Carbon Sequestration As A Service Doesn’t Quite Add Up

Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While most attempts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions focus on reducing the amount of CO2 output, there are other alternatives. Carbon capture and sequestration has been an active area of research for quite some time. Being able to take carbon dioxide straight out of the air and store it in a stable manner would allow us to reduce levels in the atmosphere and could make a big difference when it comes to climate change.

A recent project by a company called Climeworks is claiming to be doing just that, and are running it as a subscription service. The company has just opened up its latest plant in Iceland, and hopes to literally suck greenhouses gases out of the air. Today, we’ll examine whether or not this technology is a viable tool in the fight against climate change.

How It Works

A diagram of the method of operation. Image credit: Climeworks

The basic theory is to capture carbon dioxide from the air, and then pump it below ground where it can be stored in a safe, stable fashion. This starts with direct-air capture: fans suck in air, and carbon dioxide is chemically trapped in a filter. Climeworks appears to use an adsorption-type filter for capturing the CO2, but details on the company’s website are sparse.

Once at capacity, the filter can then be heated to release its captured CO2 so it can be stored. The gas is mixed with water and pumped deep underground into a basaltic rock formation. Over time, the CO2 reacts with minerals to form stable carbonates.

Scientific papers have covered the concept before, with a trial in Iceland exploring the idea. In practice, 95% of the injected CO2 was successfully mineralized and stored in less than 2 years.

Is It Practical?

The Climeworks facility in Switzerland. Image source: Climeworks

As with any carbon storage technology, it’s important to look at the hard data to determine whether this is a viable solution for climate change. This involves looking at not only the amount of greenhouse gas that can be stored, but also the energy required to achieve this.

In 2017, Climeworks operated a plant in Sweden (machine translation). This installation was capable of removing 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, using the output to feed a greenhouse. The process required between 1,800 kwh and 2,500 kwh of thermal energy per ton of CO2 captured from the air. While the energy requirements may appear high, the group noted that waste heat from other industrial processes normally suffices for the energy input required.

The storage part of the equation would not necessarily be as difficult; current data suggests 7000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide could be stored off the coast of Iceland, with plenty of other geologically suitable options around the world too.

At the time, the team set a goal of removing 1% of the world’s CO2 emissions annually by 2025. Global CO2 output was estimated to be 36.81 billion tons in 2019. To remove 1% of this would take on the order of 409,000 plants operating at 900 tonnes per year. The group have been quoted that around 250,000 plants would be required by their own modelling, which presumably takes into account potentially higher emissions in 2025 and larger sequestration plants in future.

These figures are steep, and huge sums of money and land would be required to implement such facilities. As a guide, McDonalds operates just under 40,000 restaurants worldwide. It seems unlikely that, in the short space of a few years, we’ll see anywhere near 250,000 sequestration plants pop up around the world. Governments are still moving slowly on even simpler measures to reduce outputs. Similarly, many nations have delayed or simply ignored targets from international agreements made in years past.

Sequestration As a Service

Regardless, Climeworks has pressed on. Working in partnership with Icelandic company Carbfix, the company has just opened its largest facility yet in Iceland. The plant known as ‘Orca’ is intended to remove up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. That’s roughly equivalent to emissions from 870 passenger cars based on EPA figures.

The plant cost on the order of $10-15 million US dollars to build. The company claims that the project is a stepping stone on the way to “megaton” removal capability in the second half of the decade. With facilities of this capacity, the company could hit its 1% emissions target with 92,000 plants. It’s still a ridiculous number; one that seems improbably large given the limited impact it would have on global emissions.

Assuming enough land could be found across the world, establishing the plants at those rates would cost $920 billion dollars. It’s a hefty price to pay to eliminate 1% of global emissions.

So who is going to pay for this? The Climeworks business model raises a few eyebrows, essentially offering Sequestration as a Service. It allows members of the public to offset their own carbon output, with users asked to sign up and pay a monthly subscription fee. Depending on the level chosen, the user pays a set amount to offset a certain mass of CO2 per year.

For 49 Euros a month (~$57 USD), one can pay for the capture of 600 kg of carbon dioxide per annum. Or, alternatively, the same service can be bought from reseller Tomorrow’s Air, marked up to $75 USD. As a guide, one round-trip flight from London to New York emits around 968 kg of CO2 per passenger. Shorten that to London to Rome and back, and you’re looking at around 234 kg per passenger. Climeworks boasts 8662 subscribers spread across 56 countries around the world, and claims to presently operate 15 air capture facilities at this time.

The USGS has surveyed the country to find potential areas that could store CO2. However, the hard part is capturing it in the first place.

On the face of it, the subscription method appears to be an attempt to generate income for a sequestration operation from environmentally conscious individuals. It bears noting that in the company’s own FAQ, it states that the CO2 removal that subscribers have paid for will be executed “within 5 years or earlier following the subscription date.” The company provides yearly certificates to subscribers, however these only state “the amount of carbon dioxide that has been ordered for removal in [the subscriber’s] name.” However, the company does claim to be seeking third-party certification to give its operations credibility.

Overall, there aren’t huge question marks around the technology itself. Carbon dioxide can be captured from the air with adsorption filters, and it can similarly be stored using the mineralization process. The real question is whether or not it’s a viable solution to climate change in the short to medium term. Based on the present figures, it seems more likely that bigger gains could be possible from investing in other areas. For example, spending huge sums on renewable energy and grid storage would eliminate a large amount of carbon emissions in the first place, entirely avoiding the need to pull that CO2 out of the air later on.

While carbon capture and sequestration is a great idea in theory, in practice it’s simply not there yet. Capturing CO2 directly out of the atmosphere (as opposed to at the source like scrubbers at power plants) simply isn’t efficient enough or able to be executed on a large enough scale to make much of a dent in the problem. Research on the technology should continue, but don’t expect it to be the silver bullet that saves the world in the next few years.

128 thoughts on “Carbon Sequestration As A Service Doesn’t Quite Add Up

      1. Use grid-level storage, but not with batteries, like Tesla is trying to do (when you have a hanmer…), but with fuel cells (reversible flow batteries) instead. I know of one protect using hydrogen en bromine in a fuel cell. The advantage is the size of the fuel cell determines the maximum power, while the size of the storage tanks determines the capacity. Increasing the capacity simply means adding cheap steel tanks, and when it wears out, only the fuel cell (a small component compared to a battery bank) needs to be replaced.

