Carbon Capture – A Physical Impossibilty 45


The government is giving a coat of greenwash to its decision to smash its emissions commitments by giving the go-ahead to a new generation of huge coal-fired power stations. The propaganda focuses on the idea that 25% (in fact the measure says 20 to 25% and we can guess which it will be) of harmful emissions must be captured and stored.

Or to put it another way, the most atmosphere polluting of all electricity generation methods will be pumping out a massive increase to British carbon dioxide emissions, with a 20% mitigation of that vast increase. The even more pathetic aspect of the greenwash figleaf is the claim that 100% of the carbon must be captured by 2025.

If we continue to increase carbon emissions until 2025, the value of any reduction thereafter will be minimal; the situation is urgent and needs to be addressed now, not in sixteen years time. It also relies on a non-existent – and many would say physically impossible – technology. It would have been less of a punt to claim that in 2025 they will be replaced by nuclear fusion.

The problem is that when you combust coal or oil, the carbon dioxide produced, even when expensively compressed to its maximum. has a volume several times greater than that of the original coal or oil. Ideas that you put it back in the hole it came from do not work. Keeping a gas compressed also involves high pressure containment. The idea that this will happen on a massive scale, and that any significant proportion of fossil fuel emissions can be stored, does not even make credible science fiction.

The UK has both abundant renewable energy resources and is a world leader in the technology to exploit them. The failure of the government to look to a major boost to the nascent renewable energy industry for this next wave of electricity generation, may in fact be one of the biggest disasters of New Labour.


45 thoughts on “Carbon Capture – A Physical Impossibilty

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  • technicolour

    Gosh. I seem to have really stirred an anthill. Ken, Tony: are you having a laugh? Subsequent mind drivelling posters: do you think it’s healthy?

    Took the debate away from the Icelandic pipeline, though. Not to mention the move towards sustainable local alternatives (nationally funded and contributing to a national grid)

  • Clark

    Some thoughts on climate change…

    There is a big difference between the “War on Terror” and climate change. The “Threat of Terrorism” is promoted by secret “intelligence” services and the security industry, citing “facts” (often actually exaggerations or fictions) from almost invariably unverifiable or secret sources. The type of people drawn to this sort of career are likely to enjoy a bit of “cloak and dagger”. In contrast, climate change is debated by the scientific community, a far larger group who have chosen to work in a field where all data and hypotheses must be made public, and where success accrues only when others have duplicated ones results independently. Scientists expect their ideas to be challenged, this is central to the scientific method. It is certainly true that vested interests fund scientific research in order to distort the scientific consensus and fund publicity to influence opinion in their preferred direction. But over time the truth will out; Nature has no Official Secrets Acts.

    Back in the ’80s environmentalists warning about climate change were frequently derided as scaremongers or cranks, but as evidence accumulated vested interests started taking them more seriously, and responded with the sort of disinformation campaign I described above. Governments, while sometimes acknowledging environmentalist’s warnings, seemed to regard damage to our home planet as an irrelevance that would stifle business if it were attended to. This seemed to change suddenly with the publication of the Stern Report in October 2006, which described environmental degradation in economic rather than ecological language. Presented with a huge bill rather than a trashed planet, many governments started to get suitably worried; a strange set of priorities, if you ask me.

    A few people commenting on this blog believe that climate change is a conspiratorial fiction invented to make money. This is a complete about-face that seems to have occurred in the last few years. Previously, it was oil companies, big business and most notably the Bush administration of the US that denied climate change. Maybe some of us have swallowed one too many of the Red Pills! That said, there IS a huge amount of “Greenwash”, such as advertising encouraging people to replace things that are in good working order with ones that are claimed to consume less energy, and dubious “Carbon Offset” schemes and, in my opinion, carbon capture.

    Decades of cheap oil (a fraction of the price of bottled water!) and other cheap energy has led to societies profligate in their energy use. We no longer live near our friends, families or places of work. Many local shops have closed. Technological appliances have become over complicated and are not considered worth repairing; they are simply thrown away, often just because fashions change. People are expected to work long hours, so they have no time to do things in the old-fashioned, energy-frugal ways. The world has become increasingly noisy, hurried, stressful and impersonal.

    Let the power fall.

  • Anon

    Craig is right about CO2 storage. It’s a con. But so also is the idea that we buy lots of new heat pumps full global warming modern refrigerants and copper smelted in Chinese coal-fired power stations. The end user should pay a levy on the carbon emmissions of production so that we can see the real cost of ‘green’ technology.

