Chevron’s Fig Leaf Part 4: Carbon Engineering’s Only Market Is Pumping More Oil, By Michael Barnard in Clean Technica, April 19th, 2019
Carbon Engineering recently garnered $68 million in investment in its air-carbon capture technology from three fossil fuel majors. This is part 4 of the 5 article series assessing the technology and the value of the investment.
The first piece summarized the technology and the challenges, and did a bottoms-up assessment to give context for what Carbon Engineering is actually doing. The second piece stepped through Carbon Engineering’s actual solution in detail. The third piece returned to the insurmountable problem of scale and deals with the sheer volume of air that must be moved and the scale of machinery they have designed for the purpose. The fourth article (below) looks at the market for air carbon capture CO2 and assess why three fossil fuel majors might be interested. The final article will address the key person behind this technology and the expert opinions of third parties.
The first piece summarized the technology and the challenges, and did a bottoms-up assessment to give context for what Carbon Engineering is actually doing. The second piece stepped through Carbon Engineering’s actual solution in detail. The third piece returns to the insurmountable problem of scale and deals with the sheer volume of air that must be moved and the scale of machinery it has designed for the purpose. The fourth article will look at the market for air carbon capture CO2 and assesses why three fossil fuel majors might be interested. The final article will address the key person behind this technology and the expert opinions of third parties.
As a reminder of what the last article found, Carbon Engineering’s solution is a natural gas hog that produces a half ton of new CO2 for each ton captured from the air. If scaled to a million tons a year, it would consume sufficient natural gas for 70,000 homes to heat and cook with. The company currently has a 1/2000th scale prototype which isn’t a complete end-to-end processing facility. Based on the law of averages for a solution like this, it’s going to just get more complex and expensive as it attempts to complete it. The company’s $100 claim was already optimistic and barely supported by its own numbers.
It doesn’t scale
The workup in the first two articles mostly focused on what it would take to get a ton of CO2 an hour, or 8,300 tons in a year. But Carbon Engineering is thinking bigger, a million tons of CO2 per year per plant, not 8,300. That’s a factor of 120. The bottoms-up assessment modeled 44 ~1 meter diameter fans to get 8,300 tons without back pressure with a total surface area of about 90 square meters probably covering about 14 meters long and 5 meters high.
Given back pressure, let’s assume a realistic number is 88 fans. That would be probably 28 meters long by 5 meters high simply because of engineering and wind load, etc.. Then multiply by 120 to get over 10,000 fans. The 1-meter industrial fans cost about $500 a piece in bulk, so that’s $50 million as a top end number. The surface area would be around 10,000 square meters of fans alone. Assuming its numbers and BC grid prices, that would be about $100 million CAD or $75 million USD in electricity per year.
There are, of course, much more efficient air-moving technologies when you get up to this scale, so one assumes we wouldn’t need something that big, but still, it’s going to be an enormous volume of moving air. Let’s look at that for a minute. Getting a ton of CO2 requires moving 1.3 million cubic meters of air at 411 ppm. That means that to get a million tons of CO2 you have to move 1.3 trillion cubic meters of air.
A big passenger jet engine like the ones in the Airbus A340 moves about 0.465 tons of air per second and each cubic meter of air weighs about 1.2 kg. If you used a big jet engine, you could move all of the required air in about 100 years. That means you’d need about 100 jet engines operating day and night for a year to get a million tons of CO2. They’re about 2 meters across with a surface area 4 times the size of the modeled 1-meter fans, so you’d have a 20-meter by 20-meter howling maw of noise and flame. Also it would be burning hydrocarbons, so why bother doing air carbon capture again? Illustrative of scale, but not a solution anyone is suggesting.
The image is a Carbon Engineering render of its contactor array. A lot of liquid solution flows in the top and gravity trickles it down through the packing and blowing air where it captures the actual 42% to the claimed potential 75% of the CO2, then carries it into the processing system that retrieves it. The fans are about 4 meters in diameter. Its diagram stacks them four high with some additional space on the bottom to reach roughly 20 meters or 65 ft high. With slower moving fans, there are a lot more of them than the jet engine at a quarter of the surface area, but fewer than the basic industrial fan at a 16th of surface area.