        1. Yes.. and all of them require carbon fuels for transportation. “Renewables” move nothing and even they require petroleum products to be built and maintained. Nothing moves without carbon fuels except maybe nuclear submarines. Even they need carbon fuels to be built and placed in service. Imagine a carbon capture facility running out of gas or diesel fuel…even biofuel.

    1. the other response was glib, but seriously, who is going to provide physical security? The U.N.? U.S.? Wouldn’t the whole thing be quite vulnerable to terrorists? After President Bush led a international coalition into Iraq, do European countries have any appetite for more? I also think the US and more of the Western world converted more completely to nuclear power in the ’60s we would have had a chance. Maybe we’d have developed fusion power. But we didn’t and I think that’s that! Personally I’m going to follow the example of the 1348 Parisian hedonists when the Black Plague came to that city. Au revoir!

    2. The Desertec project is neo-colonialism and a massive geopolitical conflict hazard…

      It’s a highly unequal setup with North Africa providing the power on the cheap to run continental Europe, where the latter has to take a stranglehold over the former in order to ensure that they don’t start jacking up the prices or threatening supply. In other words, the EU should have to invade and colonize North Africa in order to make sure they keep getting power, just like the US kept control of the Middle East to control the oil producing nations.

      The whole project is doomed from the start.

  1. seems like once there’s non-polluting energy for free in gigawatt quantities, carbon sequestration or any other mass terraforming project would be very plausible…and until then, there’s no way. either free energy or something cheap that is 10x as efficient as plants at exactly what plants do would do it.

    1. Nuclear comes close to that. Not free but comparable to other energy sources over their lifetimes. No pollution that needs cleaning up, just a small amount of waste to be stored for a while.

      1. It’s probably a lot more efficient to use this nuclear power directly, and close coal plants because there is a nuclear alternative.

        If this form of capture really is to be viable, it should be build right next to a coal or natural gas plant, and use a small fraction of the energy produced by the plant (ideally, only waste heat) to capture all of the CO2 produced by the plant.

        This seems rather obvious, and the fact they don’t actually do that, suggests it’s a net negative anyway.

      2. yeah no pollution except all the co2 produced by constructing plants mines an processing all the megatons of dirt to extract the fuel as well as all the radioactive waste from the refining and purification steps……..not to mention when the plants blow up? small amount of waste no one knows where to put that will be lethal for millions of years …. a real green technology you have here….. /irony off
        i grant you fusion i nowhere in sight and fission might be a nice temporary solution until something truly revolutionary comes along. but as of now the nuclear cycle in still incomplete and the raw material is in limited supply so its really not a long term solution even ignoring all the safety concerns.

        1. Nuclear would work even if you closed all uranium mines, you can simply process the mining byproduct ore and drillwater from other mines, making it more safe to put back in the ground. Even with uranium mines, there will be no CO2 pollution in the future because mining industry is going electric. Modern extraction of uranium is not even using mining, they use leeching which doesn’t even touch the landscape. And even with the existing mining with diesel trucks running on fossil fuel etc, nuclear still has the lowest carbon footprint of all energy sources.

          There is no CO2 pollution in the refining and processing steps if the electricity is coming from fossil free power? Canadas CANDU reactors doesn’t even need to do any significant uranium refining and enrichment.

          Fukushima had 3 melt downs, 3 times more than Chernobyl but released almost nothing because of the containment building that Chernobyl didn’t have. It proves that nuclear is safe even with unforeseen natural disasters. The radioactive levels you read about is lower than Swedens and Finlands normal background levels, our drinking water contain more radioactivity than the water Tepco is going to release into the ocean.

          Waste is not harmful in millions of years, at most 100000 years, with fast reactors only 700 years. But even if it were dangerous in millions of years, the spent nuclear fuel will be disposed hundreds of meters down in billion year old stable and solid bedrock. Even with complete enclosure failure, the radioactivity will not reach the surface or ground water.

          Nuclear is the greenest energy there is since it does not affect the nature or disturb ecosystems. Large scale renewables are harming or changing the nature because they are taking energy from the environment. Nuclear is completely stand alone because it is using a finite source, but that finite source will last longer than Earth itself.

          1. No renewable harms nature just by default – the taking of some wind energy is completely irrelevant to the natural world – you can’t take more than the teeniest fraction imaginable (you probably take more energy out of the wind blowing it through a city than a wind farm), as you just can’t build a turbine big enough to catch most of the wind and must space them a practical distance apart so they all work properly more often and don’t interfere with each other. The solar energy directly acting on a photovoltaic panel (or hotwater for that matter) is no different to hitting any other man made structure – of which they need not make up much if any in the way of extra – most solar is fitted to existing man made structures… Hydro power, and tidal dams are a little more destructive – as they most certainly change the ecology of the areas where they are built (though often to a more fertile and life filled one than they replaced – so is it damage or actually a beneficial change? One for the local experts to answer there) and a hydro system used poorly could kill the river further down stream – it should never do so, used properly all a hydro system does is change within very normal range the downstream flows – rivers don’t flow at x rate continually but in a huge range based on recent rain fall they hydroplant should keep it in that range, but cycle mostly based on energy need and supply…

            Its certainly possible to really harm nature in the siting, building, etc of a renewable energy source but that is like anything else humans build, not a flaw in the technologies just in whatever planning regulation/building restriction type agency allowed you to put such things in the wrong places…

            As for Nuclear, splitting the atom is great, highly effective and a spent fuel rod from one style of reactor can then go into another all the way down to the basically inert stuff… But lasting longer the Earth itself is I am afraid very incorrect – if you actively use nuclear power you vastly speed up its natural decay – that is kind of the point, and there is still a very finite amount of suitable material on the planet… IFF fusion can be created in an energy positive and remotely practical way then you can be correct enough on that perhaps, but who knows if that goal is really attainable.

          2. Foldi-One:
            Everything counts in large amounts.
            With your reasoning burning some coal for warming your house is completely irrelevant of the vast planet but here we are discussing the consequence of it.
            As you point out it is great to put solar panel on the roofs, because cities have already caused the local area to warm up of the captured solar radiation.

