Where to put the carbon…

Aside from nuclear power, one of the most enticing possibilities for solving problems of energy security, peak gas, and global warming is carbon sequestration.

windfarmBy burning cheap and widely available coal but storing the resultant carbon dioxide rather than venting it into the atmosphere means you (theoretically) have a cheap and low-carbon energy source.

The main issue is finding a place to stick all that carbon dioxide. Dave Goldberg of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory claims there is a vast area off the east west coast of Oregon under the Juan de Fuga Fuca tectonic plate which addresses many of the safety issues of carbon sequestration:

“We have insurance upon insurance upon insurance,” he said.

First, the center of the proposed location is about 100 miles off the coast, obviously far away from human settlement. Second, the impermeable sediment cap on the permeable basalt reservoir is hundreds of feet thick, creating an effective seal for the compressed CO2. Third, when CO2 mixes with water inside the basalt, over time it turns into a variety of carbonates, which are, essentially, chalk. Fourth, if there were an unforeseen leak, in deep water, CO2 forms into icy hydrates in the water, preventing it from floating up to the surface.

As to the UK: what about using the recently emptied North Sea oil wells as a carbon sink?

It is becoming clear that if we are to create a genuinely zero-carbon (or even low-carbon) economy we are going to have to embrace nuclear power and carbon sequestration, as suggested in Plan D of David David J. C. Mackay’s excellent (but unfinished) free ebook Substainable Energy – Without the Hot Air. The evidence is mounting that wind power, solar thermal, and photovoltaics don’t work well enough.

[story from Wired][image from Scott Ableman on flickr]

8 thoughts on “Where to put the carbon…”

  1. Two little things– I think you mean the Juan de Fuca (with a “c”) plate, and the last time I looked, Oregon didn’t have an east coast.

  2. We already store carbon dioxide in the emptied North Sea wells (http://www.statoilhydro.com/en/NewsAndMedia/News/2008/Pages/C02Capture10000.aspx)

    If storage could be avoided alltogether, the problem would be even smaller:

    We should also keep in mind that nuclear power is a non-renewable power source too. If all electric energy should be from nuclear power, we would only have natural resources for 40 years – ideally speaking, logistics and economy not accounted for. Thorium would then be “the next” uranium.

  3. “f all electric energy should be from nuclear power, we would only have natural resources for 40 years”

    Do you have any numbers to back this up? If nuclear waste were to be reprocessed, it’d be reusable many times over, and I believe the 40 years idea would apply only if fuel were used as it is currently in American systems. Nuclear power would also buy us some time to more greatly perfect truly renewable energy technology.

  4. Quoting from David J.C. Mackay:

    “Uranium can be used sixty times more efficiently in fast breeder reactors, which burn up all the uranium

  5. i no for a fact that we have the no how to use water as fuel i do already. this has bin out there sense the 14th cent also permamag motors there is wind there is solar there is tides there is so many that work ferry well but the big thing is there is no MONEY thats all people think about these big people that have it all how much do they need were will it stop you could put 1000 billion in there pocket the next day they are up at 5am looking for more and they don,t care how they get there fix there are like junkeys they are the ones that need help i would like to see the day every one pores water in there tank to heat there homes run there car and makes there generator go for hydro o but wait the junkeys in the goverment own that. o well thanks for listening

  6. Thanks for your input, glen – and it’s good to see you’re doing your bit by saving on unnecessary punctuation, there. That’ll show the Illuminati who’s boss, eh?

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