It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the fans aren’t going to be pushing a quarter of the volume of the jet engine. Going back to bottoms-up estimates to help assess Carbon Engineering’s claims, let’s call it 10% per fan so instead of a 100 jet engines, you’d need 1,000 of the 4-meter fans. Stacked four high, that’s 250 fans or a full kilometer wide. It’s not really viable given the design and the need for air flow to buttress it allowing it to be a lot taller.
But if you want these things in stacked rows, say four of them, you’d need to space them out a lot or the ones further back will be sucking the CO2 light air from the ones in front. Probably 100 meters is more than enough, maybe less. Call it a 400-meter by 250-meter howling field of huge fans. And as a note, the company includes the point about spacing clearly in its papers. There is little evidence of basic engineering incompetence in the published papers, although I’m still skeptical of the air movement energy and the fraction capture of 74.75%.
Its earlier paper in the Royal Society journal bears out the bottom-up approach.
The engineering study described in §2b arrived at an optimized air-contactor design that is roughly 20 m tall, 8 m deep and 200 m long. In CE’s full-scale facility design, roughly 10 contacting units would be dispersed around a central regeneration, compression and processing facility, to cumulatively capture 1 Mt yr−1.
It turns out the bottoms-up was off by a factor of two. The company would need 2 kilometers worth of its slab construction which implies that it is getting 5% of the jet engine’s air through each 4-meter fan per unit of time. Remember that this only gets a million tons a year when the problem is in the gigatons per year, 4 orders of magnitude off of the scale of concern. Imagine 10,000 of these clusters of arrays of contactors with all fans running 24/7/365.
It’s going to be a very noisy neighbor. No one will be able to live within a mile of this beast even with noise shrouding tech. You can make it quieter by making it slower or spreading it out more, but there are absurdities involved in this process.
And that’s only half of the problem
But that’s only capture and storage. Moving tons and tons of CO2 after it’s captured takes energy. Sequestering it or turning it into something else takes energy. There’s no real win here.
There are ways to reduce this. One is to use waste industrial heat for a portion of the energy problem. Global Thermostat’s model works that way. The principals of that firm, Graciela Chichilnisky and Peter Eisenberger, realized early that in order for air carbon capture to be used, it had to deal with the heat issue carefully. The Carbon Engineering team, as we discovered, just decided to burn lots of natural gas.
Another is to do the air carbon capture at the place where it’s needed or will be sequestered. That gets rid of a lot of the distribution costs. Once again, that’s Global Thermostat’s business model. The company talks about the 400 square kilometers of greenhouses north of Beijing that all run on high CO2 concentrations to optimize growing and have lots of waste heat to run through the system. They talk about concrete plants that have high heat and can use CO2 as a feedstock with binding into the finished product and is sold. What Carbon Engineering is useful for is a rather different thing, which will be discussed later.
Another approach is to run an electrically powered air carbon capture solution off of a bunch of renewable energy that you build for the purpose. Imagine, if you will, a big solar farm with one of these plugged in on the side. Well, let’s play that out, shall we? Let’s assume that ton per hour, because that seems reasonable. Let’s also assume the 4.4 MWh per ton. That requires 4 MW of capacity of solar to get a ton of CO2 in an hour. This is also assuming accepting ‘free’ solar energy when it’s available to run the process rather than running it full time. This means we get about a ton at peak sunlight, but less the rest of the day and none at night.
Well, that’s approximately another $4.4 million in capital costs for the solar farm. You need about 7.6 acres per MW of capacity, so that’s 33 acres or 13 hectares. You won’t be building one of these in the city, that’s for sure. How would it be near Squamish, where Carbon Engineering is located? About $100,000 per acre asking price for larger acreages per real estate sites? So another $3.3 million for the land, so you won’t be building that near any cities. That’s close to $8 million before you get to the device. And that only captures about 15–20% of what the machinery can do because that’s the capacity factor for solar. That’s not looking good.
Want a mixed wind, solar, and battery farm for 24/7/365 operation? That’s in the range of $100 million capital costs for power production, storage, and management, and at that you’d be selling a lot of wind energy to the grid because it doesn’t make sense to build a wind farm for only 4.4 MW peak demand, so you’d be building a 10 MW wind farm minimum. The batteries are the kicker. Tesla Gridpack is in the $70 million range by itself for three days if you want to stay off grid. Yes, battery storage is still expensive; thankfully storage is much less necessary on grids than people assume. You can probably scale back and find some workable model, but still, it’s unlikely that anyone would power this low-value solution with purpose-built renewables.