            Large scale deployment of wind power will affect the environment.
            Here is a simulation of how offshore wind farms in the North Sea can change the inland climate in Europe:
            It shows it will become less humid air, less cloud formation and winds will slow down and not travel as far inwards, heating up the inland with less rain. The answer to climate change seem to also change the climate. The numbers are small, 0.25K temperature is not much but with the climate change talk of +1.5K equals disaster, 0.25K is then 1/6.

            Here is a nice short article about how long finite resources for nuclear fission will last:
            It forgot to mention the average thorium concentration in crust is twice that of uranium and thorium also exist in seawater in lower concentrations.
            Seawater extraction is probably impractical and so is processing every piece of rock we find but the point is that we have several hundreds to thousand years of energy with the spent nuclear fuel in our backyard already. Probably enough time to get fusion going.

          3. Indeed, scale and placement can matter, and I never said otherwise, but the siting of even quite a large number just doesn’t matter, you have to get truly stupendous numbers to make any noticeable difference, even more so now the climate is growing more unstable as it warms anyway… And you have to note that doing things like planting trees does the same damn thing – everything done to the environment at all makes some change to some area around it – its if the change is actually meaningful, and also I suppose how easy it is to counter if it is really a negative…

            I also don’t disagree Nuclear as it stands is a very good fuel source, and we really should be using more of it – however it just plain can’t last longer the Earth, best it can do is last long enough for us to seriously move towards space for more resources, or perhaps fusion… (Also if you go and fully embrace Nuclear you end up supporting the profligate waste of energy the fossil fuel boom had too – so the demand for energy will undoubtably go up alot as its so abundant, pretty consistently oversupplied and thus very very cheap if you really lean into it – need to keep in mind how humans have always worked and how much faster that will deplete the nuclear resources, potentially making a few hundred years of supply a stretch…)

        2. I’m confused by your position. What are you proposing as an alternative and what are all the emissions involved in it and what are its short comings? Fission is not a ‘nice’ temporary solution, it is one of many solutions (like the already happening, electrification in mining) we need to adopt on a much larger scale to lower carbon emissions and decouple energy and carbon. When your shiny new tech comes along we’ll consider it.

      3. Way to understate the issues… Nuclear’s issues don’t even occur on a timescale that is appropriate for us to even attempt to solve… nuclear’s issues are always sept under the rug where they aren’t as obvious but they are STILL THERE.

        Most nuclear waste is stored in vaults of which many are already failing prematurely and they only had a design lifetime of under 100 years which is about 10-20x too little.

        1. I’m not sure there are issues. People act like burying nuclear waste is a terrible thing, but where did all that ore come from in the first place?

          The issue is there is so *little* waste that it’s not worth doing much else with it than just burying it – encouraging in investment in alternative waste-treatment tech requires there to be enough waste to sustain a long-term waste processing business.

  2. I have always failed to see how this can possibly work as an equation.

    Take a kilogram coal, a solid material made primarily of carbon.

    Or a kilogram of oil, a liquid made of mostly hydrogen and oxygen.

    Both these materials are full of covalent bonds. Breaking them and making smaller molecules of CO2 releases energy and, assuming 50% of the original material is carbon that converts, this leaves you with about 1.8 kilos of CO2.

    Which you then spread out into the sky. Then you have to have to recapture it, and concentrate it, a process that seems like it _has_ to use an amount of energy broadly comparable to what the original kilo of fossil fuel contained.

    Then you store it – where exactly? Do you pump it back into the ground as a supercritical liquid that takes even more space than the original material?

    Do you concentrate it back to carbon – taking even more energy and effectively giving yourself coal again?

    This just doesn’t seem to pencil out to me, it’s like producing ethanol from corn, it takes as much energy to do it as you’re replacing

    1. Energy is only an issue if you assume the energy to draw it back isn’t being harvested from waste/ or excess renewable energy sources (Nuclear perhaps as well) In those cases it is clearly a net gain, as the carbon cost of the energy is negligible (or required for other industry and now used more efficiently capturing the waste energy to power a sequestration process).

      Does seem that at the moment this field is almost all if not all snake oil salesman, taking money because being ‘green’ is now a money spinner, without actually really doing anything now. But the actual premise is sound, and within the right operation method and limits actually functionally beneficial – but you do have to use it right – no good saying we sequestered x KG of CO2 but the energy came from burning creating x+y CO2.

      So for instance I have a pretty small solar setup, and on those rare super sunny summer days here in the UK it can easily fill the battery and run everything with many many KWh to spare – as can every other solar array in the same area, so the grid doesn’t want all the extra either – that energy that would otherwise be wasted can be used usefully powering systems like this in theory.

      1. Consider for example, the manufacture of solar panels needs carbon to refine silicon, which is currently sourced from fossil fuels as this is the cheapest. This technology makes it possible to close the loop from solar power to solar power by producing the materials needed to re-make solar panels in a closed loop.

        1. Compared to steel that’s such a tiny amount, by the time all steel is being reduced by H2 they’ll find some way to reduce SiO2 without coal too.

          PS. assuming civilization lasts that long.

    2. Agreed. It is far more efficient to produce electricity with the nuclear and use that directly, and not burn the coal in the first place. The more steps a process has, the less efficient it is, since every step is less than 100% efficient. There are very few things that can’t be powered directly with electricity. The “this will never happen” case of electric airplanes is even making progress. I’ve been anti-nuclear for a long time, but the problems with nuclear power are technical issues, which are solvable.

      Carbon sequestration? Kicking the can down the road. So you create mountains of something very energy-dense. Which at the very best, our great-grandchildren will recognize as a nearly-free energy resource. Which seems bad.

      But maybe not – after society collapses and 99% of the human population is gone, it will be helpful for them to have cheap and easy energy. Win-win!

    3. Store it as methanol and stop pumping oil out of the ground… to make that work we just need to find catalysted that are efficient enough and progress is being made there.

      Once you stop pumping out of the ground, you have a way to fund carbon capture as well as a convenient liquid fuel source.

      1. If you stop pumping it out of the ground (to lower emissions) there is no way to transport ethanol to wherever you think it can be stored. Might as well make Coke and Pepsi. Just don’t open the cans. Carbon capture already has plans to store CO2 under pressure, but those locations are not large enough, never mind safe enough.

