They estimate total development costs of $~2 billion for a special airframe, and a further $350 million for modifying existing low-bypass engines. These numbers are toward the lower end of McClellan et al (2010, 2012) range of $2.1 to $5.6 billion and significantly below the TU Delft students’ estimates of $14 billion for its purpose-built Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering Aircraft, or SAG.

The required SAIL plane is equivalent in weight to a large narrow-body passenger aircraft such as the A321, or in Boeing terms, sized between the 737–800 and the 757–200. In order to sustain level flight in the thin air encountered at altitudes approaching ~20 kms, SAIL requires roughly double the wing area of an equivalently sized airliner, and double the thrust, with four engines instead of two. (While maximum thrust requirements of most aircraft are defined by takeoff, SAIL’s engines are configured to perform at high altitudes.) At the same time, its fuselage would seem stubby and narrow, sized to accommodate a heavy but dense mass of molten sulfur rather than the large volume of space and air required for passenger comfort. SAIL would therefore have considerably wider wingspan than length. Its compact fuselage, however, would sit behind a conventional manned cockpit. While it is easy to imagine SAIL migrating to unmanned cockpits over time, under current certification rules, it would be substantially faster and therefore cheaper to certify the aircraft with onboard pilots.

The preliminary design for SAIL calls for a length of ~46 m, a wingspan of ~55 m, and a wing area of ~250 m2, with an aspect ratio of ~12:1. The maximum structural payload would be ~25 t, with maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of ~100 t, operating empty weight (OEW) of ~50 t, and maximum fuel load of ~32 t. The aircraft would have 4 wing-mounted low-bypass engines, modified for high-altitude operations with an aggregate take-off thrust of ~25–30 t and a thrust-to-weight ratio of ~30%. (GE Engines considers its F118 engine adequate, noting that it powers the NASA Global Hawk aircraft to similar altitudes; its Passport 20 engine may similarly be capable. Rolls Royce suggests its BR710 or BR725 engines.) The design will require a smaller fifth centerline auxiliary power unit for bleed air and onboard combustion of the molten sulfur payload.

Environmental Research Letters – Stratospheric aerosol injection tactics and costs in the first 15 years of deployment

Researchers reviewed the capabilities and costs of various lofting methods intended to deliver sulfates into the lower stratosphere. They lay out a future solar geoengineering deployment scenario of halving the increase in anthropogenic radiative forcing beginning 15 years hence, by deploying material to altitudes as high as ~20 km. After surveying an exhaustive list of potential deployment techniques, they settle upon an aircraft-based delivery system. They conclude that no existing aircraft design—even with extensive modifications—can reasonably fulfill this mission. However, they also conclude that developing a new, purpose-built high-altitude tanker with substantial payload capabilities would neither be technologically difficult nor prohibitively expensive. They calculate early-year costs of ~$1500 per ton of material deployed, resulting in average costs of ~$2.25 billion per year over the first 15 years of deployment. They further calculate the number of flights at ~4000 in year one, linearly increasing by ~4000 per year. They conclude by arguing that, while cheap, such an aircraft-based program would unlikely be a secret, given the need for thousands of flights annually by airliner-sized aircraft operating from an international array of bases.

18 thoughts on “100 Special Planes and $2.5 Billion per year for Sulphate Geoengineering”

  1. Considering that ocean acidification is at least as big a problem as the warming of the planet, the only geoengineering ideas worth investigation are ideas for taking CO2 out of the air & ocean. Eg: Ocean iron fertilization, biochar…

    Reply
  2. The average global temperature is increasing yearly. The sea level is rising. Those are facts. The majority of the worlds population currently lives at sea level right next to the sea. The past as already passed. The near future is what we are concerned about. Burning fossil fuel is expensive, it pollutes, it sickens and it kills. And we don’t have to do it. At least not at the rate we do.

    Reply
  3. I won’t say no because in the end we are going to have to do something since there is no way we are going to stop burning fossil fuel for at least the next 30 years. But I do think we need to tax fossil fuel to pay for it and to pay for what ever the damages cause by climate change.

    Of course someone will reply that climate change is a hoax. Well, if it is then there will be no damages and then no taxes. You are safe.

    Reply
  4. “Unless conditions become very extreme; a real planetary emergency”? Been watching the news? Where do you think we are now? The seas are so high that it threatens our ports and shipbuilding on the east coast. Meanwhile, it’s getting too hot to live in the mideast, including India.

    Reply
  5. No one have detect an increased greenhouse effect around 15µm.

    That is the IR wave length CO2 work in earth atmosphere.

    Not even an increased global greenhouse effect at all.

    We have no dangerous global warming, we live in an 2,6 million long ice age.

    Global cooling is the threat. The worst year for modern humanity was 536.

    I often wonder why Donald Trump don´d say.

    OK I will act in order of the Paris agreement if you can show me science with open data (not climate simulations program that all have water vapor as force but no one can support it with observations).

