BIENT: CO2 Sequestration: Is Burying CO2 Safe?

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In summary, there is a big move in the fossil fuel industry to sequester CO2 in the Earth as a solution to the problem of green-house gas emissions. The reliability of burying CO2 to prevent it from entering the atmosphere is questionable as a release could be an environmental and human disaster. However, it has been used on a smaller scale for years to re-pressurize oil and natural gas fields. There is also concern about the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere, but it is unlikely to be a significant issue. Overall, sequestering CO2 may not be a reliable or effective long-term solution.
  • #1
Andrew Mason
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There is a big move in the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal, to solve the problem of green-house gas emissions by sequestering CO2 in the Earth in geological formations that are believed to be stable. This gives rise to a number of questions to which I would like to see comments, particularly from regular posters to this board.

1. Is burying CO2 really a reliable way to prevent it from entering the atmosphere? Since a concentration of 5% CO2 will kill a human being, and since CO2 is heavier than air, a release of CO2 from one of these storage seams could be an environmental and human disaster.

2. Since we would be burying an O2 with each C, we would be permanently depleting the atmosphere of Oxygen as well. In the normal carbon cycle, this O2 would make its way back into the atmosphere eventually. Not so if it is buried. What are the environmental implications of this? I have not seen any mention of this anywhere.

AM
 
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  • #2
What can I say.

First of all, there are a number of people, who still think that also greenhouse gasses should follow physical laws and due to saturation effects an increase of global temperature due to a higher concentration of CO2 is very small. Therefore the current warming should have another cause, be it anthropogenic or natural. Possible candidats are:

- decadal scale changes in cloud cover (albedo) which are actually measured.

- decadal to century scale solar activity governing cloud forming, (phytoplankton seems to do the same: http://www.physorg.com/news82115682.html )

- High troposphere water vapor due to aviation

- Albedo land change.

Next, CO2 of course is the most basic building block of life, the fuel for photo synthesis. As the element carbon is cycling in the biosphere, large amounts are semi permanently tied to calcium oxide forming limestone rocks. Therefore the amount of available carbon tends to decrease until some catastrophe (Vulcano or so) recycles the limestone back to CO2 and calcium. So carbon dissapears naturally and in doing so reduces the available biomass. Therefore, speeding up that process by sequestering CO2 will once be known as the singlemost stupid action ever.

But it's happening already for years on a smaller scale. It's used to re-pressurize oil and natural gas fields, and increase the production of thouse fossil fuels. Oil industries will probably have nice dreams of doing that for their own production process and being paid for it as well.

I don't think that the dangers are bigger than natural releases of CO2 that happen every once and a while.
 
  • #3
Andrew Mason said:
(snip)1. Is burying CO2 really a reliable way to prevent it from entering the atmosphere?

No.

Since a concentration of 5% CO2 will kill a human being, and since CO2 is heavier than air, a release of CO2 from one of these storage seams could be an environmental and human disaster.

No.

2. Since we would be burying an O2 with each C, we would be permanently depleting the atmosphere of Oxygen as well.

No.

In the normal carbon cycle, this O2 would make its way back into the atmosphere eventually. Not so if it is buried.

No.

What are the environmental implications of this?

None.
 
  • #4
Bystander said:
No. No. No. No. No.
None.
So are you saying that oxygen is not removed from the atmosphere or that it is not a problem because there is so much of it?

And why would not a release of CO2 be a concern to human safety? Is it because it would not escape quickly or because it would not result in unsafe concentrations?

AM
 
  • #5
Andrew Mason said:
So are you saying that oxygen is not removed from the atmosphere or that it is not a problem because there is so much of it?

I'm saying that it's unwise to marry the "all atmospheric oxygen is derived from photosynthesis" model that has become a cornerstone of grade school Earth science.

And why would not a release of CO2 be a concern to human safety? Is it because it would not escape quickly or because it would not result in unsafe concentrations?

Both. There are no gas tight formations that are permeable enough to be used for storage; they'll be leaking like sieves, carbonating ground water, blowing sand in the air ten miles away, cracking foundations, and being enough a general nuisance to keep the ABA fully employed for centuries.
 
  • #6
Bystander said:
I'm saying that it's unwise to marry the "all atmospheric oxygen is derived from photosynthesis" model that has become a cornerstone of grade school Earth science.
So what is wrong with the theory that the carbon in the ground came from higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere? What other explanation is there?

Both. There are no gas tight formations that are permeable enough to be used for storage; they'll be leaking like sieves, carbonating ground water, blowing sand in the air ten miles away, cracking foundations, and being enough a general nuisance to keep the ABA fully employed for centuries.
This is an interesting comment. Data from injecting CO2 into the oil reservoirs in southern Saskatchewan shows that the CO2 increases the concentration of bicarbonate and this causes a dramatic increase in concentration of CO2 in the ground- apparently a 10 fold increase. I am not sure what this means. But if by injecting CO2 into the ground we are actually increasing by 10 fold the amount of CO2 that could leak out of the ground, I am thinking this may not be a good idea.

