The first large-scale carbon capture facility is now online. But will it make a difference?

Originally published at: The first large-scale carbon capture facility is now online. But will it make a difference? | Boing Boing


The math seems a bit off here.

Anyway, I hope this tech gains traction and doesn’t get ruined by NIMBY jerks.


So I mean. I guess it’s better than nothing?

This might as well be the climate emergency motto of most nation states.

I’m all for projects like this, but we’re not going to solve the existential problem of global warming with tech alone, any more than we will by individual choices like recycling. They help and are worthy efforts, but not if they’re used to distract us from going after those institutions responsible for the bulk of emissions.


4000 T/y is not 1% of annual global emissions. That would be 360 million tons.

4000 T/y is about 0.0000001% of annual global emissions (a decimal point then six zeroes, then a 1, or 10^-7 % if you prefer).


Raaah. It’s a pity because I like the idea, but as it is it won’t make a smidgen of difference. The numbers are really merciless here:

tons of CO2 spewed out every year on Earth:
8 000 000 000, give or take
cost of that gizmo in $:
10 000 000, lowball estimate
tons of CO2 sequestered per year by said gizmo:
so in order to clean what we spew out we’d need:
2 000 000 of those dinguses running 24/7
for a price in $ of
20 000 000 000 000

unless a building program of unheard-of massiveness starts, and delivers yesterday, Orca won’t help much.


Iceland: We’ve created a way to capture some of the CO2, and put it back. It’s not a lot, but maybe someday…

American Capitalism: You hear that boys? We’re gonna be okay! Back to business, and step on the gas!


I’m thinking their mystery chemical is Lithium hydroxide? It fits the description and is used in SCUBA rebreathers and submarines to remove co2 from the air then regenerated by baking off the carbon dioxide.


Saw that too, so checked the article.

1% of emissions is the company’s full-scale operational target, not that of this one facility.


“Orca facility has the capability to capture around 4,000 tons of CO2 this way — which is about the equivalent of the annual emissions of 250 US residents, which in turn equates to about 1 percent of annual global CO2 emissions. That’s better than nothing, right?”

1st off- either glaringly incorrect statistics, or terrible writing. 250 US residents make 0.0083% of US carbon emissions*, not 1% of global emissions.

Secondly, I’m not sure it is better than nothing. Orca uses a lot of energy to sequester carbon, and gives an excuse to keep creating carbon emissions.

Could that geothermal energy be put to better use by supplanting carbon intensive energy sources?

Could we embrace less carbon emissions, rather than hoping to hide this stuff away?

*I doubt that US carbon emissions are spread evenly among our population. I imagine the there’s a HUGE variation in carbon emissions per person in the USA. So maybe if you chose the right 250 jet setting, mcmansion-ac using families, they do cause 1% of world wide carbon emissions?


As a solution to the current climate change crisis, it’s basically a gesture – polishing (not even nibbling) around the edges.

However over a longer term our descendents (assuming that we have any) will have a long-term incentive to sequester the carbon we’ve dumped into the atmosphere and especially the oceans. Otherwise, a return to the Milankovitch cycles that predate the Holocene will take much longer and in themselves do additional ecological harm thanks to the loss of vestigial adaptive traits. Taking a longer time to sequester carbon then is less of a concern.


Good points.

I think it is important to do the R&D for carbon sequestration now, but also that these efforts will only provide a net benefit if we can achieve a green energy surplus. We need to reinvent energy, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture to drive the emissions down in the first place or we are all fucked. It will probably be impossible to completely zero out emissions, so we will need sequestration to reach the finish line.


I think trees are a better way to deal with it.


Yeah, I thought that couldn’t be right. Because that would have meant we only needed 100 of these facilities around the world to be entirely carbon-neutral. Which seems eminently doable.


Another issue glossed over is the water needed for this method. 27 tons of Water to capture 1 ton of Carbon. I would wager they aren’t using saltwater. This means that they are using at least nominally “fresh” water. Given the global freshwater situation I see this as another roadblock in the way of large scale implementation.