If it were electrically powered, you could hang this thing off the near side of an offshore wind farm with an inadequate transmission pipeline to population centers so there’s frequently some excess electrical generation capacity with no use for it. You could sop up some of the excess by doing air carbon capture and combining it with hydrogen electrolyzed from seawater to create a clean, synthetic biofuel. Of course, that’s close to what some fossil fuel companies in Europe want to do with that situation, but they just want to make hydrogen and inject it into the gas lines for a 20% reduction in gas generation CO2 emissions. That looks like a bigger win than air carbon capture, even though it’s very wasteful of energy. You could just deliver that carbon-free electricity to useful demand areas and let it be used productively and displace a MW of coal or gas emissions instead.
Finally, you could use a combined heat and power natural gas generator to provide both the electricity for the fans and the heat. That could get you down to the 2.2 MWh number because you are using waste heat. But wait. What are the CO2e emissions of an efficient natural gas generator? About 500 grams of CO2e per kWh.
And that’s where Carbon Engineering is. It is burning natural gas, producing 50% of the CO2 from that that it is capturing from the air, and producing 150% of the CO2 in the air without an observable market or business case.
So that’s part 3 of the series. Carbon Engineering’s solution would require 2-kilometer long, 20 meter high walls of noisy fans to capture 4 orders of magnitude less carbon than would be useful. It won’t run off otherwise unused renewable energy. It’s unclear where it would be useful. And its numbers exclude massive follow-on costs, so the $100 per ton is just the start of the cost build up.
The fourth and next article in the five-part series asks the fundamental question about what use cases this approach is suitable for and what exactly the investors are getting for their money.
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There is zero net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere if air carbon capture is used for enhanced oil recovery.
As a reminder of what the last article found, Carbon Engineering’s solution would require 2-kilometer long, 20-meter high walls of noisy fans to capture 4 orders of magnitude less carbon than would be useful. It won’t run off otherwise unused renewable energy. It’s unclear where it would be useful. And its numbers exclude massive follow-on costs, so the $100 per ton is just the start of the cost build up.
There are few mass markets for CO2
There isn’t a lot of use for CO2 at anywhere near the scale of the problem we are facing. I did the math a couple of years ago for the largest single consumer of industrial CO2 in the USA, the enhanced oil recovery wells in the south. That massive operation consumed the output of only 13 coal plants for a year. And there were hundreds of coal plants and then hundreds more gas plants in the USA.
Want concentrated CO2? Burn some wood and work with the gases which are produced. A kilogram of wood turns into 1.9 kilograms of CO2. And the carbon in that came from the atmosphere and was concentrated naturally without a huge wall of fans over an extended period of time. The density of the CO2 is much, much higher in wood smoke than in the atmosphere; it’s already been massively concentrated by nature. Oh, and you get that waste industrial heat you need for another part of the process to reduce overall energy costs. If Carbon Engineering was using waste wood from the various lumber mills near its location in Squamish, BC, and capturing the CO2 produced by burning the wood and sequestering it, that would be something more interesting. Instead, the company is pumping a lot of fossil fuels into its process instead of leaving them in the ground.
A workup later in this article posits the criteria for air carbon capture to make sense. And it includes the use case that Carbon Engineering and its fossil fuel investors are probably thinking of.
The investors are fossil fuel companies
The BBC magic bullet article has a very telling point about Carbon Engineering:
It has now been boosted by $68m in new investment from Chevron, Occidental and coal giant BHP.
What are those? Are they all fossil fuel companies? Yes, of course. What could they want with an investment in air carbon capture of one of their products’ primary wastes, CO2? One that uses massive amounts of one of their primary products? And makes them look good on casual inspection?
Chevron had a revenue of $159 billion in 2018. Occidental made $17.8 billion. BHP made $43.6 billion. So that’s $220 billion combined annual revenue vs $68 million in ‘investment’. That’s about 0.03% of their annual revenue going to this initiative.
Let’s compare this to another recent Chevron-related headline: Chevron to buy Anadarko in $33-billion bet on shale oil and LNG — the biggest energy deal in four years. That’s from Canada’s National Post, but it’s repeated in various forms in business outlets globally. How much bigger is $33 billion than $68 million? Almost 500 times bigger. That’s 20% of Chevron’s annual revenue. That’s a real investment in real business for Chevron. The $68 million split between three companies is advertising dollars. It doesn’t even rise to the level of a side bet. You can imagine it being handled by the executive in charge of marketing, or perhaps someone’s executive assistant.