AM
 
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  • #7
I think that most of the CO2 slated for sequestration is the same gas being released by mining and drilling, so I don't think there's much reason to fear depletion. We're not talking about taking the naturally-occurring carbon out of the air, only reducing the rate at which we are artificially adding carbon to the air.
 
  • #8
LURCH said:
I think that most of the CO2 slated for sequestration is the same gas being released by mining and drilling, so I don't think there's much reason to fear depletion. We're not talking about taking the naturally-occurring carbon out of the air, only reducing the rate at which we are artificially adding carbon to the air.
Well the idea is to use the CO2 produced by burning coal or other fossil fuels and put it into the ground rather than the atmosphere.

AM
 
  • #9
Ah yes. So the CO2 being put into the ground is the same that is being taken out of the ground and released into the air by man. So the same principle applies, the CO2 being put into the ground will not create a change in the atmosphere, it will only minimize the change that is being caused by mining the carbon and burning it for fuel.
 
  • #10
LURCH said:
Ah yes. So the CO2 being put into the ground is the same that is being taken out of the ground and released into the air by man. So the same principle applies, the CO2 being put into the ground will not create a change in the atmosphere, it will only minimize the change that is being caused by mining the carbon and burning it for fuel.
Except that the CO2 being put in the ground includes the O2 that was taken from the atmosphere. So not only is the C being removed from the biosphere in being reinterred, oxygen is being removed.

It appears that no one has been looking at the long term effect of removing O2 from the atmosphere.

If the primordial atmosphere was rich in CO2, as the current scientific consensus seems to be (I don't know how else one could explain the enormous amount of fossil carbon in the earth), our current abundance of O2 comes from the capture (and subsequent interrment) of the C and the release of the O2 from the CO2into the atmosphere (by photosynthesis).

If we were to burn all of the fossil carbon and introduce the CO2 back into the atmosphere we would recreate the primordial atmosphere. But if, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere, we were to sequester the CO2 in the earth, we would be reducing the total quantity of gases (ie oxygen) in the atmosphere. I don't see how this can be a sustainable solution.

AM
 
  • #11
Two tons of atmospheric oxygen per square meter of Earth's surface implies how much reduced carbon (methane, elemental carbon, cellulose) per square meter? The biological origin of oxygen in the atmosphere gets a little tough to defend once you do the mass balance. Explains the amount of work being done on atmospheric evolution. There are no conclusions from which to go leaping to conclusions.
 
  • #12
Bystander said:
Two tons of atmospheric oxygen per square meter of Earth's surface implies how much reduced carbon (methane, elemental carbon, cellulose) per square meter? The biological origin of oxygen in the atmosphere gets a little tough to defend once you do the mass balance. Explains the amount of work being done on atmospheric evolution. There are no conclusions from which to go leaping to conclusions.
Two tons of O2 per m2 implies that there could have been a little less than 3 tons of CO2 per m2. Is that not plausible?

AM
 
  • #13
Where's the carbon?
 
  • #14
Bystander said:
Where's the carbon?
Now? It is in the Earth and oceans.

AM
 
  • #15
Where's the reduced carbon?
 
  • #16
Bystander said:
Where's the reduced carbon?
If by reduced carbon you mean chemically reduced carbon, it is in the hydrocarbons buried in the Earth and seabeds.

AM
 
  • #17
Half ton of methane, 2/3 ton of elemental C, to 2 tons cellulose per square meter? I say again, "Where is it?"
 
  • #18
There is, however, one additional reservoir of methane about which very little is known: the methane clathrate reservoir in the oceans — the 600-pound gorilla of methane variability!
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/features/methane/
 
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  • #19
"Current best guesses suggest that maybe 500 to 2000 gigatonnes of carbon may be stored as methane clathrates (5-20% of total estimated reserves). Some estimates are as high as 10,000 gigatonnes." That takes care of 4% --- now, where's the rest?
 
  • #20
my chemistry might be rusty, but when you mix CO2 and water, you get acid, (sulfuric i think), (or soda water).

acid melts, or dissolves lime stone, (alkline).

so you geosequestrate your co2, a bit of water seeps in, turns to acid, melts the rock, and releases the CO2 !. Soon or later.. !

im from a region, and country that's makes HUGE $$$ mining and exporting coal, and natual gas.
but i believe that if fossel fuels were outlawed tomorrow, or general consumption and power generation, within 6 months, we would have electric cars, and alternative power systems, and reusable fuels to meet our requirements.

there is little incentive to use science and technology, when its just SO CHEAP to dig up and burn coal at 31% efficiency.
releasing CO2 that's been stored in the ground 100% safely for millions of years.

its 2006 now, surly we can do better than dig up rotten plants and animals, liquify it or crush it up and burn it as our primary sources of energy !. future generations will look back at our generation and ask "what were we thinking".

or do we just keep going until we run out, or we have runaway global warning. ? we can't re-run the experiment if it fails.
so you want to make sure your right, for us all !
 
