Why is it difficult to develop a large scale and energy efficient carbon capture technology?


Why is it difficult to develop a large scale and energy efficient carbon capture technology?

In: Earth Science

I feel like this is a matter of *economics* and *incentives*, rather than technological capacity.

I’m not sure exactly how big the carbon capture industry is, but Canada spent on the order of $1.8 bn on it so I speculate that the global size is somewhere in the ballpark of a few dozen billion USD.

Meanwhile, the carbon-based industry is somewhere in the ballpark of $100+ trillion USD. Again, hard for me to to get exact estimates.

There are somewhere between 4 and 6 orders of magnitude difference between the people trying to put carbon into the atmosphere and the people trying to remove it. Frankly, based on this, I would be extremely positively surprised if we were able to remove any amount more than 0.001% of our emissions from the atmosphere. The fact that we seem to be on good track (?) to vastly exceed that fraction means that carbon capture is actually pretty “efficient”, economically speaking. (*Edit*: This makes sense if you consider that carbon capture technologies are trying to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere – the carbon capture *is* the product being sold, rather than a wasteful byproduct to be eliminated)

So if people really *were* motivated to remove carbon from the atmosphere, it would probably be fairly trivial. The hard part is motivating people.

It’s expensive and people don’t actually care all that much. Sure there are a few people who are actually concerned but most people either don’t care or are struggling enough with life that they can’t afford to care.

Energy created from a carbon based source (coal, biofuels, propane) electricity but the amount of electricity required to remove all of the carbon is greater than the energy produced in the first place.

Combining carbon capture with renewables (solar, wind, hydro, tidal) would require significant investment, but what product are you able to sell?
How does this work as a business?

Once we can effectively answer the last two questions, or create a market for captured carbon, then you will see the product developed more.

For the same reason that carbon-based fuels are so good that we use them for almost everything: carbon really really likes to bond to oxygen, and carbon capture has to overcome that. It has to put *in* as much energy as burning fossil fuels gets *out*.

It is an old engineering adage, quality, cost and delivery – pick any two to optimize and the third cannot be. Scaling up means large. Large means more inputs needed (labor, land, capital, energy).

Say the idea is tree planting. Fairly energy efficient (just need labor to plant, simplistically), not very high cost (not much capital needed but lots of land) but it is SLOW (long time to deliver results).

Any technological solution that is scaled to be reasonably effective involves capturing BILLIONS of tons of carbon EVERY YEAR. This isn’t something that can be stored in a warehouse or buried in a backyard.

Think of it this way, to count to 1 billion in 1 year would require counting speed about 30 numbers a second. So a ten billion of something a year requires a rate of 300 per second – in this case 300 TONS of carbon each second. This would be the order of magnitude of the rate needed to offset our output of carbon in the carbon dioxide emitted and to make headway against the excesses of the past.

It’ll be like why can’t we turn ash back into wood. We can but it’ll require a large amount of energy.

Now another side of this is how unproductive carbon capture is. With renewable energy, even though it has problems, it does actually create something that we can use and a large number of problems associated with it now will eventually be solved. Plus free energy.

Carbon capture is a dead process. It means we’re going to pour a lot of government money into something that the only benefactors would be the oil companies and Halliburton’s of this world since they have the infrastructure and lobbyists to both pull it off and suck on the taxpayer’s teat.

If there was justice in the world they would be footing the bill in the first place.