        1. CB88 is suggesting burning some of the captured carbon as a fuel, so even if you insist transport 100% must always be by burning shit, we can’t possible move anything any other way, which is clearly and definitively wrong (global trade of massive weights – like hundred ton slabs of glass, goes back before we even knew fossil fuels really exist – maybe humanity is aware there are some funny rocks that burn, but its well over a thousand years before any industrial revolution… and with the vast strides made in fuel cells, solar, battery, nice big ever more renewable electric grids powering trains that can get just about everywhere and even computer controlled hydraulic manipulated sail boats its not at all true now), you are still able to move crap around with your apparently almighty can’t possibly be done without ICE power train! You made fuel so you can use some of it to ship the rest around… Just instead of digging up million year old carbon to pollute the atmosphere with your taking carbon you stole from the atmosphere and made useful again instead (and remember the oil extraction and transport industries require vast amounts of energy to function too, and unlike making fuel from atmospheric carbon, which can be done with the inevitable excesses of power caused by spikes in more renewable powered grids its all dirty burning shit to extract more shit to burn…)

  3. The whole idea is absurd. The premise was that the electricity in Iceland was “green” to begin with because it is geothermal energy. … But, geothermal energy is created by injecting water into the hot rocks to create steams….and steams, and water vapor, aka as clouds… is actually the largest contributor as a Green House Warming gas. LOL

    1. You don’t have to release the steam into the air. That was a major innovation in steam engines back in the day: the condenser that recycles the water and improves the efficiency of the system by a factor of two.

    2. Clouds don’t really get generated in this method meaningfully, its going to mostly condense and remain water – and they don’t really count as a greenhouse gas, being very efficient at reflecting the suns rays back to space as well as very temporary they are not really worth worrying about – probably actually work out as a net cooling effect.

      1. That’s true, but I think you’re responding to a troll, or maybe just a precocious 12 year old. We might as well discuss how a global thermonuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter would give us much needed time to develop a permanent solution

        1. You may be correct, but I prefer to assume they are ignorant of some of the details and could use a pointer towards the truth (till it becomes clear they are just taking the piss I’d rather offer constructive points/ideas). As a youngster (or less educated adult) I could see how clouds equalling bad global warming is believable, as a cloudy night is very much warmer than a clear one, there is some logical reasoning to the idea.

        1. Plants are limited by the energy available from sun, and the concentration of CO2 around them.

          Greenhouses burn propane to keep the CO2 levels closer to 1000 ppm to speed up growth.

          1. Yeah, because it stores materials and energy in the root system and uses that to push up the flower stalk, which is hollow and the cells are expanded with water.

            The fastest growing plants employ the same strategy. Bamboo for example is just empty tubes.

          1. A dead tree can take decades to be consumed and decay – and much of its carbon content isn’t getting released at all – it ends up as part of healthy soil and other lifeforms, largely thanks to the actions of the bugs in its breaking down, and makes a great home for lots of rarer than they should be species (mostly ‘bugs’) in the process…

            Heck in the right places, mostly boggy landscapes trees don’t decay at all when they fall, you can find stumps in boggy bits and now flooded areas that are centuries old…

            To say their sequestration is temporary is vastly underselling them – yes some of them will be burned, but huge amounts of them won’t be, and even after they die that carbon isn’t magically back in the atmosphere much of it will end up very definitely locked into the living ecosystem..

            As Fred says the big problem with trees is us – human management of the forest as declined massively mostly in the last 70 odd years, but it was declining for ages before that. Biggest issues these days is even our ‘reforesting’ often seems to be in bloody neat rows of the same damn tree (usually a crap for the local ecology fast growing lumber producer) – where a well managed forest, as we historically did do is a more aless wild mix of tree coppiced, pollarded and felled in sensible pick the tree bits you want type ways – rather than the common turn forest in field logging methods… That provides huge amounts of resources, keeps the forest a healthy dynamic ecosystem full of ground plants and brush as well as the trees, and soaks up lots and lots of carbon in the process.

            Also what measure of CO2 stored is ‘enough to work’, or would you rather just pour petrol on the Earth rather liberally, light the match and play your fiddle while the world burns! Its a tech that in various places should be able to put a pretty massive amount of carbon back in the ground where it really should have stayed, no one site is going to magically fix a hundred years of fossil fuel abuse, but done right and deployed to all the various good sites for them a capture and bury store is part of putting things back towards what they should have been, which is a damn site faster than nature can do it on its own, even with help… (though as it stands I’m far from conviced any of these sites are really that sensibly used, or delivering even close to what they take advance payment for – but that is another issue entirely)

  4. Currently, we cannot efficiently remove carbon from the atmosphere. All the methods in the world if the worlds fossil fuel companies are allowed to bribe and lobby politician.

    What we need to do, is stop putting it there in the first place.

    My suggestions would be to implement this, ASAP.

  5. There’s a cheaper way: plant trees. When they mature, cut them down and bury them very, very deep.

    Don’t need any external power, no external care besides protecting them from being cut and stolen, and it’s more beautiful than those carbon capture stations.

    And with all those billions you can buy half a country…

    1. > The plant known as ‘Orca’ is intended to remove up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.
      > The plant cost on the order of $10-15 million US dollars to build.

      According to, an hectare of pinus trees can sequester 10 tons of carbon per year. You would need 400 hectares of them to equal Orca plant. A quick search on Google told me that in my country you can buy 400 hectares by less than 100K USD.

      Taking the lower estimate, you could buy a hundred times that in land and sequester a hundred times more carbon.

      1. If you buy up the land in Brazil around the Amazon, especially land that has been clear-felled for farming and is now useless after a few season’s growing, replant it with trees, they will grow even faster. Win-win.

        Then toss the logs into the rivers and catch them out at sea off the coast of Brazil, and sink them.

        But maybe better than using land, grow seaweed out at sea, as it doesn’t need fresh water either. (As I mentioned before)

      2. What about trees engineered to grow 5 times as tall?

        Can we make tree that grows like a dandelion, generates oxygen like a snake plant, and grows the size of redwoods?

        I’m all for GMO trees with benefits.

    2. >> plant trees. When they mature, cut them down and bury them very, very deep.