  • #21
Darryl said:
my chemistry might be rusty, but when you mix CO2 and water, you get acid, (sulfuric i think)

Transmutation of elements? Nope.

, (or soda water).

That's a much better guess.

acid melts, or dissolves lime stone, (alkline).

CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 = Ca(HCO3)2

so you geosequestrate your co2, a bit of water seeps in, turns to acid, melts the rock, and releases the CO2 !. (snip)

Nope. You dissolve limestone without release of CO2. It can be reprecipitated with loss of the CO2 originally used to dissolve it (sinkholes, karst, caves, stalactites, stalagmites, whitings), and the net changes in atmospheric CO2 and limestone mass are zero.
 
  • #22
Bystander said:
"Current best guesses suggest that maybe 500 to 2000 gigatonnes of carbon may be stored as methane clathrates (5-20% of total estimated reserves). Some estimates are as high as 10,000 gigatonnes." That takes care of 4% --- now, where's the rest?

Could you provide references for all of the specific data cited? You often provide a lot of information without links or any context. And what do other scientists say about this? What is the other side of the debate?
 
  • #23
Ivan Seeking said:
Could you provide references for all of the specific data cited? You often provide a lot of information without links or any context. And what do other scientists say about this? What is the other side of the debate?

The 1013 tons? That's your link. You want references for the area of earth? For oxygen content of the atmosphere? Atmospheric pressure? "g" ? Mass of atmosphere? 1013 tons/5x1014m2 = 2x10-2 ton/m2? 2x10-2/.5 x 100 = 4% ? 2 tons O + x tons C = CO2, solve for "x" ? General Sci. from middle school/jr. hi..

AM's worried about burying all the oxygen we breathe if the CO2 sequestration idea gets off the ground. I'm trying to get him to do the mass balance. He hasn't.
 
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  • #24
Going by the 10,000GT from Ivan's link and assuming that resources for all other forms of C put together are cumulatively 3-4 times more plentiful, and then throwing in a little safety factor gets us to about 5-10% of total atmospheric oxygen. Should this be a concern? Will it be a respiratory hazard (1. if this happened overnight; 2. if it happened over decades/centuries) if there's only say 19% oxygen (instead of 21%, or whatever the real number is) ?

Or else, is the 10,000GT for methane likely to be the dominant resource (I don't imagine a one percent change will be noticeably problematic) of all carbon?

EDIT: http://www.biologie.uni-hamburg.de/b-online/e54/54d.htm says there's only 0.25 tons of O2 per sq. meter. That number looks low by an order of magnitude. Someone confirm?

EDIT2: The above link must be wrong. Other places give me numbers closer to 2T/m^2.
 
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  • #25
There is an article in this month's http://www.dufourlaw.com/physics/co2.pdf" about a huge CO2 lake at the bottom of the East China Sea, 4600 feet below sea level. The CO2 is liquid due to the pressure at that depth and appears to be stable.

Perhaps deep ocean burial of CO2 will work better than sequestering it in the ground.

AM
 
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Related to BIENT: CO2 Sequestration: Is Burying CO2 Safe?

1. What is CO2 sequestration and why is it important?

CO2 sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in a secure location. It is important because CO2 is a major contributor to climate change and reducing its concentration in the atmosphere can help mitigate its negative effects.

2. How does CO2 sequestration work?

CO2 sequestration typically involves capturing CO2 emissions from industrial sources, such as power plants, and injecting them into underground geological formations for long-term storage. The CO2 can also be used for enhanced oil recovery, where it is injected into oil reservoirs to increase oil production.

3. Is burying CO2 safe?

While CO2 sequestration has been deemed safe by experts, there are still potential risks involved. These risks include potential leakage of CO2 from storage sites and potential earthquakes caused by injection activities. However, extensive research and monitoring are conducted to ensure the safety of CO2 sequestration projects.

4. What are the benefits of CO2 sequestration?

CO2 sequestration can help reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, which can help mitigate climate change. It also allows for the utilization of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery and can potentially create jobs in the carbon capture and storage industry.

5. Are there any alternatives to CO2 sequestration?

There are other methods for reducing CO2 emissions, such as transitioning to renewable energy sources and implementing energy efficiency measures. However, CO2 sequestration is currently the only viable method for capturing and storing CO2 emissions from industrial sources.

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