    In reality the only solution is to use less, i.e. work locally, learn to live with low energy consumption, cold showers, move to a third world country with a better climate and saner government than the UK.

  • windmills

    Given the fact that science promotes open discourse, while demanding that any assumptions, or assertions, ought to be continually challenged, however dose not mean that science can regulate the behaviour of those engaged in any scientific endeavour. Hence the integrity of science somehow is not extensible to the “scientist”, whose imperatives may shift away from seeking the truth states, towards feathering their own nests, be it coveting after the relevant; grants, sources of funding, chairs, offices, kickbacks, etc.

    In other words, scientists may not be as objective as their science requires these to be, this fact combined with the additional pressures upon these weak operatives, by the sharper political masters may yield the mess in which we are in, and we find the cooling and or warming of a planet that is roughly about four billion years old (4,000,000,000) to be adduced based on some one hundred and fifty years of records, which have been obtained through rudimentary and local readings (ie not planetary wide, and or solar system wide, but here and there, by some philanthropic busy body, whose habit of cold showers was not enough to keep their minds at rest).

    This kind of deduction that can only be achieved by the same bunch of hairless apes, whom believed Earth was the centre of the universe, and flat to boot, going so far as excommunicating any poor soul who dared to think otherwise.

    The arrogance of the hairless apes is put into perspective as and when the numbers are crunched by considering the relevant ratios ie 150 divided by 4000,000,000 which is equivalent to 0.0000000375 or 0.00000375 percent that leaves only 0.99999625 percent uncertainty about the rest of the time although the margin of knowing how warm Bognor Regis was in 1874 is sufficient enough grounds for climate change, and the correct cue for the various operatives to get on with their Malthusian agenda of; bad humans, and even worst great unwashed.

    Fact that these Malthusian misanthropes are only engaged in realising their dreams of reducing the levels of competition, which in fact flies in the face of the Darwinian model perverted into Hobbesian Zeitgeist which itself is ironic for most of these pontificating misanthropes cannot even so much as control their own bladders never mind grappling the next pilgrim along for a morsel of food.

    Fact that animals in the wild have no monetary constructs, and or political structures to ensure the class differentials, and only rely on getting down, and dirty to win the argument, is somehow never pointed to by the same bunch of shrivelled dick operatives, whose visions of the Hobbesian world is only the induction of the brute force of the proletariat to keep the next batch of the unwashed in check, whilst the same bunch of incontinent old things get on with ruling the roost.

    Hence to find the muddled debate raging on here, in which facts and conjecture are constructed into the regurgitation of the existing bankrupt notions, these are the results of the bankruptcy of the ideas, and paucity of human invention, to perpetuate the same social structures, seeing as any other emergent arrangements can only be viewed as chaos and ought not be acceptable.

    Climate change, which is the latest incarnation of the big freeze (in seventies the planet was heading for ice age!) which was then replaced with global warming, which is now keeping a foot in either camp has been elevated to “climate change”. Fact that most so called “green” notions are only engaged in anthropomorphising all things none human, whilst assiduously promoting misanthropy, never is debated. This is acceptable to save a pod of Dolphins, but hang back and watch a Palestinian village get razed, or to stop the Japanese whalers from killing the whales, whilst hang back and let the thousands of Japanese commit suicide due to the enormous pressures brought on by their fascist employers. On the other hand it is acceptable to pay for a barrel of Oil, less than a Barrel of fizzy drinks, as well as accepting the human costs of keeping the indigenous populations of these oil fields under a constant regime of intimidation, and cycle of invasion, and death, all in the way of “securing the oil supplies”. But hey don’t let a cat get the wrong tin of cat food, just think of the distress it can cause.

    Finally; think of our children, and think of the little polar bears, and stop the climate change, by killing at least four fifth of the planet, and keeping the same bunch of bastards on their respective gravy trains, for otherwise where would all this end, if we let chaos reign? Hence get on with shaking the kaleidoscope … ……………..

    NB ; ‘This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do let us re-order this world around us’ (T. Blair, Speech at the Labour Party Conference, Brighton, 2nd October 2001)

  • Jon

    It is quite depressing here to hear opmoc and ken dismiss the need for peer-reviewed science. Chaps, you both seem to be saying that because the culture post WWII permitted free science experimentation, you are more able than current scientists to look at the issue of climate change. Furthermore, you say your experiments or observations have demonstrated that global warming is not happening. This is remarkably short-sighted.