      No, don’t bury them, if you use them for fuel they become CO2, which can eventually become fast-growing trees and oxygen, which can eventually burn for fuel, which makes more CO2, etc, etc

      *Within the cycle* you get energy out, and all that energy comes from clean sunlight. It actually is carbon neutral, and the Earth has been doing it for a couple billion years.

      Problem is, it really doesn’t scale worth a damn.

  6. There are two things we need:

    1. A pollution tax (pollute X amount and pay Y dollars)
    2. A LOT more clean energy generation.

    With these two things in place then pulling carbon out the sky will make sense. The current focus should be on advancing the technology to be efficient as possible so that when conditions are right that it can take off.

    1. > A pollution tax

      Every human, who is still alive, permanently pollute atmosphere with CO2. So everybody will have to pay that tax. Who will receive that tax and on what ground? I missed something and there appeared some owners of air? Who are they? Please name that owners. I want to know who they are and how they take over the whole planet.

      PS: Carbon sequestration is automatic thing on Earth, if you are not aware. CO2 is a food for plants. They like it and consume with pleasure. And grow if there is a excess of CO2 in air. At some point there will be stable equilibrium in plants mass and CO2 pollution. Do you want your planet really green from pole to pole as it was in eocene? Let the CO2 levels rise to eocene ones. If you don’t want your planet really green from pole to pole, I’ll ask you – why? Why you want our planet continue to stay half dead?

    2. 1. Right. unfortunately how do you collect that tax when the world’s richest corporations won’t pay? Note: other than recent tech companies, the world’s richest companies are fossil fuel companies. You see the problem here?
      2. And what’s needed is nuclear power. “Clean” as in solar and wind and hydro are not going to be nearly enough, at least not with tech foreseeable available in the next 20 years. And for some pretty irrational reasons, much of the population of the Western world has rejected nuclear. Although it was our only hope.

    1. I agree, but with the note that it is not nuts to those who look to profit from government largesse driven by myopic voting blocks. It has worked out pretty well for Al Gore, for example.

    2. Reducing emissions takes no CO2 out. All that does is leave carbon in the ground in case we need it if the climate cools again. That’s the reason for CCS technology in the first place.

    3. Emissions are reducing far too slowly to meet even 3 degree projections in 2100. Assuming the climate models are accurate for a moment and those 3 degrees have to be met either sequestration or near total global civilization collapse are necessary, I’m leaning towards collapse being the most likely “solution”.

      1. The climate models have never been right. That’s why they continue to tweak them and adjust the tempertures put into them to make them go where THEY want them to go. . But, there is no way to capture and store enough CO2 to help anyhow.

        1. You can capture and store enough to help in many ways, and lots of little net gains all add up. Miles better than doing nothing, and thus making this screwup of our own making worse!!!

          Climate models are and have been for ages very good, you do get something very much like what happened out of the older models. But they are still models – predictions based on incomplete data (like China might actually give up on coal, collapse economically, cease trading with the USA, some volcanic or seismic activity might shift water currents and air content, the Luddites might take over a current industrialised co2 heavy nation etc so of course they are not perfect and need refinement to reflect an ever changing and not entirely predictable world! And that is if you don’t bother to consider at all the ever better number crunching potential means the models can and have got steadily more complex and accurate but of course that is tweaking them too.

          1. “You can capture and store enough to help in many ways, and lots of little net gains all add up. Miles better than doing nothing…”

            The technology, even scaled up, cannot even store one part-per-million of CO2. The viable alternative is to forget mitigation and go straight to adaptation. It can be done and must be done anyhow. Why wait on one ppm 30 years from now. The climate won’t even notice it.

          2. Seriously??? How the heck do you think adaptation can possibly work, if we take no mitigation steps the planet is on course to become Venus like pretty damn quick (read way way way too fast for anything to adapt to), and thus completely hostile to human life to the point of stupidity to even contemplate living on… And if we a species that is only really notable for our adaptability can’t hack it where do you think the rest of the flora and fauna will be?!?!?!?!?

            Adaptation to the changes that are coming is certainly going to have to happen, but not as part of avoiding mitigation of the mistakes we have been and still are making! It must come as part of correcting our previous errors and finding a balance where the natural world we so rely on, our environment can continue to survive (even if that is on life-support)!

            Also I’m not talking about this one tech alone, but the whole array carbon capture methods being put into practice, including the ones that basically are just stop buggering up an area and let nature do its thing – the sort of effort level I’m sure even you could manage… You stop adding to the net carbon by burning stuff that should have stayed buried at stupid rates and you don’t need half as much cleaning up…

          3. “Seriously??? How the heck do you think adaptation can possibly work, if we take no mitigation steps the planet is on course to become Venus like pretty damn quick…”

            Seriously???? What mitigation steps could possibly affect the climate today…not in 2050, but NOW? We can begin infrastructure adaptations now, and we will have to regardless. And can do it seriously…and cheaper. Get a grip on reality not on climate model forecasts.

          4. The mitigation isn’t about changing the climate magically NOW – its about keeping it in a state that life on this planet can continue in the future – so the work is being done for 2050 and beyond – if we do nothing to change our lifestyle, energy generation methods, thus controlling the greenhouse gas levels there is no future, all the many natural sources of sequestered greenhouse gasses start escaping at ever increasing rates (its happening right now with quite startling speed in some places) driving ever more rapid escapes, these changing conditions kill off most of the plants as they just are not able to adapt or migrate fast enough (again we are seeing it now), which means the atmosphere continues to decline at ever increasing rates – all of which drives more energy use by humans to counter the ever more hostile environment, which creates more greenhouse gasses, making the problem even worse – rapidly spiralling out of any semblance of control…

            If I pick up one bit of litter every time I leave the house (I’m sure with how messy the human race is that will never be too hard to do) by the end of my life its going to several tonnes of waste, even if I’m a shut in hermit – might seem insignificant at the time, but over the years of doing it that is a huge amount dealt with properly! Same thing here – if you sequester carbon, any carbon in a net gain type way by the time the plant has been running decades you have done a huge amount – perhaps completely offset your nations longer lasting dependence on natural gas for heating over that time for instance – so instead of your nation adding yet more tonnes of crap to the atmosphere you have perhaps even started to reverse that trend…

          5. Why do so many keep missing the point? It’s not about mitigation or the mechanisms, it’s about how much. When all of the combined efforts are put together not even one part-per-million can be captured and stored. One ppm of CO2 is 7,800 million metric tons. Do the math on what all the technologies can do per annum. Multiply it be 30 years. The IEA has estimated that by 2050 7,600 million tons would be needed to “save the planet”.

