Carbon capture and storage (CCS), the other financial considerations

September 21, 2009,
needs your support.

So, despite knowing there is no climatic benefit to be derived from carbon capture and storage (CCS), that it will involve an additional 30% energy cost and significantly increase the environmental footprint of baseload energy supply, politicians have decided to do it anyway. We already know the cost of retrofitting existing power plants is onerous, as is the cost of making new plants CCS capable. What other costs do we need to take into account?

Fortunately Xina Xie, senior research engineer at the University of Wyoming, and energy analyst Michael J. Economides have crunched some of the numbers for us:

Carbon Sequestration: Injecting Realities - The amount of carbon dioxide used in enhanced oil recovery projects indicates the number of wells needed for large-scale sequestration projects. And that number is huge."

The roughly 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide dealt with in their calculations is slightly less than the emission from U.S. coal-fired electrical generation but quite adequate for our purpose. It is also roughly the amount required to meet the earlier Kyoto Protocol targets but nowhere near sufficient to achieve the activist-desired Kyoto II requirements.

Cost of initial separation and capture: approximately $150/ton: $   300,000,000,000/year
Cost of injection wells, >100,000/year at $10 million each:       $1,000,000,000,000/year

According to Donn Dears (Carbon Folly), some 11,000 miles of pipelines will also be required (see map). Anyone think these are likely to be free or without contention?

Throw in all the costs of easements (transmission right of ways), regulation and monitoring and it seems likely the costs will easily exceed $1.5 trillion per year.

What are we buying for $4,109,589,000 per day?

Remember we calculated the potential temperature "saving" over 90 years here? That was based on Hansen's rather ambitious claims for climate sensitivity:

hansenFigure3.jpg (62848 bytes)Climate models usually work on 0.5 - 1.0 °C per Wm-2, which is how they come up with such fantastic warming projections. These numbers are apparently used based on this estimate by James Hansen: Global climate forcing was about 6 1/2 W/m2 less than in the current interglacial period. This forcing maintained a planet 5 °C colder than today. (Can we defuse The Global Warming Time Bomb? naturalSCIENCE, August 1, 2003) -- the text is slightly more specific: "This forcing maintains a global temperature difference of 5 °C, implying a climate sensitivity of 3/4 ± 1/4 °C per W/m2." The Scientific American version, March 2004, is also available here as 310Kb .pdf.

( Drawing from Reports to the Nation on Our Changing Planet: Our Changing Climate, Fall 1997 issue [1.78Mb .pdf, 28pp], from NOAA's Office of Global Programs, now incorporated in the Climate Program Office (CPO). )

We also looked at Hansen's claims here and found them ridiculously large but that's another matter, workings are laid out below for all who may be interested.

Let's just assume for the moment that these are legitimate estimates of possible "savings", what are we getting for $135 trillion?

At most 0.15 °C avoided warming.

That means it would only cost 900 trillion dollars to avoid 1 °C -- a bargain, no?

A mere 18% of global GDP for 90 years could save 1 °C of purely hypothetical warming. Aren't you excited?

Of course we couldn't really avoid that much warming since Hansen's numbers simply don't add up. In fact, trying to manipulate global mean temperature by this means would cost us the whole $900 trillion for an insignificant 0.3 °C at most since Earth is not really very sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels above a few tens of parts per million (100 ppmv yields roughly three-fourths of all the warming CO2 can practically deliver):

co2greenhouse-X2.png (16665 bytes)We'll offer three of the more commonly used and/or discussed estimates for the amount of cooling Earth would experience for a hypothetical zero-CO2, cloud-free atmosphere

  1. Lindzen (5.3 °C clear sky, 3.53 °C with 40% cloud),
  2. Charnock & Shine (12 °C clear sky), C&S are the big number guys in the estimation game (both these from Physics Today, 1995),
  3. Kondratjew & Moskalenko (7.2 °C, commonly cited but we are not sure why, perhaps because Houghton used their estimate in his book, 'The Global Climate', 1984).

Assuming the 1.34 billion of us currently living on $10/day or more get to pay for this wondrous exercise, that's a mere $671,640 each to possibly avoid at most 0.3 °C hypothetical warming. Anyone think they can come up with a better use for $670K? I'm pretty sure I can.

Think maybe you'd like to suggest to your elected representatives that you'd like them to rethink this whole carbon pogrom thing?


Sidebar -- for the mathematically minded:

Calculating greenhouse effect using the Stefan-Boltzmann Constant:

If we use Stefan's Constant to derive greenhouse in Wm-2 as in the following:

G = σ(Ts4 - Te4) = σTs4 - OLR = 390.11 - 239.76 = 150.35 Wm-2

where G is the global average greenhouse effect, σ is the Stefan-Boltzmann Constant, Ts = 288 K, Te = 255 K and OLR signifies Outgoing Longwave Radiation, we have a figure of 150.35 Wm-2 and net warming of 33 °C, thus as a linear relationship a ΔF of 1 Wm-2 ≈ 0.22 °C. Implied then is an increase of 0.81 °C from ΔF 3.7 Wm-2, the value estimated by the IPCC for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Alternatively, working back from our calculated 390.1 Wm-2 above (from net temperature) + ΔF 3.7 Wm-2 (the value estimated for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide), we get (393.8/σ)1/4, yielding 288.68 K for a net warming of 0.68 °C, so ΔF of 1 Wm-2 ≈ 0.18 °C.

Both our figures derived so far are much smaller than frequently cited estimates for warming from a doubling of pre-Industrial Revolution atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Checking Hansen against the IPCC figures:

According to the IPCC, global mean temperature rose 0.6 ± 0.2 °C from the late 19th Century through 2000. From the same source ΔF from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is calculated as +1.4 Wm-2, while the increase from all greenhouse gases combined is supposed to be 2.4 Wm-2. Ignoring the much-argued about solar influence over the period and using the "Hansen Factor" of 0.75 °C per Wm-2, the world should have warmed ≈ 1.8 °C from enhanced greenhouse forcing alone -- 2.4 °C if we use the model's 1:1 ratio. Obviously a simplistic "greenhouse gas increase = n degrees warming" will not do since the real world has only delivered between one-sixth and one-third that value with the greatest confidence being one-quarter (0.6 ± 0.2 or 0.4 to 0.8 °C). Definitely marked as dubious.

Checking Hansen with Stefan's constant:

Looking at the problem another way -- maxing out Hansen's reduced ice age forcing of 6.6 ± 1.5 Wm-2 we get 8.1 Wm-2 for an observed ΔT of ≈ 5 °C. Presumably then 390.11 (from Stefan's constant, above) - 8.1 = 382 Wm-2 and this, according to Hansen, should resolve to 288 - 5 = 283 K. However, (382/σ)1/4 yields 286.49 K, giving us a cooling not of 5 K but 1.5 K -- less than one-third the expected value.

Working from temperature to derive the change in Wm-2, σ2834 = 363.71 Wm-2, which subtracted from 390.11 leaves us 26.4 Wm-2 rather than at most 8.1 as per Hansen. Why the shortfall? Perhaps there being no negative listing for solar in Hansen's ice age forcings should have tipped us off.

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