    I am pleased for you that the coral reefs in your preferred holiday spot are getting better, but here you seem to be taking one anecdote and compiling a statistic out of it. That is not sound science at all. You should be aware, especially if you are a physicist, that to examine the whole gamut of indicators of climate change, you cannot do it all yourself. This is where other scientists are needed, to publish their own findings and research, and then to review each other’s work. This has been happening in the last two decades, and the incontrovertible evidence is that we should have started to tackle this problem many years earlier.

    Furthermore, rather than worrying too much about ‘The Idiots in Control of Us’, obtain some research papers on climate change – there will be plenty on the internet – and critique them. Publish your critiques and alert other scientists to their existence.

    Opmoc, you ask who you should peer your results with: well, if you have results of a publishable quality, I would recommend you talk to a university physics department near you. Speak to several scientists if you suspect (as you appear to) that some have been compromised by “the system”. Ask them how you can get your work reviewed. Some may offer to informally review it, perhaps by using their awareness of the best current research in your chosen topic (such as coral reefs).

    I mean you know offence when I say that, given your posting style, and that you seem determined not to listen to the best minds on climate change, you are not open to the possibility that you might be wrong. Furthermore, I suspect if you take your results to other scientists, an informal peer review will indicate some basic mistakes in the science, and that you will have to go back to the drawing board.

    Proving it all yourself, one way or another, is impossible. Not even the best environmental scientist in the world would consider that a reasonable approach.

  • Keith Tully

    Dear Craig

    As usual agree with you 100 p/c. The biggest failure is not to use tidal power

    the energy produced anywhere round our coast is endless and more reliable than wind.They havent got a clue have they…..

  • jungle

    Tony: “Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant and has no significent effect on the Climate of The Earth.”

    Oh yeah? Try adding extra CO2 to a garden greenhouse on a hot day. Hint: your plants won’t grow faster.

    Tony: “The entire Global Warming issue is a Massive Scam based on Political Control.”

    I see this accusation levelled again and again by global warming sceptics of all stripes, even some who appear to be otherwise intelligent, and I really don’t see how this is meant to work.

    No-one official is actually forcing me to do anything in the name of global warming other than use different lightbulbs (hardly the most profitable of scams, unless the fluorescent tube industry is much more significant than meets the eye).

    The abolition of civil liberties in the UK is being justified using exaggerated fear of Muslims, not global warming.

    The government’s not encouraging global warming protesters: it’s setting the police on them.

  • jungle

    Getting back to the original article – I strongly suspect Craig’s correct, and CCS is something the government would dearly love to use, and therefore has determined that it Will Be Possible.

    However, determination is not enough to override reality, and it’s probably not possible. The fact is that CCS was an idea that grew in the marketing departments of big coal companies, not among engineers.

    The outcome of this policy will almost certainly just be more entirely normal coal-fired power stations – grossly short-sighted and possibly utterly catastrophic if most countries fall for the same scam.

    Renewable avenues not being explored enough:

    Tidal Power

    HDR Geothermal

    Simple energy saving (why is it that supermarkets have open-fronted fridges running 24/7 when they could have doors!?)

  • George Dutton

    “Global Hoax on global warming….mmmm, we need a proper debate, to many half truths on both sides.”

    “Now, at the moment the Global Warming sayers have it for me….why…well if they are right the outcome is we’re fubar’ed.”

    “And if they are wrong…..you can say I told you so.”

    “one of the answers doesnt look to clever to me….you wanna play lottery on this one..I dont”

    Me

    I had to repost the above…Well said Me…Well said.I am in total agreement with you.

  • Lordlimey

    I half agree with Craig on this one, new labour have ducked the issue of our impending energy crisis where 23GW of electricity production will be turned off by 2023, not to mention the complete inadequate response to climate change policy.

    However, CCS is not as some have mentioned an unproven technology, it is proven and has been used successfully in various ways since at least the early 1970’s. What is unproven is its application and its commercial viability.

    The Sleipner gas project shows that co2 can be extracted and sequestered successfuly and made to be commercially viable with the incentive to avoid pollution taxes.

    However, applying this technology to large scale power plants and especially retro fitting has rarely been tried. It also reduces the efficiency of the plant meaning less power generation. Only 2 demonstration plants are in operation at present, a pre-combustion plant in Spain and a post-combustion plant in Germany and the results are unknown at present.

