Tag Archives: carbon capture & storage

Climate clippings 130

1. Manicured lawns produce more greenhouse gases than they soak up

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Researchers found:

that a hectare of lawn in Nashville, Tennessee, produced greenhouse gases equivalent to 697 to 2,443kg of carbon dioxide a year. The higher figure is equivalent to a flight more than halfway around the world.

If you use a mulching mower, don’t fertilise, limit cutting and watering, you might tip the balance in favour of the planet. But then your lawn might not be as lush.

2. Risk of extreme climate outcomes

Across the ditch Hot Topic takes a look at a new book by economists Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman called Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet. They start with the notion that climate stabilisation forecasts regularly show that there is a 10% chance of warming reaching 6°C or more. Although not talked about much, this is standard fare and can be read off this graph I have posted multiple times:

Stabilisation probabilities_cropped_600

The 10% chance of reaching 6°C comes with greenhouse gases (CO2e) at around 580 ppm. We are currently at 480 ppm.

The whole insurance industry is predicated on probabilities of considerably less than 10%. The authors are suggesting that low probability extreme events should be taken seriously by governments. A 10% chance of climate Armageddon is not particularly low.

Weitzman was on the case back in 2008, when I did a post on him at LP, unfortunately in a gap in the archive. Peter Wood did a submission to the Garnaut Report on the subject. Garnaut, it must be said, looked the other way.

3. Arctic sea ice excitement

There has been some excitement over Arctic sea ice extent. As of now, unless there is a peak in late March, which is possible, the winter maximum is looking like a record low. This picture simplifies the story:

Sea ice Mr 15_cropped_600

It shows 2012 and 2015 ice extent against the 1981-2010 average. In the short term ice can be compacted by storms, or flushed out through Fram Strait. A cold snap can extend the ice with a thin cover. Also, as we see in 2012, winter maximums tell you nothing about summer minimums.

That’s the short story. You can read more here, here, here and here.

4. Greenland melting speeds up

As scientists upgrade their models of ice sheet decay, Greenland has a habit of exceeding their expectations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Greenland ice loss has increased a phenomenal 632 percent since 2001. (14) This increase is coming from melt, sublimation (ice evaporating directly without melting first), melt penetrating to the bottom of the ice sheet through crevasses and moulins, and from rapidly warming Arctic Ocean waters penetrating beneath floating outlet glaciers, destabilizing these glaciers and increasing their flow.

Massive gorges have been found beneath the ice where rapidly warming seawater has the chance to circulate deep beneath the ice sheet.

A large aquifer has been found under the ice above sea level.

Soot forms on the ice from as far away as Siberia. As the ice sublimates, that is evaporates directly into the air, the soot remains to further decrease reflectivity.

2015_0305greenland1_550

The knowns and the known unknowns add up to a pretty grim picture.

5. EU progress on renewables

Commendable progress is being made on renewable energy in Europe.

Renewables contribute 26% of EU electricity, 17% of heating and cooling and 5% of transport, … It’s generally thought to be easier to decarbonise the electricity sector than heating or transport, where oil and gas continue to dominate.

This chart refers to electricity:

EU_renewables-electricity-production-2013_599x393

Apart from hydro, wind (light blue) easily eclipses solar (yellow).

When heating and transport are included, renewables comprise 20% of all energy, and the composition changes dramatically:

EU_renewables-primary-production-2013_599x393

An old technology, renewable wood, easily dominates through selective forestry.

In recent times energy usage has fallen, with the EU now using as much energy as it did in 1990.

The UK is the biggest laggard in meeting individual country targets. Four countries, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, are ahead of target.

Wind has the momentum in the US with forecasts that it could supply 35% of electricity by 2050, or even as much as 41%. Within 10 years wind could be cheaper than existing coal.

6. 90% of Australian coal plants ‘at risk’ of being stranded assets

Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment has compiled a Stranded Assets Programme report.

It is food for thought for Australia, then, that the Oxford report has declared it owner of “by far” the most carbon-intensive sub-critical fleet in the world (followed by India and Indonesia), with a whopping 90 per cent of its total 29GW of coal-fired generation capacity coming from 23 subcritical plants.

