The Next Step!

The best time to start the fight against climate change was 20 years ago.

The second best time is right now. And since we’re so far behind, we have no option other than to try to roll the clock back and clean up the mess we’ve made.

By that, I mean it is necessary to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, and lock it up so that the percentage in the atmosphere gets down to normal, safe, levels.

This is quoted from the web page entitled “Sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, explained”.

And this is essentially what it now comes down to, and hang the expense!

This does not mean that we choose the most expensive option, and ignore all the others. It does mean that we have to evaluate all of our options to see which will work best (and fastest) for us. The ones I have found so far, as listed below, with a short description of “What and how”, and the link to the source of information.

a) Climate change: Five cheap ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere

1- Coastal blue carbon

This report says that there is a lot of potential for increasing the amount of carbon that is stored in living plants and sediments found in the marshy lands near the sea shore and on the edges of river estuaries. They include mangroves, tidal areas and seagrass beds. Together, these wetlands contain the highest carbon stocks per unit area of any ecosystem.

2 – Planting trees

Global deforestation has been a significant factor in driving up emissions of carbon, so researchers feel that planting new trees or restoring lost areas is a simple and cheap technology that could be expanding right now.

One of the problems, though, is that while researchers understand a good deal about which trees are best to grow for timber harvesting, they are less knowledgeable about breeding trees whose major focus is to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

3 – Forest management

How forests are managed can have a big impact on how much carbon they store. As well as planting more trees, the report says that we need to manage our existing forests in a better way to remove more carbon. This can also be done for less than $20 per tonne of CO2.

Techniques can include the speedy re-stocking of forests after disturbances like fires. They can also involve extending the age of the forest when you harvest it. A critical step would be to extend the amount of timber that goes into long-lived wooden products and limiting the amount that gets burned as biomass in power stations.

4 – Agricultural practices

The report says that some simple changes in the way farmers manage their land can be a cheap and effective way of removing carbon from the air. These include planting cover crops when fields aren’t being used to grow commercial crops. It means growing crops with reduced tillage and it will involve adding a material called biochar, a type of charcoal made from plant matter, to the land.

5 – Biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

The idea of BECCS is to grow energy crops that soak up carbon, which are then burned to create electricity while the emitted CO2 gas is captured and buried permanently underground. BECCS has been dismissed by many because of the massive amounts of land that would be needed, up to 40% of global cropland according to some studies.

How effective will these ideas be?

The report says that current technologies that cost less than $100 per tonne can be scaled up safely and store large amounts of carbon but much less than is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. To meet the Paris climate agreement – to global temperature rise below 2C – about 20 billion tonnes of CO2 would need to be removed from the atmosphere every year by 2100. The technologies assessed in the report would remove “significantly less than 10 billion tonnes of CO2”.

b) Extracting carbon dioxide from the air is possible. But at what cost?

CO2 Capture

This process has four steps. First, air is channelled by fans onto a honeycombed plastic slab called a contactor, where CO2, which is acidic, reacts with aqueous potassium hydroxide, which is alkaline. The resulting solution of potassium carbonate is filtered and exposed to a slurry of calcium hydroxide. This produces potassium hydroxide, which is recycled back to the contactor, and pellets of calcium carbonate. These are whisked to the third receptacle, called a calciner. There the calcium carbonate is heated to 900°C to release pure carbon-dioxide gas ready for capture, and calcium oxide. Finally, the calcium oxide is piped to a “slaker”, where it is dissolved in water to form calcium hydroxide, which is reused in the second step.

A pilot plant with a contactor three by five metres across and three metres deep has been running for three years. It extracts a tonne of carbon dioxide from the air per day.

Factoring in operating costs and the cost of capital, the study concludes that Carbon Engineering’s system could capture a tonne of the greenhouse gas for between $94 and $232.

As things stand, the cost of using Carbon Engineering’s kit to scrub 8bn-10bn tonnes of CO2 per year, as the climate models presuppose, would run to trillions of dollars. Then again, no one said guaranteeing civilisation’s survival was going to come cheap.

c) What to Do with CO2 from Coal? How about Make Baking Soda

Skyonic lands funding to build a commercial-scale facility that takes flue gases and converts them into commodity chemicals.

The company plans to raise $35 million to build a commercial-scale plant for capturing carbon dioxide and other gases at a coal-powered cement factory in San Antonio, Texas by 2014. If the company meets its schedule, it will be able to use 83,000 short tons of carbon dioxide from the plant’s flue to make 157,000 short tons of baking soda. Its process also produces hydrochloric acid and other chemicals.

Skyonic now uses the name “Skymining”, and can be found here!

d) This tower sucks up smog and turns it into diamonds

Smog tower

(More details available here! )

The tower they built, which has been used in Rotterdam, Beijing, Tianjin and Dalian, sucks up 30,000 cubic meters of polluted air per hour, cleans it at the nano level — the PM2.5, PM10 particles — and then releases the clean air back into the city. (The tower is powered by solar energy.)

The smog particles filtered by the tower are compressed for 30 minutes and turned into dark, boxy gems. The diamonds are then used for rings and cufflinks, each representing 1,000 cubic meters of pollution. Roosegaarde says a couple even used a smog ring as an engagement ring.

It’s incredibly effective: the air around the tower is 55 to 75 percent cleaner than the rest of the city.

e) Carbon dioxide captured from air can be directly converted into methanol fuel

and a second page on the same subject:-

Carbon dioxide-to-methanol process improved by catalyst

The first method uses a catalyst made from ruthenium, the second uses a specific formulation of palladium and copper. I make no attempt to evaluate which of the two is better.

f) Diamonds From the Sky

Having already developed revolutionary methods for making fertilizer and cement without emitting harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, Professor of Chemistry Stuart Licht has now found a way to extract the greenhouse gas from the air and transform it into a valuable manufacturing material.

The method involves applying CO2 — either extracted directly from the air or captured from industrial smokestacks — to a vat of hot molten salt, a liquid solution called carbonate. As the CO2 rapidly dissolves in the carbonate, Licht’s team places nickel and steel electrodes into the molten liquid. Applying just a few volts of electricity, the carbon nanofibers build up on the steel electrode, where they are easily removed.

The entire process, which is ignited by either a conventional power supply or a solar-energy system of Licht’s design, is both earth-friendly and economical. Licht estimated the energy input costs at $1,000 per ton of carbon nanofiber — an amount commercially valued at as much as $25,000. “We are at the beginning of an explosion in the market for carbon nanofiber uses,” he said. “It’s at the same place plastics were at beginning of World War II. By making [nanofiber production] inexpensive, the applications go far beyond airplane bodies. They could, for example, be used in building materials, and could one day replace steel.”

“We calculate that with a physical area less than 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert, our process could remove enough CO2 to decrease atmospheric levels to those of the pre-industrial revolution within 10 years,” Licht said. “There’s a necessity to work together, to test this on a larger scale, [and then] there’s no telling where we can go from here.”

Please do not stop with tried and trusted measures, such as refusing to chop trees down, and planting new ones where you can, (and where it makes sense to do so).

Lets get started!

One thought on “The Next Step!”

  1. A fascinating and thought-provoking read, John. Particularly the commercial potential of things like the nanofibres. Seems there’s real money to be made from investing in cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the climate, the process will probably speed up considerably once the right people see the potential!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.