device that reverses CO2 emissions
By Frank Swain11th
Cooling the planet by
filtering excess carbon dioxide out of the air on an industrial scale.
It would require a
new, massive global industry – what would it need to work?
The year is 2050. Walk out of
the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, and drive north
across the sun-baked scrub where a few remaining oil pumpjacks nod
lazily in the heat, and then you'll see it: a glittering palace rising
out of the pancake-flat ground. The land here is mirrored: the choppy
silver-blue waves of an immense solar array stretch out in all
directions. In the distance, they lap at a colossal grey wall five
storeys high and almost a kilometre long. Behind the wall, you glimpse
the snaking pipes and gantries of a chemical plant.
As you get closer you see the
wall is moving, shimmering – it is entirely made up of huge fans
whirring in steel boxes. You think to yourself that it looks like a
gigantic air conditioning unit, blown up to incredible proportions. In
a sense, that's exactly what this is. You're looking at a direct air
capture (DAC) plant, one of tens of thousands like it across the
globe. Together, they're trying to cool the planet by sucking carbon
dioxide out of the air. This Texan landscape was made famous for the
billions of barrels of oil pulled out of its depths during the 20th
Century. Now the legacy of those fossil fuels – the CO2 in our air –
is being pumped back into the emptied reservoirs.
If the world is to meet Paris Agreement goals of limiting global
warming to 1.5C by 2100, sights like this may be necessary by
We have a climate change
problem and it's caused by an excess of CO2.
With direct air capture, you
can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time –
But step back for a moment to 2021, to Squamish, British Columbia
where, against a bucolic skyline of snowy mountains, the finishing
touches are being put to a barn-sized device covered in blue
tarpaulin. When it becomes operational in September, Carbon
Engineering's prototype direct air capture plant will begin scrubbing
a tonne of CO2 from the air every year. It is a small start, and a
somewhat larger plant in Texas is in the works, but this is the
typical scale of a DAC plant today.
"We have a climate change problem and it's caused by an excess of
CO2," says Carbon Engineering chief executive Steve Oldham. "With DAC,
you can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time. It's
very powerful tool to have."
Most carbon capture focuses on cleaning emissions at the source:
scrubbers and filters on smokestacks that prevent harmful gases
reaching the atmosphere. But this is impractical for small, numerous
point sources like the planet's billion or so automobiles. Nor can it
address the CO2 that is already in the air. That's where direct air
capture comes in.
The number of things that would have to happen without direct air
capture are so stretching and multiple.
It's highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without it –
If the world wants to avoid catastrophic climate change, switching
to a carbon neutral society is not enough. The Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that limiting global
warming to 1.5C by 2100 will require technologies such as DAC for
"large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal measures" –
large-scale meaning many billions of tonnes, or gigatonnes, each year.
Elon Musk recently pledged $100m (£72m) to develop carbon
capture technologies, while companies such as Microsoft,
United Airlines and ExxonMobil are making billion-dollar
investments in the field.
"Current models suggest we're going to need to remove 10 gigatonnes
of CO2 per year by 2050, and by the end of the century that number
needs to double to 20 gigatonnes per year," says Jane Zelikova, a
climate scientist at the University of Wyoming. Right now, "we're
removing virtually none. We're having to scale from zero."
If we continue with HydroCarbons? I do not think there is any
chance….in 10 years….hydro Carbons are on the back slope of a big run
of 100 plus years. GJS.
At least we got a good book out of Hydro Carbons, " Killers of the
Carbon Engineering's pilot plant in British Columbia, is the
"cookie cutter" model for much larger DAC plants (Credit: Carbon
Carbon Engineering's plant in Squamish is designed as a testbed for
different technologies. But the firm is drawing up blueprints for
in the oil fields of west Texas,
which would fix 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. "Once one is done,
it's a cookie cutter model, you simply build replicas of that plant,"
says Oldham. Yet he admits the scale of the task ahead is dizzying.
"We need to pull 800 gigatonnes out of the atmosphere. It's not going
to happen overnight."
One million Tonnes is nothing. A minor league attempt…..We are
talking 7 Billion tons in 10 years by raising the OM 2% using Green
Play Ammonia critieria on the land and cleaning up water at the same
A cultural change for land owners and producers….and we can pay the
400 million acres of landowners $100 per ton of CO2 sequestered into
the growing crop, roots and stover to build OM. The producers and
landowners marching orders ….raise the OM 2%. Each 1% of OM is 32,000
lbs per acre of Carbon stored. 16 tons of C. not CO2.