From The Guardian:

Coal currently provides 40% of the world’s electricity and three-quarters of this is produced by the most-polluting, least-efficient and oldest “sub-critical” coal-fired power stations. The International Energy Agency calculates that one in four of these sub-critical plants must close within five years, if the world’s governments are to keep their pledge to limit global warming to 2C.

Help is at hand, according to a group of Queensland engineers.

The Callide Oxyfuel Project is one of just a few low-emission coal projects in the world, and demonstrates how carbon capture technology can be retrofitted to existing power stations.

The technique has been on trial at CS Energy’s Callide A coal-fired power station at Biloela, in a project worth $245 million.

They reckon they’ve done it on a 30-megawatt plant and now need to scale it up. Predictably, not everyone agrees it’s worthwhile.

7. CO2 emissions flat in 2014

Global energy-related CO2 emissions flatlined last year, according to the IEA.

Following an announcement earlier this week that China’s CO2 emissions fell 2 percent in 2014, the IEA is crediting 2014’s progress to China using more solar, wind and hydropower while burning less coal. Western Europe’s focus on sustainable growth, energy efficiency and renewables has shown that emissions from energy consumption can fall even as economies grow globally, according to the IEA.

Global CO2 emissions stalled or fell in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009, each time correlating with a faltering global economy. In 2014, the economy grew 3 percent worldwide.

The story is about energy efficiency as well as growth of renewables. Cheaper fossil fuels could lead to a resumption of fossil fuel growth in 2015, however.

Climate clippings 113

1. The Amazon is drying

AmazonRainforest_500_332_s_c1_c_c

Since 2000, rainfall has decreased by up to 25% across a vast swath of the southeastern Amazon, according to a new satellite analysis.

The area of concern is 12 times the size of California. The Amazon overall takes up 25% of the global carbon cycle that vegetation is responsible for, so it’s a significant carbon sink. With further drying the Amazon could become a carbon source rather than a sink.

Causes are not clear, but it’s possible that rainfall patterns have moved further north with global warming.

In related news, the re-election of Dilma Rousseff as president is seen as a significant negative for the environment in Brazil.

2. Great Barrier Reef protection plan ‘ignores the threat of climate change’

In its formal response to the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, which was drawn up by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Australian Academy of Science states the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef.”

There is “no adequate recognition” in the 2050 plan of the importance of curbing greenhouse gases.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow, said the plan was focused on the sustainable development of four “mega ports” adjacent to the reef, rather than conservation of the reef itself.

The Great Barrier Reef has lost around half its coral cover in the past 30 years. The question now is whether UNESCO will list the GBR as endangered.

3. Limiting global warming to 2°C is unlikely to save most coral reefs

In this recent post I mentioned that “preserving more than 10 per cent of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below +1.5°C (atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) range: 1.3–1.8°C) relative to pre-industrial levels”. Following the links, the paper by K. Frieler at al is here.

It annoys me that the dangers to reefs from temperature change and ocean acidification are almost never mentioned, even by greenies. Opposition pollies should be speaking up too! That paper has been around since 2011.

4. Carbon capture and storage research budget slashed

The government has cut almost half a billion dollars from research into carbon capture and storage – which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deems crucial for continued use of coal – despite the prime minister insisting coal is the “foundation of our prosperity”.

In the budget the government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years. The program had already been cut by the previous Labor government and much of the funding remained unallocated.

John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute, said CCS “has to be one of the clean energy options available because all the modelling says that to avoid temperature rises of more than two degrees, we have to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”.

The first full-scale CCS power plant, the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Project in Canada, opened last month.

5. Poland rejects zero coal by 2100

Poland and a bunch of eastern Europe countries “have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming…”

You might recall that when Poland hosted the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in 2013 it was positively promoting coal.

The EU has not yet apportioned the effort between countries in planning to meet recently announced emissions reduction targets. The fun is about to begin!

6. Roof top solar in San Francisco

New regulations in San Francisco will require new buildings to have roof top solar or gardens or both.

7. Tesla solar supercharging network

Tesla is rolling out a solar supercharging network for electric vehicles throughout the world eventually. Soon they will make a beginning in Australia.