  7. Lowtechmagazine did a great article or two on making wind more sustainable by making it ‘worse’ – pointing out that you don’t have to use massive composite blades for the most part, but also about using it to directly heat water etc.

    For instance, a few others on there as well.

    Wind on the whole however isn’t a waste of resources at all – as its commonly done its a very very low carbon cost for the electricity produced (and can get better as more of the power required in production is generated by green sources), so dealing with the used blades is really the remaining issue with it (even just burning them in the end isn’t a big negative over the whole lifespan), and managing the supply to demand discrepancies the issue with a more carbon free power as a whole – even Nuclear has issues there, as it can’t be ramped up or down that fast…

  8. I am not convinced that removing both carbon and oxygen from the atmosphere is a very good idea if you are effectively fossilising it. There is no win-win for life on Earth in that equation. Just plant more trees, use wave power to drive desalination plants and pump the freshwater inland to arid areas to get forests restarted because once they are established they attract their own rain to a certain extent.

      1. We have a very good method of sequestering CO2 using plants, that works after the trees die: wood. If durable things like buildings are made from wood, and suitably sealed, they can hold onto their carbon content for many decades, even centuries. However, our culture does not have the infrastructure for recycling wood. Most demolished wood buildings just go into landfill, where the carbon sequestered there is released back into the atmosphere. But the best thing about building with wood is that we don’t dig up fossil fuels to grow trees; the trees suck CO2 right out of the air. So even if you do just throw away the old wood and let it rot, just by building with wood you are sequestering carbon. Even though technically plants are carbon-neutral, the longer we can hang on to things made of wood (or plants in general), the more we are sequestering, so at least while we are increasing the tonnage of wood in the world, it is effectively carbon-negative.

        1. But the best thing about building with wood is that we don’t dig up fossil fuels to grow trees; the trees suck CO2 right out of the air.

          I think you might have forgotten that growing trees or building anything requires those fossil carbon fuels that some enlightened political climatologists want to get rid of. Even biofuels are “bad”…they are 90% fossil.

  9. Are we seriously discussing the economics of extracting a few hundred ppm from the atmosphere and figuring out how to keep it underground when we could just leave stuff at around 990,000 ppm (i. e. coal) in the ground and not release the carbon via combustion in the first place?

    The resources used to make and run these sequestration plants at a meaningful scale annually would no doubt make a lot of solar panels, wind turbines and grid scale storage.

    1. Quite probably, and removing burning stuff now is definitely a winner, but eventually you have about as many of those renewable sources as you can fit and there is still 100 plus years of burning way way more than was sustainable, while massively deforesting as well just to make it worse, all floating around in the atmosphere – so research and development of such things makes sense. It also makes sense to try them now in the right way – there will always been spikes beyond the grid scale storage and current demand with renewable energy, having useful places to put that energy isn’t a bad thing.

    2. We can’t just leave billions of tons of fossil fuels in the ground. That’s exactly what they recommend in lowering CO2 emissions. We need carbon fuels for transportation. Solar and wind move nothing and require carbon fuels to construct and maintain them, Even the mining and refining of lithium for EV batteries can’t be done without fuel. Maybe the whole reason for this should be reconsidered?

  10. The real problem is oxidized carbon weighs too much. Even if these technologies were to store that 7,000 million tons off the coast of Iceland it represents less than one part-per-million of CO2. The climate wouldn’t even notice it. This technology is dead in the water…if global warming is the problem. Using CO2 under pressure for secondary oil recovery is viable.

  11. Tidal power appears to be unconsidered , the river Rance has had turbines that have run for years & no nasties lying round for hundreds of years. Twice a day regular as clockwork even if the sun dont shine . Water wheels are a neat option (, see the report on the Severn barrage), this would supply 20% of UK power (according to reported modelling). even more efficient when the ocean level rises

    1. That has always bothered me too, some great ideas for building ecologically rather good huge tidal generators around the UK, but the more militant green types can’t accept any change of ‘green’ land use – so what if you take a relatively common ecological niche around the UK and turn it into a tidal wetland/salt marsh type one (actually rather rare around the UK and generally considered rather good at soaking up carbon – while also having other useful by products and being good for species that should be much more common round the UK but are not for our buggering over the centuries – obviously you can go too far there, but not doing it at all is just plain stupid…).

      Obviously tidal doesn’t suit every nation – many of them are landlocked, and some that are not really don’t get much tide they can use. But it is a good dependable and importantly predictable generator of power that should be used much more than it is where it makes sense to do so.

      1. The “watermelon” sort of environmentalist (When they’re Green they’re Red) is against anything that improves human comfort, especially if it (oh horrors) makes anyone any profit. So they’re against things like wave/tide power, offshore wind, building photovoltaic solar on land that’s useless for anything of human benefit other than being a site for solar.

        But if solar or wind can be built in a place that’s annoying to humans, especially if that takes the land out of some agricultural use, they’ll be for it. They tend to be carrying many things of cognitive dissonance (AKA doublethink) in their brains, one being that cloven hooved ungulate livestock (ie cows) “destroy the land” while accepting that the herds of millions of bison were what created the grassland central plains of this continent. If millions of bison didn’t turn the center of the USA into a dust bowl, herds of a few hundred to a few thousand cattle won’t.

  12. There’s plenty of power plants spewing CO2 it should be easier and cheaper to capture it directly from the source.
    Florida did a pilot CO2 capture power plant, the CO2 was injected under the aquifer into the limestone bedrock.
    There it becomes part of the rock.
    Why let it go into the atmosphere where you have to discard 99%+ of the atmosphere you intake, remove it from the exhaust at the power plant. Already have the energy generation on site to power it.
    I’m guessing it cost too much and didn’t provide a benefit for the operation read that as cost $$$!
    Its pretty crazy to even have a coal power plant in a state thats so far away from any coal in the ground, can walk along any railway in FL and find coal littered on the tracks!
    Not many articles left online unless you really dig about the pilot CC power plant in FL and I think there was another somewhere else.