The science of direct air capture is straightforward. There are
several ways to do it, but the one that Carbon Engineering's system
uses fans to draw air containing 0.04% CO2 (today's atmospheric
levels) across a filter drenched in potassium hydroxide solution – a
caustic chemical commonly known as potash, used in soapmaking and
various other applications. The potash absorbs CO2 from the air, after
which the liquid is piped to a second chamber and mixed with calcium
hydroxide (builder's lime). The lime seizes hold of the dissolved CO2,
producing small flakes of limestone. These limestone flakes are sieved
off and heated in a third chamber, called a calciner, until they
decompose, giving off pure CO2, which is captured and stored. At each
stage, the leftover chemical residues are recycled back in the
process, forming a closed reaction that repeats endlessly with no
If I understand correctly….rather than sending the limestone into
the high heat calciner to build CO2….it would be better to build lime
for surface application in Acid Soils in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and
Montana. Also BC and Alberta….this would be a very good tool where
quality lime is just not available for Agriculture. .
Lets spread the second stage limestone (Quick Lime I assume) over
the land to elevate the soil pH and provide calcium and Carbonate to
the soil to improve the soil life. We could bring back the soil to a
7.4 pH as recommended by KSU and the natural pH of Mamals. Pit Run,
and low quality Ag Lime cost about $80 per ton in the PNW….why not
build lime and pull carbon out of the atmosphere?
Any takers on this process?
Good lime is not easily found economically in the Pacific Northwest
and the Midwest in certain locations.
The processor could be located in central part of a trade region…no
more than 1 hour out and back. This could solve the acidic soil
problem in many locations around the corn belt and the pacific
Northwest….we quit mining out of the ground and pull the C, out of the
air. The calcium hydroxide is the problem since it is mined from the
earth and takes heat to make it. Same with the Potassium Hydroxide…a
spend process I believe.
There you have it….$80 a ton for lime in Whitman County
Washington….and of the highest quality..….and a big savings in energy
staying away from the third step….the calciner takes about 10 Mega
Watts per day in a cement plant scenario….at 8 cents a KW that is $800
using electricity. How much does it cost per ton of calcined lime to
CO2….that is a lot of money. GJS
This might work…if you can find a good source of Calcium Hydroxide
that could be railed in with the Potassium Hydroxide coming to the
plant on the same rail link. GJS
We're past the point where reducing emissions needed to take place.
We're locking in our reliance on DAC more and more – Jane Zelikova
With global carbon emissions continuing to rise,
the climate target
of 1.5C is looking less and less likely without interventions like
"The number of things that
would have to happen without direct air capture are so stretching and
multiple it's highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without
it," says Ajay Gambhir, senior researcher at the Imperial College
Grantham Institute for Climate Change and an author of a 2019 paper
on the role of DAC in climate mitigation.
The IPCC does present some climate-stabilising models that don't
rely on direct air capture, but Gambhir says these are "extremely
ambitious" in their assumptions about advances in energy efficiency
and people's willingness to change their behaviour.
"We're past the point where reducing emissions needed to take
place," says Zelikova. "We're locking in our reliance on DAC more and
DAC is far from the only
way carbon can be taken out of the atmosphere. Carbon can be removed
naturally through land use changes such as restoring peatland,
or most popularly, planting forests. But this is slow and would
require huge tracts of valuable land – foresting an area the size of
the United States, by some estimates, and driving up food
prices five-fold in the process. And in the case of trees, the
carbon removal effect is limited, as they will eventually die and
release their stored carbon, unless they can be felled and burned in a
closed system. (Read more about why planting trees doesn’t always
help with climate change)
This is not a slow process, We can do it in 10 years by stopping
the tillage Going with Green Play Ammonia. , we have the technology
and it is Quadruple play….Soil Quality, Stored Soil Carbon, Higher
Yields and Less Erosion and ….No-tilling 400 million acres, applying
Green Ammonia, No-till, Cover Cropping….and a lot faster than building
plants that have no value other than pulling CO2 and filling the
vadoze. Green Play Ammonia, Builds Soils, Stores water where it falls,
controls Gulf Hypoxia and Great Lakes pollution such as Lake Erie. GJS
The scale of the challenge for carbon removal using technologies
like DAC, rather than plants, is no less gargantuan. Gambhir's paper
calculates that simply keeping pace with
global CO2 emissions – currently 36 gigatonnes per year
mean building in the region of 30,000 large-scale DAC plants,
more than three for every coal-fired
power station operating in the world today.
Each plant would cost
up to $500m (£362m) to build
coming in at a cost of up to $15 trillion (£11tn).
There is room for everybody. GJS But this is ridiculous…..Why not
just take to take of the natural way.
