Getting Rid of CO2

A process I’ve been curious about ever since the topic of climate change and greenhouse effect hit the radar is that of sequestration – getting rid of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere. If you’re wondering how that can be accomplished, read this article on wikipedia. Basically, there are three storage media for carbon dioxide that are being investigated. These, of course, only come into play once the CO2 has been collected from ‘exhaust’ either by some kind of end-of-pipe technology or a modified type of combustion, and transported to the site of sequestration.

You can pump CO2 into the earth and bury it in some deep geological formation. This seems to be getting most of the attention. Why ? Out of sight, out of mind. Yes, maybe there is room to store it down there. This may actually be used to get out the last  of the fossil fuels hiding at depths. But who’s to know whether the stuff will stay down there ? As far as I know, this may cause all kinds of unforeseen subsurface action – like the mud volcano in the Phillippines that was caused by an oil well drilled in the wrong spot.

You can pump it into the deep ocean where colder waters can take up much more CO2 than surface waters. Are you nuts ? We’re already poisoning our oceans. Warming ocean temperatures are threatening to change or slow ocean currents, killing species, changing weather patterns… I thought that’s what we’re trying to fix.

You can bind CO2 as carbonate in solid, relatively stable form, under thermodynamically favorable terms. Basically build ‘artificial’ reefs, I would think. This one seems to make the most sense. Unfortunately, it is estimated that equipping a power plant with the technology to turn exhaust CO2 into carbonate will use upto 180% more energy.

I’m thinking that some genetic scientist needs to breed a 21st coral that will grow superfast in tropical and temperate waters, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and turning it into limestone reefs. We could probably use some of the limestone as building materials for all kinds of purposes…

Maybe it makes more sense to spend the money on stopping deforestation and try growing billions of new trees. Turn the Sahara into a jungle. Draining the Mediterranean into the Sahara for irrigation would cool down the atmosphere through evaporation and maybe facilitate plant growth where none has been going on in 1000s of years… Let’s get busy guys. We’ve got to start thinking seriously about the seemingly not serious scenarios.


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