  13. The conversation around CO2 goes to wrong path. There are two issues carbon neutral economy aka closed loop carbon trade and the amount of carbon in the athmosphere. In accounting terms revenue and balance. Current talks about zeroing the revenue but does nothing for the balance. This tech has potential to reduce the balance and hence make permanent affect. Reducing emissions does nothing for the carbon already cycling in the athmosphere. It does not matter how small the reduction. Give it enough time and it will accumulate.

    1. Nature is a pretty effective CO2 scrubber – if we stop buggering it up enough for it do so, so while I do mostly agree the ‘balance’ as you put it will come down over time on its own if nature is given a chance to do so and the current emission are not greater than nature can process.

      Which is not to say I don’t think more needs doing than just reducing the output, but given time nature will sequester most of the carbon away if given the chance.

      1. Yes, Nature will take care of it. But, reducing the output means removing the fuels needed for transporting things. We have already seen what lowering travel emissions did to the economies as a result of the pandemic travel lockdowns. It wasn’t good. Trying to start it up again would only make it worse. Trying to capture and store it??? Not without those same fuels. As I said earlier, maybe it’s time to revisit why we are doing this? Climate model forecasts?

        1. That folks aren’t travelling is related to the lockdown, but it doesn’t follow that folks travelling less, or via better methods does the same thing to an economy as telling vast numbers of workers to not do any work!!!

          So travel emission went down because of lock downs sure, but not so directly related to the economic impact – the lockdown is really all that counts there – as guess what when nobody is going into work, much work doesn’t get done, and its that work that makes the economy! Lots of things can’t be done work from home at all, and for those stuck at home with their kids etc the productivity is going to drop when they try to work from home – there is pretty much all the initial economic hit right there.

          To be followed by the chaos all the lockdowns and shutdowns have had on various industries and the ‘just in time’ supply network most industries rely on – when half way round the globe widget A isn’t being made and you need them your hooped, and for the widget maker when the demand dropped dramatically because halfway round the world your customers are shutdown so not using any you end up in trouble too, or tooled up and producing something else with no time to slot your old customer back in if your lucky – it will all tidy up eventually when the pandemic recedes into just another illness to take little notice of and supply and demand start working their magic globally.

          We really don’t need fossil fuels for transport, we certainly don’t need remotely as much as we use – I accept not every user is well suited to the current crop of Battery EV, and much haulage doesn’t suit either, but for a vast proportion it would be fine – and that means largely if not entirely fossil fuel free powered transit for them.

          Also very helpful if you can get folks to take trains over drive, vastly more efficient, often faster, and you get to spend the commute in a hopefully more relaxed state..

          ALL fossil fuels are is currently well established, with all that marketing and history of use trying to get you to buy into it being the only way, you need that big V8 etc – in truth we don’t NEED any of them any more, even industries like Steel production can now be done without – so we should only be using them when it really makes sense.

          Steel production is perhaps one that it does still make sense to keep using fossil fuel, you need all the energy to get it hot, and carbon sources anyway. But there is no need to stick to fossil fuels for everything in general and hasn’t been for quite some time, the only justification for still using them for most nations, industries and individuals is that their current vehicle/power station/factories are still good and getting the replacement up and running takes time and money – rare is an actually good fact driven argument for why fossil fuels should stay more than short term now – everything should be being replaced by ‘greener’ options as they come up for replacement (though some good cases to keep using fossil fuels and/or synthetic ‘direct’ replacement do exist, in very specific areas).

          1. “We really don’t need fossil fuels for transport.” How do you envision mining and refining the lithium needed for EVs? Getting the batteries to the places where they will be used without carbon fuels (biofuels or conventional fuels) used in the vehicles needed?

          2. Like making a solar panel it took energy to start with, but once you have the solar panel its output can be used for the next panel and so on – you don’t need fossil fuel at all, its just convenience/inertia that keeps you using whatever you were using – the ball is already rolling on EV more than enough for the batteries for other EV to be mined by battery EV – and remember EV isn’t just battery powered anyway – that is just the most available replacement for consumer cars.

            Also JCB (if memory serves – its one of the bigger makers, maybe even more than one now) actually make an entirely electric digger that is supposed to be good for a whole day of work, and much nicer to use. Plus onsite office and generator things that are not ICE generator driven – even the heavier site vehicles, boats etc don’t need carbon fuels – infact they are probably better off electric as most of them will want torque and electric motors are really good for that – some of them already are electric motors powered via ICE – so skipping that energy conversion step is actually a good thing…

            The infrastructure to step entirely off fossil fuels for bascially everything isn’t there yet, and there is no point wasting a perfectly good ‘new’ ICE powered machine just because it is ICE powered – but there is very very little need to build new ones – phasing in of better tech happens all the time for many reasons, and this is a damn good reason…

      2. Sure, given enough time, but If we stop increasing the amount of CO2 right now, it would probably still take nature couple of million years to convert CO2 back to coal and crude oil. Biomass is only a short term solution as it will release the CO2 back to athmosphere sooner than later. It will burn or decompose eventually.
        This might sound pessimistic but me have lost the race already as the amount energy required to permanently bound CO2 is more than the amount of easy energy released by burning up hydrocarbons. On order to handle this we should be able to allocate huge amount of energy for carbon recapture while maintaining urban civilisation. Not going to happen…

        1. You don’t have to convert it to coal and crude – biomass can be extremely long lived – look at the truly ancient peat areas releasing all their carbon now they are getting destroyed by climate change – nature can’t magically put such a long period of fossil abuse back underground, or probably hold all that excess carbon created, but there are huge natural carbon sinks that do last if you don’t destroy them, and nature can add huge masses of carbon stored in pretty much permanently static ways though them given some time, and very very long store carbon cycles more immediately if the ecosystem can survive. Which we have to hope, with lots of effort changing lifestyle to net zero (and beyond), with help of carbon capture techs makes possible…

          1. Foldi-one I don’t think you really understand any of this. Bioenergy is not permanent. The carbon cycle will see to that. And you don’t seem to understand what Net-zero implies…

            What is net zero?
            Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
            Achieving it will involve reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and balancing out any that remain by removing an equivalent amount.”

            It’s that last part that is the problem and why this carbon sequestration scheme is so hopeless. Last year the “equivalent amount” was 38-40 BILLLION tons. Do the math on that by 2050.