Climeworks' facility near Zurich, Switzerland, sells the CO2 it
captures to nearby vegetable growers for their greenhouses (Credit:
Every one of those facilities would need to be stocked with solvent
to absorb CO2. Supplying a fleet of DAC plants big enough to
capture 10 gigatonnes of CO2 every year
will require around four million tonnes of potassium hydroxide, the
entire annual global supply of this chemical
one and a half times
And once those thousands of
DAC plants are built, they also need power to run. "If this was
a global industry absorbing 10 gigatonnes of CO2 a year, you would be
expending 100 exajoules, about a sixth of total global energy," says
Gambhir. Most of this energy is needed to heat the calciner to around
800C – too intense for electrical power alone, so each DAC plant would
need a gas furnace, and a ready supply of gas.
Most likely a
Green Ammonia Furnace. But this sets the tone….Gas is forever. GJS
Costing the planet
Estimates of how much it
costs to capture a tonne of CO2 from the air vary widely, ranging from
$100 to $1,000 (£72 to £720) per tonne. Oldham says that most figures
are unduly pessimistic – he is confident that Climate Engineering can
fix a tonne of carbon for as little as $94 (£68), especially once it
becomes a widespread industrial process.
A bigger issue is figuring out where to send the bill. Incredibly,
saving the world turns out to be a pretty hard sell, commercially
speaking. Direct air capture does result in one valuable commodity,
though: thousands of tonnes of compressed CO2. This can be combined
with hydrogen to make synthetic, carbon-neutral fuel. That could then
be sold or burned in the gas furnaces of the calciner (where the
emissions would be captured and the cycle continue once again). This
is the fossil fuel industry solution.
GJS - This is not a viable solution for getting the planet to Net
Zero. We can quickly implement No-tillage on 400 million acres and
raise the OM 2% and use Green Ammonia to raise the OM fast. In 30
years we could have a disaster with Fossil Fuel people trying to keep
up with Green Ammonia Power….It is cheaper than Fossil Fuel….so why
not build Ammonia and cap the Oil And Gas Wells as they have in
Denmark and Australia. We can capture 7 Billion Tons and raise the OM
2% if we follow our Guidelines of No-tillage, cover cropping and
Exactrix 1%CV TAPPKTS at 8 inch depths.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest customers for compressed CO2 is
the fossil fuel industry
As oil and gas wells run
dry, it's not uncommon to squeeze the remaining oil out of the ground
by pressuring the reservoir using steam or gas in a process called
enhanced oil recovery. Carbon dioxide is a popular choice for
this, and comes with additional benefit of locking that carbon
underground, completing the final stage of carbon capture and storage.
Occidental Petroleum, which has partnered with Carbon Engineering to
build a full-scale DAC plant in Texas, uses 50 million tonnes of CO2
every year in enhanced oil recovery. Each tonne of CO2 used in this
way is worth about $225 (£163) in tax credits alone.
Tax credits for a process that is way out of the
ball game….Somebody got hoodwinked…..that means we save 2.7 tons of
carbon per ton of ammonia….that is $607 we can earn if that same
accountant is available. GJS
Lets move to renewables as quick as we
can….Who wants to run the oil and gas wells dry…..we will save the oil
and gas wells for another time…..the 2nd act in 3021. GJS
It's perhaps fitting that
the CO2 in our air is eventually being returned underground to the oil
fields from whence it came, although maybe ironic that the only way to
finance this is in the pursuit of yet more oil. Occidental and
others hope that by pumping CO2 into the ground, they can drastically
reduce the carbon impact of that oil: a typical enhanced-recovery
operation sequesters one tonne of CO2 for every 1.5 tonnes it
ultimately releases in fresh oil. So while the process reduces the
emissions associated with oil, it doesn't balance the books.
Where is my calculator?. Wait a minute?. How about C going a
different direction and not O2 which belongs in the atmosphere. Kick
the O2 back to the atmosphere, and take carbon into a different
molecule or process that we can use….…build the carbon up as carbon
black for tires. Carbon filament for construction of houses. Keep the
wood in the forest for now sequestering carbon. GJS. I think this
process is going on at Beatrice NE. GJS Somebody talked the government
into spending a lot of money on a process that makes no sense….and
won’t compete with Green Ammonia.
The fossil fuel people think the planet and the mining claims are
their personal toilet of their industrial processes. They wont clean
up their mess. The pipelines are still in the ground that are
abandoned. The mining of oil and gas is a pretty nasty process and
uses a lot of freshwater. The use of freshwater and mining process
water is a big deal in western Kansas.GJS
Enhancing the growth of
vegetables in greenhouses is one application for the CO2 captured from
the air by DAC (Credit: Alamy)
This is true about the Greenhouse….the CO2 needs to be consumed by
the crops using No-tillage on 400 million acres in a more natural way…
and raising the OM by 2% using No-Tillage Exactrix Green Ammonia and
TAPPKTS plus zinc formulation.