As with almost all carbon capture approaches, the only group which still thinks it has merit is the fossil fuel industry. They spend a tiny fraction of their money so that they can tout the wonders of their technology around the world while continuing to produce gigatons of CO2e annually.
In reality, this technology would use 70,000 households’ worth of natural gas in order to capture a million tons of CO2 a year. It’s more a new market for natural gas than a solution for climate change.
That’s a very thin slurry of green paint over a tailings pond.
Where could air carbon capture make sense?
Air carbon capture which is actually a climate solution makes sense under the following conditions:
- It’s co-located with an industrial site which requires CO2.
- The site needs tons of CO2 as feedstock per day, perhaps for concrete.
- The site doesn’t have access to a lot of biomass because it’s already a concentrated source of carbon which you can bind with oxygen cheaply and easily. Greenhouses probably don’t need it.
- The site generates a lot of waste industrial heat or biomass to tap for energy so that you don’t have to burn a lot of fossil fuels for processing.
- The site has access to a lot of very cheap electricity that’s also carbon neutral to power fans.
- A pipeline for CO2 to the site isn’t viable. CO2 is a purchasable commodity. Per one source it costs about $40 per ton to get it trucked in. If you have a pipeline, then it works out to $0.77 per ton per mile and $1.50 per ton, but with another big capital cost. That’s on top of the commodity price for industrial CO2 of $30 to $50 per ton, if memory serves. Smaller volumes are much more expensive. When you start seeing $90 per ton delivered, you can see that there might be some circumstances in which $100 per ton might be worth doing, and that if you can eliminate energy costs it becomes reasonable. That’s if the capital cost wasn’t going to be absurd; you need an awful lot of CO2 in order to justify millions in capital costs.
But even then, let’s look at that greenhouse example. For greenhouses, you only need concentrations at 3–4 times atmospheric levels. That’s pretty easy to manage with a simpler tech than the Carbon Engineering ‘magic bullet’. Just burn some biomass, probably dried waste stems, and capture the CO2 from the biomass smoke which has much more density, once again. Only one of the three CO2 capture mechanisms Carbon Engineering uses would be required. Oh, and get some waste heat for warming the place as necessary.
So what sites might actually be useful for Carbon Engineering’s solution as it’s designed? Let’s return to the 2012 paper the principals published in the Royal Society journal:
an AC facility operating on low-cost ‘stranded’ natural gas that is able to provide CO2 for enhanced oil recovery at a location without other CO2 sources might be competitive with post-combustion capture in high-cost locations such as Canadian oil sands operations.
Years ago, the principals in Carbon Engineering realized that their market was likely the fossil fuel industry. From their new investors’ perspective, this is a great technology. It uses a lot of one of their products, possibly even a reserve that they have no economic use for today. It allows them to get more of another of their products, oil, out of tapped-out wells. And it gives them a nice big marketing win in headlines that they are saving the planet from global warming.
That’s a trifecta of goodness for the fossil fuel companies. Not so much for the rest of the world. That 10% tax of emissions on the natural gas isn’t looking so good now.
What would net emissions for using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery look like? Per a high-citation 1993 study on the subject:
For every kilogramme of CO2 injected, approximately one to one quarter of a kilogramme of extra oil will be recovered.
That’s interesting. How much CO2 is created from a 0.25 kg of oil, well to wheels? Well, just burning oil produces about 3.2 times the CO2 by weight excluding processing. Processing is a 10% to 20% hit depending on the quality of the crude. So that 0.25 kg of CO2 turns into about 0.8 kg of CO2 and processing adds another chunk, bringing it perhaps to 90%. With the 10% emissions tax on the natural gas, that means that there is zero net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere if air carbon capture CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery. And that’s at a cost of $94 to $232 for the air carbon capture portion alone. All of the negative externalities of fossil fuels persist indefinitely.
That’s part 4 of the series. Carbon Engineering’s solution is only useful in tapped-out oil wells and as greenwashing for fossil fuel companies. No wonder three fossil fuel companies invested an infinitesimal fraction of their annual revenue in it.
The fifth and final article in the five-part series looks at who is behind this increasingly odd looking non-solution to climate change, Dr. David Keith, and provides additional expert insight into carbon capture in general.
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Who Is Behind Carbon Engineering, & What Do Experts Say?