This tech will get a breakthrough when and only when it becomes profitable. This can be through carbon emission trading, or by having a sellable end product.

But in a few decades, with luck, these facilities might be dotting saharan deserts… Where they will no doubt produce petroleum products, making a brand new additional carbon cycle.

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I agree that photosynthesis is the most efficient way to sequester CO2 by far. I think we need to figure out a good way to handle the trees/other plants/cellulose to keep the carbon sequestered. Otherwise it is just a brief rest stop on the carbon cycle. Maybe pump millions of tons of sawdust deep underground or something?


1 percent of annual global CO2 emissions

Even if that were true for anthropogenic emissions, which it isn’t, humans aren’t the only thing producing CO2, now. Climate change has started causing problems on its own:

“Wildfires in Siberia have produced 800 megatons of carbon dioxide since the beginning of June…” [until the middle of August]

Yeah, when the “something” is so close to “nothing” as to make no difference, it’s counterproductive, because people feel relaxed about actually solving the problem because “something” is already being done, so they don’t have to worry about it!

Specifically: give (at least) another 28 billion metric tons, just for the direct anthropogenic emissions. (Not counting gigatons from wildfires, land use, defrosting permafrost emissions, other greenhouse gases, etc…)

Oh gods, that is so bad. If they scale it up several millions times (ha ha, sure), it’ll then only be dealing with an insignificant percentage of the problem…


I also came to the comments to post about the 1% howler being off by a factor of roughly a million. I see it’s already been dealt with. But the further point is how difficult it is to get traction among the public on these super-important questions, because innumeracy is so widespread, and even the people in journalism-adjacent roles, or people posting to high-traffic blogs with some interest in not spreading misinformation, are getting it so wrong without even doing the most basic sanity check on their numbers. It’s been pointed out by so many here now; if I were the author I would be mortified and ashamed and I’d be posting corrections. But this howler has been up for hours now.


Yeah fuck people for trying. Why bother developing new things.

To be less salty about it we will need this sort of thing. Climate change isn’t merely driven by the amount of shit we’re pumping out. We’ve undercut the planets ability to absorb and sequester carbon. Particularly when it comes to ocean and wetland health. Errybody talks about trees, but the world’s big carbon sinks are the oceans. Somewhat especially marshes, peat bogs, swamps and coastal wetlands.

Probably not. Trees are slow growing, and once they come down tend to release the carbon they’ve built up right back into the atmosphere. Trees in particular are basically a temporary carbon sink. To the extent that forests sequester carbon long term, it’s in the underbrush and fast growing plants that sort of “turn over” rapidly. Getting buried up in leaf litter yearly and eventually turning into soil, or anywhere there is water. In terms of forests it’s the wetlands, coasts, swamps and river deltas that do the heavy lifting on soaking up carbon. You hear a lot about mangrove swamps and river basins.

Apparently grasslands are a much bigger and more important carbon sink than forests. And those are well behind peat bogs, marine marshes and what have.

Very much what I’m on about. It isn’t enough to just cut emissions. We need to pull excess carbon out, and that is best done by restoring ecosystems that are particularly good at doing so. That mostly means our oceans and especially coastal wetlands. Those are the HUGE carbon sinks for the planet.

Cause the technology will never evolve, never be used by anyone else, never be used in other contexts. So there is no value in demonstrating that it is cost effective, and there are plausible business models around it.

Stuff like this is never going to be more than a piece of the puzzle. But we’re well beyond the point of a run away system. We could zero out all emissions tomorrow and we’d still be fucked, probably.


A lot of technologies start out as inefficient toys (effectively productionized prototypes) and then get iteratively improved until they’re efficient enough to use at scale. Take computers. More than a few people dismissed the broader practical value of computers because obviously the average person isn’t going to have a whole room in their house dedicated to a massive server. We’re clearly not going to scale this up as it works today, but if it’s the starting point of a technology that can in the future provide practical carbon capture at the point of emission, then it’s pretty exciting.