Is Carbon Capture the Horse DeWormer of Climate Change?

August 27, 2021

Financial Times (Paywall):

The US oil and gas pipeline industry is looking for new opportunities to lay steel in the ground with pipes that carry the carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are burnt.  The midstream energy sector has clashed with climate campaigners who oppose pipeline projects as infrastructure that locks in greenhouse gas emissions.

Wall Street is pushing the industry to show how it will adapt to demands for a lower-carbon world.  In response, pipeline operators are pointing to their potential as a link in carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems, in which CO2 emissions are trapped in underground reservoirs where they can be kept out of the atmosphere. Pipelines would move CO2 from industrial flues to the reservoirs. 

“It’s hard to see how climate objectives are met without pretty widespread carbon capture and sequestration,” Steven Kean, chief executive of Kinder Morgan, one of the largest US pipeline companies, recently told analysts. “We think we’ve got the expertise on the pipeline side of it.”  The US already has about 5,150 miles (8,300km) of CO2 pipelines. The network is tiny compared with the national web of oil and gas pipes, but it is the largest in the world.

They are mostly clustered around the Permian Basin oilfields of west Texas, where CO2 is injected into wells to squeeze out stubborn crude oil deposits. Revenue derives from selling the gas and claiming a federal tax credit worth $35 for each tonne of carbon put underground. But future growth hinges on far more widespread deployment. Pipes would funnel CO2 exhaust from emitters such as power plants, cement factories and oil and biofuel refineries to underground sites in some cases hundreds of miles away. 

François Poirier, chief executive of pipeline company TC Energy, recently told analysts that a “fundamental aspect” of the CCS industry was “the ability to store and transport a molecule, which is, of course, our core business”. TC Energy is best known as developer of the now-cancelled Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, a target of environmentalists. The business opportunity is potentially immense.

A July report from the Biden administration’s Council on Environmental Quality said that a CCS industry large enough to help meet the country’s goal of “net zero” emissions by 2050 could require 68,000 miles of new CO2 pipelines at a cost of as much as $230bn. That is roughly comparable to US liquid fuel pipeline mileage built since 2000, a boom time for the oil industry.

21 Responses to “Is Carbon Capture the Horse DeWormer of Climate Change?”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    So the solutions are:

    Radically reduce energy use through efficiency and wiser lives. (Since the poor need to hugely increase their energy use to have decent lives, the rich* will have to even hugerly reduce theirs. Lives are going to change. If you’re constitutionally unable to help with that, shut up and get out of the way. If you’re willing to help, organize, protest, boycott, blockade, impeach, and elect people who will take meaningful steps to accomplish all this. Progressives.

    Electrify primary energy and provide all electricity with clean safe renewable energy by 2030. This step alone will reduce all current non-electric energy use by 50% right off, btw.

    Switch from chemical industrial agriculture to small-scale low-meat organic permaculture, by 2030.

    Plant as many complex, natural, healthy forests, grasslands, and wetlands as possible. Keep the ones we have.

    Eliminate other GHGs by basing all human endeavors on the Precautionary Principle and reevaluating all existing industries and processes to switch to ecological forms of production: circular, benign, biomimicing industry.

    All of this will take large amounts of money, comparable only to the amounts we’ve given away to rich people and established, profitable global industries to help them…well, I don’t know what, but I’m sure it was important. We’ve colonized most of the world, neo-colonized the rest, including the air, so developing countries can no longer develop using the extractive, exploitive methods and mindset the rich used. This “differential responsibility” for the climate crisis has been a major point of contention since long before Paris, and only the continued neo-colonial dominance by the rich allowed the Paris agreement to be at the same time so trumpeted as a success and be such an actual failure and a scam. Coming out of that, the US pledged $2 billion and has paid 1 to the supposedly $100 billion/yr Green Climate Fund. That should be increased to something on the order of $20 trillion from the US over the next 10 years, matched by other rich countries, and targeted to helping recipient countries leapfrog over the fossil fuel/poison agriculture/extractive logging era right to the age of renewables.

    *Globally rich, that is. If you have 4 things—a roof, a bed, clothes in a closet and food in a refrigerator—you have more than 85% of people in the world have. Since you’re reading this you undoubtedly have a lot more than just those 4 things, and are probably part of the richest 5-7% of humanity, a group that emits more than 40% of GHGs.

    Efficiency should be targeted, at least for initial changes, to those people, places, buildings, machines and times causing the most damage.

    With just 15% of the world’s population, developed countries have been responsible for 58% of human-caused greenhouse gases.

    Of course that doesn’t begin to show the inequality of effects in the world; there are many poor people in the rich countries—in the US anyway—who ”bring down its average”. Narrowing it down to just the rich people in the rich countries would show even more inequality of harm. (Rich people in poor countries have relatively tiny effects.)