    It must be easy to detect increased greenhouse effect in earth atmosphere in 15µm if it is so high that it not only will take earth out from this long ice age, but on further to a global overheating.

    If Donald Trump say so, then more people may start thinking and realize that global over heating is the least problem we soon 8 billion have to solve.

    The human act that contribute most to a warmer more life friendly climate is desert to forest and now when reversed osmosis is down to 3kWh/m^3 we will see much more desert changed to forest.

    In stone age Sahara was no desert and the first human high culture started, Scandinavia had Mediterranean climate.

    The out radiated energy increases with the power of four to the temperature, therefore, the earth had a higher average temperature when the Sahara had rivers, lakes and trees.

    But climate alarmists don´t listening, the just want control power.

    There is many good argument to out compete oil and coal, but the only technique we now know work globally is mass producing of walk away safe nuclear GenIV, also the only technique we now know work for a global welfare until 2050 and stop the population clock from rising,

    No cheaper energy than fossil, no global environment protection, no decreased migration pressure from poor countries to richer.

    So climate alarmists act against human, animal and the nature in hope to gain power…

    Reply
  6. Its worth testing but I would hold off on implementing it unless conditions become very extreme; a real planetary emergency. Otherwise we might become dependent on the aerosols and if something stopped the geoengineering project in midstream the climate will get much worse very quickly.

    Reply
  7. There is another method of geo engineering that is being discussed lately that seems very viable in the near term, with what looks like less potential side effects; sinking CO2 from power plants together with water in underground caverns and abandoned mines where there is a basalt rock. The CO2 calcifies en mass in this conditions. There is a big experiment going on in Iceland doing just that, and it is going very well.

    Reply
  8. Considering that ocean acidification is at least as big a problem as the warming of the planet, the only geoengineering ideas worth investigation are ideas for taking CO2 out of the air & ocean. Eg: Ocean iron fertilization, biochar…

    Reply
  9. The average global temperature is increasing yearly. The sea level is rising. Those are facts. The majority of the worlds population currently lives at sea level right next to the sea. The past as already passed. The near future is what we are concerned about. Burning fossil fuel is expensive, it pollutes, it sickens and it kills. And we don’t have to do it. At least not at the rate we do.

    Reply
  10. I won’t say no because in the end we are going to have to do something since there is no way we are going to stop burning fossil fuel for at least the next 30 years. But I do think we need to tax fossil fuel to pay for it and to pay for what ever the damages cause by climate change.

    Of course someone will reply that climate change is a hoax. Well, if it is then there will be no damages and then no taxes. You are safe.

    Reply
  11. “Unless conditions become very extreme; a real planetary emergency”? Been watching the news? Where do you think we are now? The seas are so high that it threatens our ports and shipbuilding on the east coast. Meanwhile, it’s getting too hot to live in the mideast, including India.

    Reply
  12. No one have detect an increased greenhouse effect around 15µm.

    That is the IR wave length CO2 work in earth atmosphere.

    Not even an increased global greenhouse effect at all.

    We have no dangerous global warming, we live in an 2,6 million long ice age.

    Global cooling is the threat. The worst year for modern humanity was 536.

    I often wonder why Donald Trump don´d say.

    OK I will act in order of the Paris agreement if you can show me science with open data (not climate simulations program that all have water vapor as force but no one can support it with observations).

    It must be easy to detect increased greenhouse effect in earth atmosphere in 15µm if it is so high that it not only will take earth out from this long ice age, but on further to a global overheating.

    If Donald Trump say so, then more people may start thinking and realize that global over heating is the least problem we soon 8 billion have to solve.

    The human act that contribute most to a warmer more life friendly climate is desert to forest and now when reversed osmosis is down to 3kWh/m^3 we will see much more desert changed to forest.

    In stone age Sahara was no desert and the first human high culture started, Scandinavia had Mediterranean climate.

    The out radiated energy increases with the power of four to the temperature, therefore, the earth had a higher average temperature when the Sahara had rivers, lakes and trees.

    But climate alarmists don´t listening, the just want control power.

    There is many good argument to out compete oil and coal, but the only technique we now know work globally is mass producing of walk away safe nuclear GenIV, also the only technique we now know work for a global welfare until 2050 and stop the population clock from rising,

    No cheaper energy than fossil, no global environment protection, no decreased migration pressure from poor countries to richer.

    So climate alarmists act against human, animal and the nature in hope to gain power…

    Reply
  13. Its worth testing but I would hold off on implementing it unless conditions become very extreme; a real planetary emergency. Otherwise we might become dependent on the aerosols and if something stopped the geoengineering project in midstream the climate will get much worse very quickly.

    Reply
  14. There is another method of geo engineering that is being discussed lately that seems very viable in the near term, with what looks like less potential side effects; sinking CO2 from power plants together with water in underground caverns and abandoned mines where there is a basalt rock. The CO2 calcifies en mass in this conditions. There is a big experiment going on in Iceland doing just that, and it is going very well.

    Reply

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