April 20th, 2019 by Michael Barnard
Carbon Engineering recently garnered $68 million in investment in its air-carbon capture technology from three fossil fuel majors. This is the final article in the 5-part series assessing the technology and the value of the investment.
The first piece summarized the technology and the challenges, and did a bottoms-up assessment to give context for what Carbon Engineering is actually doing. The second piece stepped through Carbon Engineering’s actual solution in detail. The third piecereturned to the insurmountable problem of scale and deals with the sheer volume of air that must be moved and the scale of machinery they have designed for the purpose. The fourth article looked at the market for air carbon capture CO2 and assessed why three fossil fuel majors might be interested. The final article addresses the key person behind this technology, David Keith, and the expert opinions of third parties.
As a reminder of what the series has found, the Carbon Engineering solution would use a 2-kilometer long, 20-meter high wall of noisy fans to capture 4 orders of magnitude too little CO2 to make a difference while burning natural gas sufficient for 70,000 households and producing half a ton of CO2 from the gas for every ton it captures from the air. Oh, and the only real use for it is to plant it on played-out oil wells to get more carbon-rich oil from them, leading to exactly zero benefits.
Who came up with this idea?
So we have a technology that burns so much natural gas that they produce and must capture 500 tons of CO2 for every 1,000 they capture from the air. And its natural market is to increase oil extraction. And the alternative to do nothing is free and has lower net carbon emissions. Why would anyone think this is a good idea? It’s a really smart bad solution, but deeply unwise if you actually care about global warming.
Enter Dr. David W. Keith, stage right. He’s the primary engineer behind Carbon Engineering. His name is on the published papers. He’s mentioned in all the articles. He’s chief scientist and on the Board of Directors. He’s a very bright, very credentialed, very connected guy. He took first in Canada’s national physics competition, picked up an MIT prize for experimental physics, and Time Magazine picked him as one of its Heroes of the Environment.
Wait. What? The guy who just sold a net-loss air carbon capture technology using natural gas to people who will use it for enhanced oil recovery is a Hero of the Environment? Why does that sound so familiar? Perhaps it’s because I’ve published a series of pieces recently on the ill-founded, cherry-picked, and biased views of another of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment, Michael Shellenberger, who also doesn’t like renewable energy as a solution, preferring nuclear in its place. What is it with Time Magazine’s HotEs that they get things wrong so badly?
Dr. Keith has game in this regard. He runs The Keith Group, affiliated with Harvard and funded by a bunch of folks including the Gates Foundation (which really ought to look twice at giving money to it) and is devoted to a focus on the science and public policy of solar geoengineering.
What’s solar geoengineering? That’s putting lots of stuff in the atmosphere to avert warming by masking the effects of CO2, which most ethicists and pragmatists agree will do three things. First, it will mean we keep burning fossil fuels and increasing the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere further with all of the detriments to marine life and other things that comes with that. Second, it will be an expensive, annual cost which will have to be done pretty much forever which we will stop doing and lead to another massive warming spell. And finally, it will have tremendous unknown and hard to predict impacts on our ecosystems and the like.
It’s a great thing to research, but a terrible thing to do. Keith is a strong advocate at top policy levels for solar geoengineering. Fossil-fuel companies love geoengineering. Some engineer types love geoengineering. The rest of the world rightly considers it akin to open heart surgery by a 9-year-old without anesthesia and would prefer to simply stop emitting CO2 instead. If we ever resort to geoengineering, we’ve failed.
But there’s more about Dr. Keith. Not long ago he co-authored a study with one of the members of his geoengineering group stating that wind farms would create global warming. Yes, that’s right. One of the major solutions to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels is actually a problem, according to Keith. He and his collaborator’s thinking was deeply shoddy and much mocked when it came out. Once again, that paper was in Joule, the no-impact-factor, brand-new journal that his latest Carbon Engineering paper is in. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from that? The co-author of the wind-farms cause global warming nonsense paper, Lee Miller, was lead author with Keith as co-author in another much-derided attack on wind energy, claiming it had massive limits to the ability to provide power.
Basically, Keith really doesn’t understand or like renewables but loves fossil fuels, and is building a fig leaf for the fossil fuel industry. As I said, very smart but not very wise.
Who else is pointing out that this emperor has no clothes?
