"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Monday, June 8, 2009


Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, CCS NIMBYism is starting up.

CO2 pipelines exist. This map (via RexTag Strategies) shows one of several CO2 pipelines leading to the oil fields of the Permian Basin in West Texas. Natural CO2 deposits are actually being tapped and mined in Colorado. 

The CO2 is shipped to Texas to assist in petroleum extraction. Wouldn't it be better to use some of the extra CO2 from coal fired plants for this purpose? I mean, rather than digging up extra CO2?

(Isn't that crazy? I wonder how that got going! Where were the NIMBY crowd then?) 

Note that the pipelines pass through populated areas in New Mexico. A more complete map of comparable pipleline systems is posted, but based on what I see in the hallways of my workplace, I believe even that one is incomplete.

However you feel about any of this, it's interesting to note that the extant CO2 pipelines in the US have been federally subsidized in the pursuit of domestic fossil fuel supplies (see p 15).

Conceivably under extremely unfavorable circumstances that CO2 could escape and kill somebody already. Dangerous industrial processes happen all the time. Trains and trucks and pipes full of who knows what go every which way. 

We can neither afford to allow them to go unquestioned nor to stop every one. What we need is a consistent way of thinking about them, not advocates and opponents slugging things out over and over using whatever weapons are handy. What happens now is not just capricious and random. It damages our capacity for collective thought every time.


old&slow said...

Tim McDermott here. MT you say "unfortunately." I would not want to live anywhere near a CCS project until someone shows me that there is no chance of a catastrophic release of CO2, a al Lake Nyos

Michael Tobis said...

It is always possible to argue against anything using such absolute terms. This is what toxic environmentalism does all the time: prove to me that there is zero chance of tragic outcome X.

Sorry. Whatever we do is fraught with peril. Whichever backyard is closest to whatever we end up doing will take some damage and some risk.

The strength of local politics resistance and the weakness of global, collective politics is one of the problems we face. Fight for fair siting based on concerns other than local wealth and power, but don't fight in the abstract for local rights over global rights. You end up as an instrument of your own destruction.

RPR said...

WE are residents of Greenville, Ohio (Darke County). Not only did CCS NIMBYism start here we don't want it in our back yard-OR YOUR BACK YARD EITHER. We want what is best for the world. These are experiments that come with risks. Join our grassroots movement.


Michael Tobis said...

This is not a flame war blog. If you have something to say, please provide reasons and evidence, not just an assertion of your opinion. RPR's post stands as an example of what I and my readers don't care about. In other words, contentious and dull.

There are a million places for you to announce your positions. Around here you have to be willing to engage the opposition. If you can't engage, please go elsewhere.

gravityloss said...

More *technical* information about CCS please. Anybody?

jg said...

A recent article in Nature talked about CO2 sequestration. The authors used naturally occurring CO2 in gas fields. Their conclusion was that most was being absorbed by 'solubility trapping' rather than mineralization. CO2 absorbed via solubility trapping is less stable than that which gets mineralized, but I don't recall if they cited a timescale at which the CO2 is likely to be rereleased.

Forgive me for shooting from memory. I'll review the article and share which issue and such, but I thought one of you might get to it first.



thingsbreak said...

jg, I think it was early or mid April. I'll check.

thingsbreak said...

It was the April 2, 2009 issue.

"News and Views" article Clean coal and sparkling water


Gilfillan et al.'s Solubility trapping in formation water as dominant CO2 sink in natural gas fields

jg said...

That's it. Thanks. I'll have to reread the article, but it has me wondering how stable CO2 injected into the Texas oil and gas fields would be. How much leakage would you get from uncapped and active wells? It reminds me of blowing up an air mattress. So much work forcing air through the one hole then to have it leak out overnight.

Michael Tobis said...

It's interesting. On a geological scale Texas has to be like a pincushion by now.

They do seem to think that over 90% of the carbon will stay down for millenia. It would be an awful travesty to scale this up and have it be worthless!

Gilfillan seemed to claim grounds for hypothesis testing, which is good. At this point, we are very seriously hosed if CCS fails.

David B. Benson said...

Abandoned coal mines often contain pillars of coal to hold up the ground above. CO2 pumped in there has a chemical affinity to the carbon, replacing methane about 2 or 3 for one. Methane was stable so presumably the CO2 would be as well. Just don't put in more than this chemical affinity allows. (NIMBY is playing havoc with this plan in the US.)

CO2 pumped into deep saline formations has a different, but similar, chemical affinity. Just don't put in too much. (Maybe NIMBY won't play such a big role for this "solution" in the US.)

CO2 pumped under great pressure under the deep sea floor with remain there in a liquid state simply by the overpressure alone, irrespective of any chemical affinities. Don't see how NIMBY could play a role here, just costs $$$.

I(n all these schemes a Lake Nyos overturning and outgassing is not credible.

In all these scemes the leakage rate is unknown, but thought to be quite, quite small.

jg said...

I just found this map via RealClimate linking to ClimateCentral, and thought here would be a good place to store the link. It shows areas in the US geologically amenable to CO2 storage:
Map of potential CO2 storage areas