    Preliminary Analysis Reveals 4% Of Los Angeles Buildings Use 50% Of Electricity

    A note about trees:
    Pioneer species—(which they are depend on the local climate and ecology, but alders, poplars, birches, willows and pines are typical) tend to be short-lived but grow fast (sequestering carbon) and can be harvested and used, and replaced with slower-growing but denser, longer-lived types (Firs, redwoods, oaks, maples…) Although research shows individual trees continue sequestering carbon faster as they age, with no apparent limit, the same is not clear about forests, although it’s not clear that it’s not true, either.

    Forests go through succession, stages of development in which each stage causes its own demise (pioneer species grow where there’s lots of sunlight but their adults shade out their offspring) and leads to the next stage until that’s no longer true and you get what’s called a climax stage. Until something burns, tears, or cuts it down or swallows it into the earth, or the sea, or a river. Or kills it with pollution. And except for when the pollution thing happens, it all starts over.

    Permaculture is a method of food, fiber, medicine, material, and etc. production that uses succession, instead of fighting it like annual commodities-based chemical-industrial ag does. To have your mind blown like Tony Seba might have in other realms, read the first part of volume 1 of Edible Forest Gardens by Jacke and Toensmeier about the secret life of forests. To learn about how succession is used to increase variety, yield, resilience, and fun, keep reading. I loved the section on patches. Wood used in houses and well-made durable furniture is sequestered, as is biochar, and both are useful ways to get another benefit from the process.

    Also consider…
    Pando, a quaking aspen in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. It’s actually about 47,000 trunks, grown from one common (male) root system, covering 108 acres and weighing about 6,600 tons. Similarly connected fig & other trees exist; at least one in India has a village of 5000 under it, but Pando is both the biggest and oldest known organism. The carbon sequestered in and by its roots is incalculable.

    Edible Forest Gardens
    By Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier, published by Chelsea Green 2005.

    Volume One (Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture) lays out the concept of food-producing gardens that mimic the structure and functions of the forest.

    Volume Two (Ecological Design and Practice for Temperate Climate Permaculture) is a handbook for designing and planting forest gardens, including information on over 600 useful trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines for cold climates.

    • redskylite Says:

      I like the fact you are outlining action and solutions and thinking positively, yes we certainly will exceed the 1.5°C and probably the 2°C mark as well, and struggle like hell to get back below again. I just hope humanity never tries the solar geoengineering ideas as they are more likely to make things far worse. I’m certainly in agreement with your forest and trees statements, I wish more people had taken the rainforest movements of the later 80’s more seriously.

      Marine forests kelp, mangroves and seagrass also need protection as they are as important, if not more so, than land forests.

      We also need to keep up with research on other means including rocks such as olivine/basalts and atmospheric scrubbing, as natural methods will need assistance. No single method is sufficient, it will require every skill we can deploy in harmony and then some more. I have long term hopes for nuclear fusion too. It will be grim especially for the poor in the tropics, but if enough people show the will to fight the curse we have wrought on our planet, then we can change the future.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

        I usually don’t say ‘mangroves’, out of belated desire for brevity, but I always think it. Trees, grass, and swamps, all important. Playing with rocks seems pointlessly small and no amount of research can remove the unknowns for most geoengimagicalism, which could be catastrophic even if reg’lar climate change isn’t. But it probably won’t cost much to research it, and I’m OK with that as long as it’s done in absolute beyond-Manhattan Project level secrecy, so no one even in congress can use it as an excuse to do more nothing. Or maybe especially in congress.

        Not saying this about you, but the all-of the-above argument is usually a sneaky way to get tacit approval for something the all-of the-abover knows the askee doesn’t approve of, usually either fossils (mostly gas) or far more often, nukes of various persuasions. But the nukes we have suck, the nukes we don’t have don’t exist and so are unlikely to reduce emissions significantly. And if they ever do exist, they’ll suck too. I get the bigmanlymachine bias, the desire to conquer the universe in every way possible to act out things and make up for things, even coming from those who just absorbed it from the culture like tofu. But this is no time to indulge unmet psychological needs. We have to get on with the work of eliminating GHGs now. It’s not about when we arrive at zero and then negative emissions; it’s shrinking the area under the curve that matters.

        Nuclear fusion is not something that will come soon or cheap. It can’t possibly matter in time. Research for it will take resources away from researching things both cheap and immediate—batteries, solar improvements, batteries, floating offshore wind, and more important, simply funding clean safe renewable energy, EVs, permaculture, reforestation…

        But the ultimate problem is that we don’t have the money because rich people and corporations hog it all, and their disease is making them use it to prevent solutions. We need to increase the whole climate solution research budget by about 500 times, but in the end we’re stuck with pretty much the tech we have. Unless we massively and immediately use it—efficiency, wiser lives, onshore and offshore wind, solar PV, solar CSP, clothesline paradox solar, hydro, micro-hydro, geothermal, some biomass and tidal, ag and forest sequestration… research won’t help. This is a political and therefore psychological crisis, and only solutions to those will allow us to solve the logistical GHG crisis.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:


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