The superchargers provide half a full charge in as little as 20 minutes, and are usually located near amenities like roadside restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers. Usually they have between 4 and 10 stalls.

The $5 billion “giagfactory” to be built in Nevada will generate more than 100% of its electricity needs with wind and solar.

The world is changing!

8. News of energy storage is a big, big deal

So says Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy:

The big announcements keep coming from the energy storage sector, with news this week that US behind-the-meter startup, Stem, has been tapped to provide 85MW of distributed energy storage to households in the West Los Angeles Basin.

The deal, a multi-year agreement awarded to Stem by Southern California Edison (SCE), marks America’s largest distributed energy storage project to date, and the first time energy storage has competed with traditional energy sources like natural gas at this scale.

For its part of the deal, Stem will deploy its advanced, behind-the-meter energy storage technology at customer locations in the Western LA Basin to act as dispatchable capacity to enhance the local reliability of the region.

In other words, using the combination of storage and its proprietary software platform, Stem will allow customers to monitor and manage energy use, which in turn will provide additional capacity to SCE.

9. Billboard banned

You may have heard that Brisbane Airport banned a billboard suggesting to incoming G20 delegates that climate change should be on their agenda. Apparently the billboard was “too political”.

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Getup and a bunch of other NGOs are campaigning to have the decision reversed.

The billboard was based on the experience of South Australian grape grower David Bruer, a farmer from South Australia who lost $25,000 worth of grapes in one day when temperatures soared to 45°C last year.

Climate clippings 110

1. 25 climate change disasters

Business Insider, Australia tells us that 25 disasters may befall us from climate change. The assumptions are conservative – 2°C and half a metre of sea level rise by 2100, though the text sometimes specifies more. Some of the predictions are disturbing: Continue reading Climate clippings 110

Climate clippings 94

Climate clippings_175

1. CO2 concentrations passing 400 ppm

Each year the atmospheric concentrations measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii surge as spring turns into summer. We are now at the point where earlier each year they surge past 400 ppm, this year as early as March. By 2016 they will probably remain permanently above 400 ppm.

Dr Pep Canadell says crossing the 400 parts per million threshold will make it more difficult and expensive to limit climate change to two degrees.

The second part of this century we need to reduce emissions to zero and on top of it, to be removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere so that by the end of 2100, we can stay stable under two degrees.

Canadell is head of the Global Carbon Project at the CSIRO.

2. Bio-energy with Carbon Capture & Storage

Speaking of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, bio-CCS is the new buzz word (I’ve also seen BECCS). The Climate Institute has released a report by Jacobs SKM Moving Below Zero: Understanding Bio-energy with Carbon Capture & Storage . Their modelling finds that

bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or bio-CCS using food wastes, sustainable forest biomass, or crop residues, has the potential to contribute significantly to climate change efforts in Australia.

This process could remove and displace about 63 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2-e) annually by 2050, around 1.5 times current emissions from all cars in Australia. As well it would generate 12% of the country’s electricity.

Globally the process could remove up to 10 billion tonnes of pollution per year by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

The report may be downloaded from this page (scroll down). Go here for an interview with Malte Meinshausen.

3. Are coal miners responsible for greenhouse gas emissions?

No, said the Queensland Land Court in its judgement on the giant Alpha coal mine project which would dig up about 30 million tonnes of coal a year from the state’s Galilee Basin.

That’s the central fact in Graham Readfearn’s interesting story about what’s un-Australian.

Burning Alpha coal would generate 1.8 billion tonnes of CO2 over 30 years. That’s more than three times Australia’s annual emissions.

4. Abbott calls climate concerns “clutter”

In the lead up to the G20 meeting in Sydney in February, Abbott said

he didn’t want to “clutter up the G20 agenda with every worthy and important cause, because if we do, we will squander the opportunity to make a difference in the vital area of economic growth.”

The post, correctly, I think, sees Abbott as rolling back environmental and climate initiatives as hostile to economic growth, relying for economic impetus on the fossil fuel industry.

Heather Zichal, until recently President Obama’s lead climate and energy adviser, thinks otherwise:

Zichal suggests that focusing on economic productivity could be the sweet spot that Australia could use to balance climate concerns and economic growth goals. Reducing pollution and emissions from power plants and imposing strong energy efficiency measures on transport and infrastructure can boost energy productivity, save money, create jobs, and reduce emissions. “Ultimately, across all economic sectors, energy productivity is the most reliable, cleanest, and cheapest resource,” Zichal said.

