Mind the gap: will slow progress on carbon dioxide storage undermine net zero by 2050?

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Geoengineering News

May 27, 2023, 6:35:51 AM5/27/23
to CarbonDiox...@googlegroups.com


Andrew James Cavanagh, Mark Wilkinson, R. Stuart Haszeldine 

19 May 2023




A global path to net zero requires the permanent storage of carbon dioxide to reduce and remove atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. We present an analysis of the gap between the CO2 storage required to meet net zero targets and the slow maturation of regional storage resources. We estimate that European storage rates need to increase 30-to-100x by 2030 to meet net zero by 2050. China and North America face a similar challenge. The slow global progress of CO2 storage undermines the latest IPCC, IEA, and EU transition pathways to net zero by 2050. These pathways imply a radically increased demand for carbon capture and storage and negative emission technologies, NETs, contributing 500 of 700 megatonnes of CO2 removal annually by 2050. Here, we investigate if sufficient storage can be developed in time. China (30%), North America (15%) and Europe (10%) dominate global emissions. We choose to analyse Europe as a data-rich exemplar. Assuming net zero in 2050, we back-calculate the storage required under three scenarios of low, medium, and high CCS demand. Even the low demand scenario requires 0.2 Gt of storage by 2030, increasing to 1.3 Gt by 2050. The moderate and high demand scenarios require 5-to-8 Gt by 2050. The current storage rate in Europe is 0.001 Gt/yr. There is a huge gap between policy demand and storage supply. Adaptation of existing hydrocarbon technology has the potential to close this gap, with CCS for the entire EU requiring less than half the historic rate of hydrocarbon exploration and development in the UK North Sea from 1980 to 2010. Counter to expectation, storage cannot be delivered by exponential growth but requires an early and sustained investment of 30-to-50 boreholes per year starting before 2030 to build sufficient capacity. A five-year lead-time to identify and mature prospects needs policy intervention before 2025. Continued policy deferral will lock Europe into a low CCS pathway that restricts the contribution of NETs at a potential cost of €100 billion for every gigatonne delayed beyond 2050. North America and China require similar policy intervention to close the gap on CO2 storage and net zero.


Net Zero, European Green Deal, carbon capture and storage, CCS, CO2 storage, Greenhouse gas emissions, Energy Transition, 2050

Source: Earth ArXiv

Michael Hayes

May 27, 2023, 2:33:26 PM5/27/23
to Andrew Lockley, Carbon Dioxide Removal
Dear Andrew L, et al.,

The point of this paper is to show that the EU likely does not have enough well space for meaningful storage of CO2. I enjoyed reading this well done work, yet the EU likely now needs to look at utilization as their best CDR path.

From a technical view, well owners likely simply wish to foster well storage as a critical technical need for profit reasons as well storage is not actually a critical technical need.

1) Thermal cracking of concentrated CO2 can be done with nothing more technically challenging than a solar concentrator.

2) Conversion of CO2 into useful products is a wide open and rapidly growing technical field:

3) On the socioeconomic side, paying well owners for gas storage when the gas can be used for critical resources production, ie water and biomass, likely does represent the grossest form of moral hazard in the CDR field.

As this paper tries to demonstrate, some regions simply do not have the capacity for meaningfull volumes of well storage, and thus utilizing the gas for socioeconomic reasons is likely the best overall CDR path for most such reagions as utilization technologies can be deployed universally. 


How to make water and biomass using CO2:


Best regards to all.

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Roger Arnold

May 27, 2023, 11:36:43 PM5/27/23
to Carbon Dioxide Removal
The phrase "slow progress on carbon dioxide storage" bothers me. It's not wrong, exactly, but the frame is misleading. The implication is that storage of CO2 is a scientific or technical challenge that we're making only slow progress toward solving. From a scientific and technical perspective, however, there is no problem. Between old oil and gas fields, deep saline aquifers, and deep offshore sediment deposits, there is ample capacity to safely store all of the CO2 we could ever capture. The problem is transporting the CO2 from where it's captured to where it will be stored.

The only practical way to transport large amounts of CO2 over long distances is by pipeline. And new CO2 pipelines are beginning to attract the same kind of organized opposition as new oil and gas pipelines. Or nuclear power plants. It doesn't help that a CO2 pipeline recently had its own "Chernobyl incident".

In February of 2020, after weeks of rainfall, a landslide severed a pipeline carrying liquid CO2 near the town of Satartia, Mississippi. The severed pipeline spewed CO2 for an estimated 4 hours before the pipeline was shut down by its operators. CO2 levels near the site of the rupture got so high that car and truck engines wouldn't run. Many individuals passed out from low oxygen levels, and dozens were hospitalized with CO2 poisoning. There was apparently enough air mixed in with the CO2 that none of the individuals who had passed out died, but many suffered neurological damage. An account of the incident was recently published here

It's easy to say, in retrospect, that the accident should never have happened -- or rather that it should never have been as bad as it was. It's easy to equip gas transmission pipelines with automatic shutoff valves every few miles. Activated by the drop in pipeline pressure near a rupture, the valves would totally arrest the flow of gas from a ruptured pipeline within minutes. Four hours to halt the flow is ridiculous. But the pipeline was old and unregulated. We can't very well guarantee that earthquakes and landslides will never rupture another CO2 pipeline in the future, but we can guarantee that if it happens, the results will not be catastrophic.

Unfortunately, that's a rational argument that cuts no ice with opponents. They oppose CCS and CO2 pipelines for emotional reasons detached from the actual magnitude of risks. One of the chief arguments in favor of DAC is that it allows the CO2 capture site to be co-located with the sequestration site. Opponents will still find reasons to oppose it, but co-location at least takes the pipeline issue out of play.
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