    It could cost anything from £30 to £90 a tonne of co2 to sequester with CCS which is a major problem, and will involve some kind of environmental taxation scheme to make viable.

    In terms of the point of putting the co2 back in the hole from where it came, this is not what would happen. CO2 can be sequestered in old gas and oil wells and in saline aquafers such as the enormous one under the southern north sea that a study by the tindall Centre has intimated could store 100 years of co2 emissions from all current coal fired power stations in western Europe (theoretically).

    The fact is these demonstaration plants should have been set up 10 years ago, and although CCS is a promising technology that could help in the fight of climate change, if real impact is to be made on co2 emissions in the UK far more fundamental action is required.

    L.limey

  • ken

    Jon,

    Either I didn’t write my post carefully enough or you didn’t read it carefully enough, but I did not deny the existence of global warming.

    What I questioned was whether global warming will be a bad thing, based on the state of the planet 6000 years ago.

    I offer what I said in that post for peer review here:

    Will the atmosphere hold more moisture as a result of warming up?

    Will that moisture result in more rainfall?

    Where will that additional moisture come from, will it come from melting at the poles?

    Will more rainfall increase the earth’s fertility, reduce desert areas?

    Will that be a good thing?

    Should we fear global warming?

    If so, why exactly?

    Is there anyone amongst us, scientist or otherwise, who can be scientifically certain about the future, or more specifically, about the nature of the future?

    I also offer this as an observation made over the last few years, say about 10.

    Travelling overland extensively in Scandinavia I observe the huge amount of farmland under black plastic at the time I travel past. No doubt this isn’t the case all year. This would be unknown, say, 50 years ago.

    I have read in Spanish newspapers that the amount of Spanish farmland under permanent glass or plastic has been increasing during the past 10 years at record rates, and in my travels in Spain I have observed this also.

    These are just two tiny parts of the world where I have observed this.

    The specific purpose of this is to absorb the sun’s heat radiation, which would otherwise reflect back away from the earth, and use it to warm the earth.

    I don’t know how much of this goes on in the world, I can only comment on my observations, but I think it is clearly increasing, and is relatively new.

    I have read quite a bit about the science of global warming, at least that which, I’m afraid to say, doesn’t send me to sleep. But I have never read of any consideration given to the effect of the increased moisture content of warmer air, nor the effects of deliberate attempts made by the farming industry to warm the earth’s surface.

    It’s these sorts of omissions, and there are probably others, that tend to convince me that those who claim that global warming is a bad thing and is man-made are being very selective in their arguments.

    As I asked above, would the scientist who can accurately predict the future please step forward.

  • anon

    As lordlimey points out, carbon capture and storage is technically feasible but would cost at least £50 / ton CO2. In reality, imposing a carbon price high enough to prevent CO2 emission from coal-fired power stations would lead not to carbon capture but to replacement of coal by nuclear: the cost differential between coal and nuclear is equivalent to a carbon price of about £10 / ton CO2.

  • George Dutton

    “Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend recall that, in the early 1980s, this country led the world in clean coal technology, through the fluidised bed plant at Grimethorpe colliery power station in my constituency? That plant was funded by more than 20 countries, including America and Japan. Unfortunately, the facility was closed down by Mrs. Thatcher. Does he agree that this country continues to regret that decision to this day?”

    “Huw Irranca-Davies: Indeed, and I am sure that all Members here will agree that we want to regain that lead in clean coal technology to take us forward through not only the next few years but the next few decades. The export potential is massive, but it will not happen without investment and prioritising clean coal and carbon abatement technology.”…

    http://tinyurl.com/2hwzds

  • George Dutton

    “Energy security is becoming a greater issue in the UK every day, especially as our reliance on overseas supplies grows. The Government’s own figures show that 70 per cent. of the UK’s energy needs will be supplied by gas by 2020, and that 90 per cent. of that will be imported. That will make the UK extremely vulnerable to disruption of supply and it is vital that we have an indigenous capacity for energy creation from a variety of sources, including renewables, clean coal technology and?”well, who knows? I think nuclear power deserves a separate debate all of its own. Let us wait and see.”

    Remember…

    Back in the 1980s Thatcher burnt off a lot of the UK north sea gas 20/25 years worth into the atmosphere in order to give tax cuts to get re-elected…

    Never forget that…

    http://tinyurl.com/4rod94

    The whole of the UK energy policy is based on criminality.

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