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

I’m not sure you’re right about that. Of course it’s going to have a footprint of its own, like every manufactured thing, but I can’t find anything that says it’s not basically guaranteed to be net-negative over its expected lifetime. If this were a blue-sky technology and we truly didn’t know if it’d work at all, I’d still be okay with building one of them as an experiment, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

But this is what I was actually trying to push back on in my original post. I’m not calling for a massive all-world effort on building these things—I’m just saying you can always say “but let’s not do anything new because it might be possible to have greater short-term efficiency by incrementally redistributing those resources to the status quo.” That’s sensible enough in a lot of contexts, but I don’t think the carbon crisis is the right place for that kind of analysis paralysis.

There are very possibly arguments based in economics, physics, logistics, or global public-opinion-shaping that would make this technology unsuitable on a big scale. We should all be ready to chuck it overboard if it doesn’t thrive as a useful part of the decarbonizing ecosystem. I’m just saying, the potential upside vastly outweighs the infinitesimal fraction of the world’s concrete output this represents.


Being Iceland I would think it’s geothermal or hydro. The video says this location is powered by a nearby geothermal plant. I’ve heard aluminum production described as electricity arbitrage (aluminum is 40% of Iceland’s exports). I would imagine for something like carbon capture the power source would be a major factor.


I have fantasies of growing huge, mighty forests, then cutting them down, then dumping the logs into the ocean. (Apparently there are lots of plants that sequester carbon faster than trees, but that’s what I visualize: big barges full of logs are cooler than bundles of sawgrass.)

Screw the Hadean depths, I say! So what if a constant rain of logs disrupts your bougie volcanic vent ecosystems a little. You’re extremophiles, deal with it!

Whenever I’ve shared this with forestry or ocean biology people, they get the same “Oh god, another one of these motherfuckers” look I have when people come to me with dumb ideas about my academic specialty, so I guess there’s probably some reason (or a thousand) we shouldn’t do that. But I’m still going to keep pitching my TED talk on it.

(Not a comment on your idea; just glad to know there are other Monday-morning carbon sequesterers out there.)


First, I agree that CCS is first and foremost a green-washing strategy, and that the geothermal energy spent in this plant would be more effective by being used to directly remove coal generation. There’s no question this was built as a sinkhole to sequester some bad PR.

But let’s wave the magic wand really hard and wish upon every star, and the world’s energy production becomes coal and oil free in the next decade. Other carbon emitters will continue to exist, and we still have the problem of a huge amount of carbon that’s already in the atmosphere.

No one solution is going to fix the problem. Maybe we need a few experiments like this today to help learn what it’s going to take to reduce it for real?


lots of very windy islands have green power to spare, but no way to efficiently export it.

I think having a wide range of decarbonizing ideas is useful.


For about 270,000 people Reykjavík is a surprisingly large city - it seems to sprawl out for ever these days and people drive a lot despite the bus system being much better than those here in the UK. The vehicle fleet also contains a very large number of big SUVs and trucks with many families having two or three cars.

As you say, outside of Reykjavík, populations are dispersed and there is only a limited intercity bus service (no trains), so you’re either in for a long drive, or you get on a plane and take a carbon-spewing hop.

Alongside that, the trawler fleet is huge and very busy, all of which burn diesel.


The one in the article has been built alongside the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant just east of Reykjavík. There is a second plant called Carb Fix at Svartsengi on Reykjanes next to the Blue Lagoon.


Many organisms of varying size (including humans) sequester carbon as their skeleton. If they do this enough in the ocean then it forms a layer of mostly calcium carbonate. Chalk and limestone, hundreds of metres thick. If you could farm these microorganisms you could do so on a truly enormous scale. And scale is what is needed after all.


Norway went from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest in the world within a generation, all on the back of hydrocarbons. Neither of the big parties wants to be the one that cuts off the tap that has given Norwegians a standard of living most of us can only dream of.

There’s an excellent NRK drama series called Lykkeland (State of Happiness) which covers the period when oil was struck in the North Sea and how it utterly upturned a quiet, introspective, poverty-wracked country. Well worth checking out.


Diatoms will save the earth.

I don’t think growing humans and dumping them to sequester carbon will pass any ethics committee.


Yeah, this seems like a whole lot of effort for little result. There are some much cheaper and experimentally encouraging options, I’m a fan of ocen fertilzation. Sequesters carbon, creates a large quantity of phytoplankton and other microorganisms that can also feed other, larger beings before dying and sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Still some problems: it would decrease surface acidity, which is good, but increase benthic levels, which may be bad. Every attempt to run an experiment has met with massive opposition from environmental groups who consider it the same as dumping toxic waste, so I guess we’ll never know if scales up, but it looks like one of the most promising options of cleaning up this mess we’ve made of the planet.


What do the oceanologists think of this idea? Vast biomes, unexplored, sacrificed to nodule mining and carbon farming?


Wasn’t there an old idea once about chucking the trees down into abandoned mineshafts? I haven’t heard about that in a long time.

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Since it’s mostly oceanologists who are running the studies, they seem to be in favor of running the experiments and then analyzing the data, but they can’t get approval to run the experiments to determine the impact. The few experiments done have been favorable, with the acidification swap cavet, but we don’t know all the effects because the experiments can’t be run to determine them. I texted an old girlfriend who went on to get a doctorate in marine biology, and her reply was “can’t see the obvious harm, needs more research.”

This isn’t very much like nodule mining, which clearly destroys what may be a delicate and vital ecosystem, this is more like fertilizing a barren plain or dying forest that just needs nutrients (in this case, iron) to thrive. The most cost-effective method, in fact, is just to make upwellings of nutrient-rich waters as happens naturally around every island and reef.


Not really, because it is situated in Iceland.
About 85% of the total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources. Roughly 65% geothermal and 20% hydropower.
The remaining 15% (again, this is total primary energy) is fossil fuels used for running cars, lorries, boats, ships… but, save the odd farmstead in the middle of nowhere, not for generating electricity.
(The breakdown for electrical energy is roughly 70% hydro / 30% geothermal.)

Which still makes for surprisingly large CO2 emissions per capita, but regarding electricity Iceland is as close to 100% renewable as it gets.


Ideal place to be making Hydrogen?

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In the words of Mongomery Burns, ‘good, good’! Bodes well for an independent Scotland too.

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Just two quick things:

The ocean takes up Carbon Dioxide in large quantities, but most of it is dissolved, not sequestrated.

Also, I think only 6 % of the plastic waste (including microplastic) end up in the ocean. The vast amount is (currently) ‘sequestrated’ in the soil.

But you are definitely correct: we should not allow our plastic to be in the the ocean.

Re: public transport in LA - wasn’t it the case that GM and other car makers basically bought the PT and shut it down?

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