I am a former R&D construction project manager and
volunteer for San Diego 350. I advise against the inclusion of carbon capture
and storage (CCS) in the proposed plan for reducing greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere.
I developed expertise in a proven technology that excels in
the bulk removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial gas
streams.[i] The atmosphere contains a
lot of carbon dioxide; however, it is present at only 421 ppm
concentration and one atmosphere pressure. Practical bulk removal of
CO2 requires much more elevated concentrations and pressures.
Last year, a
record 36.3 billion tons of CO2, a byproduct of burning fossil
fuels, were released into the global atmosphere.[ii] One CSS technology touted
as a solution is direct carbon capture (DCC). Orca, a new 4 thousand ton
per year DCC plant powered by geothermal energy is operated in
Iceland by Climworks.[iii] The Orca facility has
produced a lot of buzz for DCC, however DCC is not suitable for
bulk removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Once CO2 is released into the atmosphere, CO2
will stay until removed by photosynthesis. Let’s compare the
daily worldwide CO2 release and DCC removal figures:
36.3 billion tons released per year is about
100 million tons per day.[iv]
4 thousand tons per year removed by Orca is
about 11 tons per day.
A massive fleet of DCC plants (9 million the
size of the Orca demonstration plant) would have to be scaled up
and built to remove 100 million tons per day, the CO2 emissions of
just the past year.
DCC cannot be scaled up to significantly offset
global CO2 emissions.
DCC is an inherently inefficient technology that funds
operations by selling carbon offsets to prosperous clients. Atmospheric CO2 is not
suitable for bulk removal.
It is easier to collect CO2 from concentrated sources with
existing technology than capture CO2 directly from the air through
DCC. It is far easier
if the CO2 is available at higher pressures than the atmospheric
pressure of direct capture methods or flue gases released from
burning fossil fuels.
The Schute Creek plant in Wyoming has the capacity to
capture 7 million tons per year for underground injection.[v] This scheme has increased
the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere, by:
Direct venting of unused CO2, about half of the
total captured in 35 years.
25% more energy is required to run the CO2
recovery equipment and injection compressors.[vi] CO2 from burning the fuel
needed to produce this energy required is directly vented to the
More energy and resulting CO2 venting is needed
to manufacture the added equipment needed for CO2 capture and
The oil produced by CO2 motivated enhanced oil
recovery is burned and releases more CO2.
While compression of CO2 for injection was expensive, it was
justified by the value of oil recovered. When the value of recovered oil decreased,
compressors were shut down.
and Storage is an inefficient and expensive diversion from our task
of reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. CCS would keep the multi-
trillion-dollar fossil fuel industry consuming time and financial
resources California needs to scale up renewable energy and replace
fossil fuel energy.
We residents of San Diego pay the highest electrical rates
in the continental United States. The electrical rate from my bill last month was
over 30 cents per kilowatt hour! One quarter of San Diego ratepayers are behind
on their utility bills. [vii]
We remember the $4.7 billion cost of the San Onofre Nuclear
plant equipment failure. We don’t want to pay for inherently
inefficient technology that only serves to delay halting fossil
fuel consumption and carbon pollution. We don’t want to forever lose San
Diego’s mild climate because of misplaced enthusiasm for DCC
and underground CO2 storage.
Why burn fossil fuels? As carbon pollution increases, nighttime cooling
slows, and deadly heat waves can linger.
Contrast these dim prospects using an expensive
20th century approach, with the rapidly falling price of
electricity produced by photovoltaic generation in the
The cost of photovoltaic generation has dropped 90% since
2010 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. It is proven, economical technology operating
today at scale.
Ask any Californian how she would like to stop burning
fossil fuels, breathe healthy, clean air and purchase power at 10
cents per kilowatt hour!
Photovoltaic power is a much better investment than
CSS. We no longer fly
the Hindenburg, why burn fossil fuels?
[i] [i]I was elected
a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2009
based partly on my work in developing scrubbing solutions for the
Benfield bulk acid gas removal process.
billion tons/year) * (1 year/365 days) = 100 million tons/day
(4000 tons/year) * (1 year/365 days) = 11