Well, returning to Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, who was quoted in the first article in the series, he doesn’t include air carbon capture in his models for a 100% renewable future. He’s globally acknowledged for his team’s modeling of 100% renewables by 2050 for all US states and the majority of countries globally, providing a clear and sensible policy path. Why doesn’t Jacobson include air carbon capture? He explains it in Why Not Synthetic Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (SDACCS) as Part of a 100% Wind-Water-Solar (WWS) and Storage Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security .
By removing CO2 from the air, SDACCS does exactly what WWS generators, such as wind turbines and solar panels, do. This is because WWS generators replace fossil generators, preventing CO2 from getting into the air in the first place. The impact on climate of removing one molecule of CO2 from the air is the same as the impact of preventing one molecule from getting into the air in the first place.
The differences between WWS generators and SDACCS equipment, though, are that the WWS generators also (a) eliminate non-CO2 air pollutants from fossil fuel combustion; (b) eliminate the upstream mining, transport, and refining of fossil fuels and the corresponding emissions; (c) largely reduce the pipeline, refinery, gas station, tanker truck, oil tanker, and coal train infrastructure of fossil fuels; (d) largely eliminate oil spills, oil fires, gas leaks, and gas explosions; (e) substantially reduce international conflicts over energy; (f) reduce the large-scale blackout risk due to the distributed nature of many WWS technologies; and so-on.
SDACCS does none of that. Its sole benefit is to remove CO2 from the air. To do that, it costs more than renewable energy.
Triggered in minor part by this series of articles, Dr. Jacobson updated his calculations based on the use of gas generation by Carbon Engineering, and provided an updated perspective.
In the case where the CO2 is captured from the gas plant, 36% of all CO2 captured is effectively re-emitted to the air. The direct cost of CO2 captured from the ambient air per unit grid energy used to produce the CO2 is still 2.2 to 10 times the cost of preventing the emissions in the first place with a wind turbine. The air pollution plus energy social cost of this SCACCS system is $192 to $398/MWh higher than that of wind.
In sum, so long as grid emissions occur, SDACCS will always increase air pollution no matter how low its cost, and SDACCS will always increase CO2e emissions until its direct cost is much lower than that of WWS technologies. Further, it always increases the mining, transport, and processing of fossil fuels compared with using WWS instead.
All of that electricity that’s used to move all that air to find the 411 parts per million could be used for productive purposes and be much more efficient at removing CO2 from the air along with a bunch of other benefits. Seems obvious. Not to David Keith or his fossil fuel sponsors though.
What about carbon capture at fossil fuel source of generation of electricity instead? You know, where all that CO2 is concentrated in the first place? Well, a recent study led by Sgouris Sgouridis at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi found it wasn’t worthwhile either.
“We show that constructing CCS power plants for electricity generation is generally worse than building renewable energy plants, even when we include the effects of storage systems like batteries and hydrogen,” says Sgouridis. The researchers also discuss significant challenges that CCS promoters would need to address to upscale the technology sufficiently for it to become useful. “These challenges should make the energy policy community very apprehensive about relying on such a solution rather than considering it as a last resort,” Sgouridis says.
That 50% of natural gas CO2 emissions required to fuel the Carbon Engineering air carbon capture? That’s what the Sgouridis paper is talking about; it’s the same thing. Modeling and peer-reviewed research is showing that even the 97.5% CO2 capture from the natural gas combined heat and power solution isn’t worth it.
The first rule of being deep in a hole is to stop digging. Wind and solar electricity being used for productive purposes is much better than using it for air carbon capture. It’s not like the jury is out on this, except for people like David Keith and Chevron.
This concludes the 5-part assessment of Carbon Engineering’s solution, market and investors.
Air carbon capture, especially as Carbon Engineering is doing it, is a fig leaf for the fossil fuel industry. It won’t and can’t scale to the size of the problem. There is no use for the scale of CO2 that would be created in order to be usefully effective. Carbon Engineering’s solution produces half as much CO2 as it captures from the natural gas it uses. It would require the natural gas for 70,000 households’ annual use to get a million tons of CO2, making it much more a new market for natural gas than a solution to global warming. The total CO2 load for the energy required for capture, processing, compression, storage, distribution, and sequestration is almost certain to be greater than the CO2 removed from the atmosphere. It’s easier to get CO2 from biomass, or just bury the biomass, than to do air carbon capture. And it’s much more efficient to just not emit the CO2 in the first place.
No wonder Chevron, Occidental, and BHP love it so much that they were willing to give the company $68 million to play with.
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