This is the Road Sign moment at the Carbon Highway Intersection….Do
we go green all the way?….the Light Bulb is coming on!….CO2 is good
for Crops and soils. GJS.
"DAC is always going to cost money, and unless you're paid to do
it, there is no financial incentive," says Chris Goodall, author of
What We Need To Do Now: For A Zero Carbon Future. "Climeworks can sell
credits to virtuous people, write contracts with Microsoft and
Stripe to take a few
hundred tonnes a year out of the atmosphere, but this needs to be
scaled up a millionfold, and that requires someone to pay for it.
You can not compete in a scale up….there are better alternatives.
"There are subsidies for electric cars, cheap financing for solar
plants, but you don't see these for DAC," says Oldham. "There is so
much focus on emission reduction, but there isn't the same degree of
focus on the rest of the problem,
the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere. The big impediment for DAC is
that thinking isn't in policy."
Oldham Policy is use government money, and that’s OK….put let us go
first tor the low hanging fruit…..The C is storable in better
ways….That is right because there are more powerful alternatives. GJS
Zelikova believes that DAC will follow a similar path to other
climate technologies, and become more affordable. "We have
well-developed cost curves showing how technology can go down in cost
really quickly," says Zelikova. "We surmounted similar hurdles with
wind and solar. The biggest
thing is to deploy them as much as possible. It's important for
government to support commercialisation – it has a role as a first
customer, and a customer with very deep pockets."
No government Money until we take care of
better alternatives, Mr.Zelikova…There are better and quicker ways to
do it. GJS
Goodall advocates for a global carbon tax, which would make it
expensive to emit carbon unless offsets were purchased. But he
recognises this is still a politically unpalatable option. Nobody
wants to pay higher taxes, especially if the externalities of our
high-energy lifestyles – increasing wildfires, droughts, floods, sea
level rise – are seen as being shouldered by somebody else.
Zelikova adds we also need broader conversation in society about
how much these efforts should cost. "There is an enormous cost in
climate change, in induced or
exacerbated natural disasters. We need to do away with idea that DAC
should be cheap." I think this is about
his money and not yours and my money? GJS
Risk and reward
Even if we agree to build 30,000 industrial scale DAC plants, find
the chemical materials to run them, and the money to pay for it all,
we won't be out of the woods yet. In fact, we might end up in a worse
position than before, thanks to a phenomenon known as mitigation
Facilities in Iceland are among those aiming to mineralise CO2, to
lock it out of circulation in the atmosphere as a long-term solution
(Credit: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir)
"If you think DAC is going
to be there in the medium- to long-term, you will not do as much
near-term emissions reduction," explains Gambhir. "If the scale-up
goes wrong – if it turns out to be difficult to produce the sorbent,
or that it degrades more quickly, if it's trickier technologically, if
turns out to be more expensive than expected, then in a sense by not
acting quickly in the near-term, you've effectively locked yourself
into a higher temperature pathway." That
is bad risk….when we know how to do it with other ways that are time
proven….No-till, Green Play Ammonia, Cover Cropping, Rotation, storing
water where it fails with root systems and soil structure. GJS.
Critics of DAC point out that much of its appeal lies in the
promise of a hypothetical technology that allows us to continue living
our carbon-rich lifestyles. Yet Oldham argues that for some hard-to-decarbonise
industries, such as aviation, offsets that fund DAC might be the most
viable option. "If it's cheaper and easier to pull carbon out of air
than to stop going up in the air, maybe that is what DAC plays in
Gambhir argues that it's not an "either-or" situation. "We need to
rapidly reduce emissions in the near-term, but at same time,
determinedly develop DAC to work out for sure if it's going to be
there for us in the future." Zelikova agrees: "It's a 'yes, and'
situation," she says. "DAC is a critical tool to balance out the
carbon budget, so what we can't eliminate today can be removed later."
As Oldham seeks to scale up Carbon Engineering, the biggest
fundamental factor is proving large scale DAC is "feasible, affordable
and available". If he's successful, the future of our planet’s climate
may once again be decided in the oil fields of Texas.
In Nebraska if you are off base your teacher will tell you.
is smoking ditch weed."
There are much better choices.
GJS March 14, 2021.
Copies submitted to Jim Schepers, John Shanahan, Tom Fairweather,
AJ Foster. For review.
Green Play Ammonia™, Yielder® NFuel Energy.
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509 995 1879 cell, Pacific.