Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Carbon Trapping

Last week I attended a lecture on trapping CO2 emissions before it is expelled into the atmosphere. Called CARBON SEQUESTRATION, the idea is basically to include a processing facility on the tail pipe of coal fired power plants and pump the CO2 into deep geological formations. Deep like 8 kilometers.

The lecture was at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and titled: Geologic Storage as a Carbon Mitigation Option. by Michael Celia

I tried to keep some notes: Currently CO2 in the atmosphere is about 385 parts per million (ppm) As measured by ice core data. That concentration is higher than any time in the past 500,000 years. CO2 is projected to double in 50 years. 50 years!

If CO2 were to level off 2060 global temps are projected to rise by 3 deg. C. As reference, when we talk about the Greenland ice sheet melting only 1-2 deg. C is usually the number thrown around as sufficient; add in the projected increases and CO2 really takes control.

So the lecture was about how to 'trap' CO2 under ground. There are a few methods and places to put it: Old oil and gas reservoirs, coal beds and deep saline water formation. The DOE web site describes these.

Dr. Celia is a computer modeler and apparently a very good one. There are so many aspects to this issue I would get a honorary PhD if i blogged it all. But anyway it seems that Dr. Celia really has looked at all the issues in making this viable; from how the concrete will act in the deep wells to the number of wells making holes in the ground, leakage, storage volumes and everything else imaginable.

But without getting into the nasty and boring details I figure it is the thoughts I walked out of the lecture with that blog readers would really like to know. After all just Google 'carbon sequester' and you will be bombarded with information.

Carbon Capture and Storage SlingShot Thoughts:
  • We have to try. This echos' my thoughts on geoengineering in general (1,2,3,4).
  • We have less than 50 years to turn this Carbon ship around. More like 1 year.
  • It is VERY unlikely that the coal fired plants will be retrofitted with CS facilities within 50 years.
  • The human effect on the atmosphere in undeniable.
  • The Earth has great natural carbon sinks.
  • Humans are overwhelming the system.
  • Carbon sequestration can work but it is only a small part of the solution.
  • Humans suck and there is nothing you can do about it.
TreeHugger also wrote up a piece on this issue. Some points were ok, others not so good. They mostly pulled quotes from a book. and those quotes are contrary to Dr Celias' studies. It is another perspective and that is always good. Plus the image I used is from their article and I didn't want to steal it outright ;)


  1. My dad is a geologist, or was. He's retired. I've always wondered what got him interested in geology. I mean continental drift, how exciting can it be? Then, watching Dante's Peak a couple of years ago it all fell into place, when Linda Hamilton's character, says to Harry Dalton, "A geologist is a bloke with an awful lot of on his mind - or nothing". I mention this to my dad often. He normally just snorts and changes the subject ;)

  2. Once a geologist always a geologist.

    Dante's Peak is one of those movies a geologist watches and says throughout the movie.."that wouldn't/couldn't happen, thats not right, OH COMEON!"

    but it is true that we are either thinking of nothing or too much. usually too much.

  3. Too much on your mind, eh? Good story, stick to it ;p

  4. Currently there is a pilot plant operating in the small town of Ketzin close-by to Berlin. They are pressing CO2 into the ground to investigate if the rock formations are suitable, will keep tight and if the CO2 will not dissolve and important rock components. The projects is scheduled to run till 2009. That's their website. I know someone at the GFZ who are supervising the experiment. Perhaps I can ask to visit it.

  5. Not to make light of this subject, but Geology Joe, you're wicked smaht.

    What more can I, a simple girl living as simple of a life as I can, do?

    I'm no geologist, but even I was saying, Ah Ca Man! when I watched "Dante's Peak!"

    Thanks for slogging through the heavy info and pulling out some of the key points.

  6. i watched dantas peak myself but like any other movies i just accept them as that as far as geology goes tho i havent a clue about it but its intresting to read your stuff joe maybe one day ill understand this stuff keep up the good work my friend