Coal: fuel of the future

Tom James @ 24-04-2009

geological-carbonThe British government has given the go-ahead to a new generation of coal-fired power plants incorporating carbon-capture and storage technologies in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Clean coal has been met with criticism and the policy seems just a little bit flaky:

Up to four new plants will be built if they are fitted with technology to trap and store CO2 emissions underground.

The technology is not yet proven and would only initially apply to 25% of power stations’ output.

Green groups welcomed the move but said any new stations would still release more carbon than they stored.

Uh huh. According to UK energy secretary Ed Miliband:

Once it is “independently judged as economically and technically proven” – which the government expects by 2020 – those stations would have five years to “retrofit” CCS to cover 100% of their output.

Kind of a glass quarter-full situation then. And it might not even work. But do check out the details.

[image and articles from the BBC and the Guardian]


Exoplanet atmosphere contains carbon dioxide

Paul Raven @ 24-11-2008

Astronomy is changing fast. Ten years ago, planets around other star systems were still essentially theoretical; now we’re not only capturing them on telescopes but discovering carbon dioxide in exoplanetary atmospheres. A little bit of sensawunda for your Monday morning. 😉


Germans putting CO2 underground

Tom James @ 01-07-2008

Carbon sequestration or carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an enticing possibility for those who like their global CO2 levels below 390 ppm but aren’t too keen on nuclear power.

sa-megetThe basic idea is to carry on burning fossil fuels for energy, but instead of venting the waste CO2 into the atmosphere, bury it underground. Now CO2SINK, a European research project, have created the first underground carbon dioxide storage site at Ketzin, near Berlin:

It will pump up 60,000 tonnes of the greenhouse gas into porous, salt water-filled rock at depths of more than 600 metres (656 yards) over the next two years, the centre said.

This obviously won’t solve all the problems. After all it is probable that our fossil fuels will run out at some point. “Clean” fossil fuels might provide a useful stopgap before we decide on our long term energy mix.

[story via PhysOrg][image from Jacob Botter on flickr]


U.P.S. drives efficiency with intelligent routing software

Stephen Years @ 14-12-2007

ups-logo-small.pngAs the holiday season progresses, it looks like it is going to be another great year for online retailers – which means fleets of delivery trucks will be hitting the streets. U.P.S. is doing its part to make sure those delivery trucks are operating as efficiently as possible, which improves their bottom line – but more importantly, puts less CO2 into the atmosphere:

When you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each one will translate to huge savings overall — is what led U.P.S. to limit further the number of left-hand turns its drivers make.

The company employs what it calls a “package flow” software program, which among other hyperefficient practices involving the packing and sorting of its cargo, maps out routes for every one of its drivers, drastically reducing the number of left-hand turns they make (taking into consideration, of course, those instances where not to make the left-hand turn would result in a ridiculously circuitous route).

Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.


Speeding up CO2 absorption in the ocean

Jeremy Eades @ 09-11-2007

The electrochemical weathering cycle

The oceans are nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – it’s estimated that one third of human-generated CO2 has been absorbed by the sea.  But with the seas becoming more acidic, the rate of CO2 absorption is reduced.  But what happens if they become more alkaline?  Some Harvard researchers predict we could increase CO2 absorption by speeding up the natural release of basic solutions into the ocean, thus reducing the rate of release of CO2 in the atmosphere, helping corals and sea life affected by more acidic seas, and giving us cake.

There are some downsides, however, including localized pollution (the alkalines would be concentrated around the production plants, thus harming local sea life), price ($100 for every ton or CO2 removed), and energy – if  the process were powered by coal, the net effect would be addition of CO2.  Renewable energy, like geothermal, is one possibility around this, and in such a case could be more beneficial (CO2-wise) than replacing an entire coal plant.

See here for the abstract, it’s worth it just to read the title.

(article & image via Environmental Science & Technology Online)


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