          2. Bio stored carbon can be as near as damn it permanent – thanks to human driven global warming we are causing the release of stuff stored before the dawn of our bloody species!!! And a carbon cycle is fine too, if you increase the volume stored as anything but greenhouse gas so the climate remains stable – so as trees, soil, peat, wooden constructions you can accommodate a vastly greater volume of carbon in the cycle – its not the total carbon in the system that matters at all, only how much of it is playing greenhouse at the time! And there is vast scope for more biomass.

            This scheme and all the longer term carbon store schemes are far from hopeless, as everyone stops being so bloody wasteful, closes the loop with things like synthetic fuels/diamonds etc eventually the permanent store systems starts to make headway on more permanent removal – and it really doesn’t matter if it never actually make progress in reducing the total in the carbon cycle, its still worth it as the process has reduced the massive excess over that period – if you do nothing that’s yet another x years worth you could have buried left up there, and because it was left up there it contributed yet more to the global warming effect, thus harmed the natural worlds ability to retain its carbon, let alone capture more – so actually most likely caused yet more to be released rather than stored, and certainly lowered the effectiveness of natures carbon scrubber!

            IF you assume folks will actually start to get towards the carbon neutral as quickly as many nations and large companies are setting out – within the decade, then “equivalent amount” won’t be 38 Billion ton, it won’t even be close to that, heck by 2050 you are probably well into fixing the fuckup of our own making overall putting carbon back in the ground where it should have stayed… If we get there or not is somewhat debatable, but to put it in context the UK has dropped from its 1990’s carbon output for energy to something getting on for half as much now, and that trend can and should continue.

          3. That is nonsense. Simply because if we try to reach zero or even Net-zero CO2 emissions we will have no fuel for transportation. No need for refineries. If that were to take place it won’t matter who does what to whom..or how many trees are planted. That process needs carbon fuel also.

  14. Phasing in means phasing out. It takes time. Without fuels for transportation, especially food and other essentials. Those ICE powered vehicles are the only thing that can do it. Then finding out what to do with them when there are no fuels will require a bit more lithium. The Chinese are locking down those natural resources. The climate will have moved on and CO2 will probably be around 500 ppm by then. CCS will have still been unable to take out one ppm.

    1. ICE-powered vehicles are the only thing that can do it? Tell that to Rivian, who is building electric transport vehicles as fast as they can. The world is changing quickly, and even the rate of change is increasing. Try to keep up – we’re in for a ride.

      1. ICE powered vehicles now, today, are the only things that can transport food and essentials or the materials needed to capture large amounts of CO2 (and the pipelines) to those many geological storage locations. The ride will not be pleasant if carbon fuels are removed to zero emissions by 2050???

  15. Lmfao the idea that you’re giving this even a smidgen of credibility is laughable. This will never happen. We have no reason to believe it will ever be possible this is just and excuse for boomers to keep being boomers

  16. First, generate energy without Carbon footprint. Solar and Nuclear are most viable. Wind and wave generation will have effects on the climate if deployed in the amounts needed to displace the fossil fuel we need to limit using.

    Second, Plant a bunch of trees, and keep planting. When they grow to useable size, harvest them, and use them for construction. Preferably using composite techniques to keep the material good for decades. Fix the housing problem around the world.

    Third, rinse and repeat.

    Note, I do NOT think that petrochemicals should be removed from our energy infrastructure completely. We have 100 years of experience with internal combustion engines, they’re getting better and less polluting all the time. Gasoline and diesel propel vehicles very efficiently. They can be transported safely. We know how to make things go with Gas and Diesel!!

    If we resolve to slowly move over to electric vehicles for commuting, and deploy electric vehicles where it makes sense, there’s no reason we need to remove gasoline and diesel from the mix immediately, or continue to vilify them as some do. Hybrids are a good alternative.

    I am deeply concerned that the knee jerk reaction to the climate issue will make things worse, not better. When you can show me that the batteries in electric vehicles can be recycled, or disposed of safely and economically I’ll be more comfortable, but the mining of the materials to make these batteries, and their effect on the environment if disposed of incorrectly could make Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere seem like a cake walk when we’re poisoning ourselves in other ways.

    We should do all we can to become clean. We should use zero emission energy sources where it makes sense to do so, but to think that we’re going to solve this in 10 years is a roadmap to disaster. Do the right things, take it carefully, going fast where it does no harm, and show that we can control the atmosphere of our planet if we choose to do so.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to change weather patterns by using Atmospheric Engineering? That should be the goal.

    And for the love of all that’s sacred, stop building like crazy out in California. They cause 80% of their own issue and blame everyone else on the planet. Just insane that bunch.

    1. Oh, and to the original post material…

      This verkakte thing is snake oil. If you need that many plants running to make a dent there’s no amount of energy in the world that will do anything of consequence.

      This method of carbon sequestration is snake oil. Don’t buy into it.

  17. “While carbon capture and sequestration is a great idea in theory, in practice it’s simply not there yet.” Quote from above article..
    Have you ever heard of pyrolysis and black-carbon sequestration?
    Burying charcoal and biochar would help farmers improve the soil, increase their crop quality and reduce the carbon in the atmosphere.

    Instead of paying a corporation to make 400,000 new plants to blow smoke and mirrors with little return, the world could have more crops and trees awhile using a process we’ve used from the dawn of human kind.
    The Amazonians have been making “Terra preta” for thousands of years with charcoal and is why their soil is so rich.
    Maybe pitch it to Jeremy Clarkson for his farm show, so that the process take on a bigger role with farmers?

    1. Large amounts of the jungles of South America aren’t natural. It was grassland then humans fertilized it with charcoal for crops. They made the charcoal from the fast growing trees that kept trying to grow all over the farmland. The more they fertilized, the faster the trees would’ve moved in.

      When their civilizations began collapsing, trees and other plants took over the rich but thin soil. When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived, the ancient civilizations were already in their end years. The Europeans gave the final push.

      Even with hundreds to a thousand years or so of growth, death, and decay, the jungle soil still wasn’t very thick so slash and burn only gives a few years of good farming. The farmland needs deep tilling and fertilizing to be able to be made more productive while cutting back in area. After every harvest, till the crop waste into the soil a meter down. Eventually that will make rich soil that can hold a large amount of water and the annual tilling will cycle the nutrients around while ensuring oxygen penetrates deep to ensure the plant matter decays.

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