Countries have to front up with their revised mitigation plans by April next year ahead of the Paris UNFCCC conference in December, hence leaving climate off the G20 agenda is simply not an option. Abbott has been told, by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and other powerful players.

One wonders what we will front up with next April. I predict nothing that would make a difference. We’ll see what others are doing and then do as little as possible.

5. Direst Action is a figleaf

Clive Palmer has spotted the figleaf and plans to pluck it away, says Ben Eltham. The Direct Action funding may be part of the budget, which Labor will not vote down. The Government needs no further legislation to enable expenditure, but Abbott can’t get rid of the dreaded carbon ‘tax’ without legislation. When he comes to negotiate that with PUP Direct Action will be on the table.

Eltham is right on the demographics:

While this [having no climate policy in place] may not unduly trouble the climate sceptics on the Coalition backbench, it also removes the chief utility of Direct Action, which is political, rather than environmental. Direct Action has always been used by the Coalition as a handy tool to deflect unwelcome scrutiny of its profoundly anti-environment attitudes. Without it, the Government will find it increasingly difficult to defend itself against charges of destroying the planet.

In the last Nielsen poll the 55+ group was the only one where Abbott had a clear lead, with LNP/Labor/Green at 49/33/10. This should be causing concern for the future of the conservative parties. For the young it was 32/36/26.

6. Direct Action is not scalable

Lenore Taylor points out that while Direct Action may or may not achieve 5% reductions in emissions by 2020, (most experts say, no) the policy is not scalable when the world gets a bit more serious about climate change mitigation.

according to the available modelling, even if Australia spent $88bn from 2014 to 2050 on Direct Action-type policies, emissions would still rise by around 45%. Most economists conclude that big emissions reductions under Direct Action are just not possible.

7. Green groups to use legal strategies

Given the above and the LNP’s farcical attitude to the Renewal Energy Target Review, green groups see lobbying as a waste of time and are increasingly planning legal challenges.

The Australian Conservation Foundation will be targeting voters in marginal electorates to encourage MPs to take climate change seriously. The aim is to change the current race to the bottom to a race to the top.

Reminder: Use this thread as an open thread on climate change.

The end of coal?

This post started out as four related items in Climate clippings. When a fifth showed up I decided to extract them and put them in a separate post. Hence it is a collection of opinions and perspectives rather than an analysis of the future of coal as such. Still, a message seems to emerge.

BHP calls for carbon pricing

Believe it or not Andrew Mackenzie, CEO of BHP Billiton, has called for a price to be put on greenhouse gas emissions to address the threat of global warming.

Talking in Houston Texas on the future of fossil fuels and carbon emissions Andrew Mackenzie said BHP needs to think carefully about controlling its carbon emissions. He wants BHP to lead the way. BHP is the world’s largest mining company and the third biggest company in the world.

Beyond coal the company is also a major player in shale gas in the USA, investing a cool $US20 billion in 2012.

Mackenzie was on message about ‘clean coal’, spruiking the virtues of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Rio weighs in

Rio Tinto’s head of energy, Harry Kenyon-Slaney, also weighed in saying “Idealistic discussions” about climate change should be abandoned and Australians should recognise that coal will remain an important energy source for decades.

Coal will continue to “do the lion’s share of heavy lifting” to meet energy demand, he says.

Rio has invested $100 million in carbon capture and storage.

Martin Ferguson, now an adviser to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association:

stepped up criticism of the Coalition government’s emissions-reductions policies and called for the watering down of the renewable energy target, which he said was undermining the national electricity market.

Tristan Edis comments

Tristan Edis comments on Rio Tinto’s clean coal idealism.

He reckons CCS would be great if you could also retrofit it to existing coal-fired power stations, implement it at large scale and a reasonable cost and start doing it by, say, 2025.

The Australian Coal Association instituted an industry-funded initiative to progress zero-emission coal with a levy and created ACA Low Emissions Technology Ltd (ACALET) to undertake initiatives. Unfortunately from 2012-13 the requirement to pay the levy was suspended and ACALET is now concentrating on promoting the use of coal in Australia and overseas.

Edis reports that Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane seems to be willing to acknowledge that carbon capture and storage is a pipedream.

One senior Liberal referred to it as ‘vaporware’ (new computer software promised by companies to be delivered in the future that never eventuates but scares off competing software development).

The end of coal?

Paul Gilding has called the end of coal and the dawn of renewables, especially solar.

He believes the fossil fuel industry live in a delusionary analytical bubble, convinced of their own immortality. They are about to be swept away. Markets can be brutal.

The top 20 European utilities have lost $600 billion in value over the past 5 years.

Tesla, presumably because it makes electric vehicles (see also below), is now worth more than half GM although GM makes 300 times as many cars.

HSBC’s Global Solar index rose 65% last year and is already up 23% in 2014.

Underground coal gasification

Trials are underway or planned in diverse parts of the world in burning in situ coal that can’t be mined, according to an article by Fred Pearce in the New Scientist (paywalled). The process is underground coal gasification (UCG).

The potential is enormous, with enough coal available to supply the world with energy for 1000 years. For example, 70% of the coal in the UK has never been mined. One company has a licence to prospect for UCG sites beneath more than 400 square kilometres of the North Sea.

The attraction of UCG is not just power production. The process produces methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen as well as CO2. The Brits see potential to use these chemicals as feedstock to revitalize their industrial chemicals industry. The article lists the following uses:

  • Gas to electricity Power stations can burn methane to produce electricity for the grid
  • Gas to chemicals Hydrogen, methane and CO all have value as feedstock for the chemicals industry
  • Gas to liquid Methane can be liquefied (LNG) for storage or transport, or the CO and hydrogen converted through the Fischer-Tropsch process to synthetic diesel fuel for vehicles
  • Gas to tech Hydrogen can provide an alternative transport fuel

CO2 can be reinjected into the void created by the burnt coal.

The article refers to a 2007 MIT study which found that commercial CCS was unlikely before 2030. Undaunted Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist, reckons that CCS is the “only practical way forward”.

Christiana Figueres is hopeful

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), points to 60 countries with 500 pieces of climate legislation, and is confident that an international climate change agreement will be delivered on time in 2015. She looks forward within 20 years to the time where everything new we do will be carbon neutral.

She does see a need for research into energy storage – batteries – and into CCS.

It is only with marketable CCS that we will be able to use the fossil fuels that we need. Storage and CCS would be my top two choices for technology investment.

If so someone, for example BHP and Rio, get cracking.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile

Investment bank Morgan Stanley says it has been overwhelmed by the response to its recent analysis which suggested that the falling costs of both solar modules and battery storage presented a potential tipping point that would encourage huge numbers of homeowners and businesses in the US to go off grid.

And Tesla is building a $5 billion ‘gigafactory’ for battery production, then providing an

emergency power service by monitoring the power levels in home batteries and delivering replacement batteries in the event home batteries run out of power.

Someone should tell Andrew Mackenzie and Harry Kenyon-Slaney they’ll need to shake a leg with CCS. Schumpeter’s creative destruction seems to be at work in the energy industry.

Update: Murray Energy, the largest independent coal producer in the US, is suing the EPA for not taking into account job losses when formulating emissions regulations.

Climate clippings 24

I’ve been on holidays for a bit. Here are some links that I saved from a few hours spent on my daughter’s computer last week by checking some of the usual sources. In the next few days I’ll check the feeds and see whether there are more links to share.

E10 debacle puts the brakes on biofuels in Germany

German motorists have shown uncommonly good sense by not buying the biofuel mixture E10.

The real reason, though, was confusion over which car models could use the stuff without harm. Meanwhile a study found that:

up to 69,000 square kilometers (about 27,000 square miles) of forest, pasture and wetlands would have to be cultivated as farmland to satisfy the future demand for biofuel in Europe alone. This is an area twice the size of Belgium. One consequence of such cultivation would be the release of up to 56 million tons of CO2 a year, or the equivalent of the emissions of an additional 12 million to 26 million cars on European roads.

Continue reading Climate clippings 24