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

this is mis-quoted. the original goal of the company was to absorb 1% of the annual global co2 emissions, and they only are able to suck up about 250 US residents worth of carbon. 250 usa residents don’t make 1% of global emissions unless you specify 250 special people.


I’ll believe it if it’s 250 American billionaires.


There are more problems, even. Everything depends on a multitude of variables and assumptions. There is no easy way.

Root respiration. Different ratios of fixation vs. release of gasses relevant for climate change. Release within the the biotope, and the ecosystem, based on further interaction (mostly consumption, I assume, but even that is a guess).

It is incredibly difficult to do get the accounting going, since measurements are also difficult.

I’ve worked in West African savannas, and gnawed myself through the scientific literature on fungus-cultivating termites, which are a source of methane. Field measurements for methane release have been made, but knowing how field work actually works I know that these measurements are just a very rough estimate. WDKS, basically.

So, in short: I am not convinced, as a botanist and ecologist, that planting anything will help us doing carbon sequestration.

What I think does help is protecting as much of the ecosystems as we can, NOT releasing the at least mid-term sequestrated carbon.


The earth does carbon capture rather Is anyone doing research on farming chalk?

Although there are of course trial projects to turn the oil industry into instead doing… carbon capture. The Norwegian anxiety around the reliance on the oil industry and its future is a fascinating topic


I’m not disagreeing, but I’m surprised since I often hear that 1/2 to 2/3 of the population is around Reykjavík and only 7% of Icelanders living in “rural” areas. All the population centers seem to be next to major ports.

Boing Boing:

According to the Financial Post , Climeworks’ 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.

What’s actually in the source (emphasis mine):

The plant will capture 4,000 tons of CO₂ a year, making it the largest direct-air capture facility in the world. But that only makes up for the annual emissions of about 250 U.S. residents. It’s also a long way from the company’s original goal of capturing 1 per cent of annual global CO₂ emissions — more than 300 million tons — by 2025.

That’s a big F for comprehensive reading.



It is very harsh to criticize what is basically a pilot test for not delivering the moon on a stick. Can we say Nirvana fallacy?

Do stuff and fail until you no longer fail is a valid way to develop new technology.


No, they aren’t. The full paper is behind a paywall, but they admit that that construction and operations output something like 10% of what they can remove. The public abstract of the lifecycle analysis says it could be as high as 15%. It was made with a bunch of carbon intensive processes (concrete is a beast). More significantly they don’t show a comparison between the amount of carbon that could have been prevented in the first place through decabonizing another task. Now I’ll agree we need trials on tech like this, but we need to be very clear on the numbers and not pretend they are doing something that they aren’t.


Close coal fired plants first.


Is it better than nothing? No, it’s worse than nothing. Ask yourself: if the machine was powered by coal, how many tons of CO2 would you emit per ton CO2 sequestered? Oh dear, they didn’t tell you! Just like every other CCS story ever, they give dollars per ton (weasel-y numbers) instead of joules per kg (honest numbers). Let’s say coal emits about 1 metric ton per MWh generated (emission factor from EIA’s 2019 numbers). If it costs $44/MWh (estimated levelized capital costs of electricity for new ultra-supercritical coal power plants in the United States with operation start in 2026, according to the first Google hit I found), then at $600 per metric ton you’re emitting 13.6 tons every time you capture 1 ton. Even at $100/t, you’re still emitting at least double the mass you capture. What if you power it by solar? Then you’d be better off just supplying direct to load instead of cleaning up coal generation. Face it, this isn’t a solution to anything, except for extracting money from suckers and giving false hope to a desperate world. CCS is unviable and always will be.


But the story says it’s not powered by coal.


To have any chance of reaching net zero goals we’re going to need CCS and direct air capture. The world is currently capturing about 40mn tpy of CO2. The IEA and others have said that we’re going to need to store around 7bn tpy by 2050 - and that’s linked to a number of other assumptions they make about slowing emissions.

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I read somewhere that the ocean sequesters the largest amount of CO2 (maybe front algae and such?) which makes me think, maybe we shouldn’t fill the oceans with plastic?

I read somewhere that rain-forests sequester high amounts of CO2, which makes me think, maybe we shouldn’t cut them down? And maybe we should invest more in forest management to avoid wild-fires getting out of control?

I read somewhere that energy density of batteries isn’t where it needs to be, relative to jet fuel, to make all-electric planes at scale. Maybe investment in high-speed rail would be better in the long-term? High-speed rail could more easily be powered by electricity from green sources.

I read somewhere that hydrogen is a promising alternative to natural gas for industrial use like metal works. Maybe we should switch to PV → H2 for industrial uses instead of fracking the ground and destroying ground water.

If more companies allowed remote work, maybe less people would need to live in cities. If less people lived in cities maybe the traffic in those cities wouldn’t be as bad? And to my previous point, public transit (mainly trains) would also offset a lot of CO2. Why doesn’t LA have a good transit system?

Everything I’ve mentioned isn’t a silver bullet. The only way climate action will work is if we attack it on all fronts. The lack of substantial action on climate change is so frustrating.


Yes. Enhanced weathering is one researched approach for carbon capture. Basically you mine huge quantities of suitable rock, crush it, and let it expose to the atmosphere. It has a different set of downsides – lower energy consumption but massive mining operations. Again, carbon capture is a technology that can make sense if we have exhausted all means of reducing CO2 production and still need to remove more from the atmosphere, but the type for carbon capture is in 20-30 years at the earliest, possibly never.

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But the renewable energy they consume could instead be used to replace fossil fuel generation. If not coal, at least natural gas. As a research project maybe it still makes sense, but unquestionably taken alone it will result in more CO2 emissions than if it didn’t exist. To do otherwise they would have to operate only on the still rare occasion where renewable electricity production outstrips demand, but my completely uninformed guess is that if they did that they would never be able to pay back the CO2 debt from construction.

All that may change: any feasible plan to zero carbon electricity production is going to lead to a moderate amount of overproduction because it will probably be cheaper to produce excess electricity to reduce the need for storage. My guess is that we will find better things to do with the excess electricity than run carbon capture plants, but I wouldn’t rule it out. So I don’t object to building things like this for R&D purposes, but I think it is very likely it will never be useful and it certainly isn’t helping matters in the near future.

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That’s a given.

The armchair carbon capturer in me says: why don’t we grow algae equivalent to 4 tons of co2 and pump it down an exhausted oil well?

Also what happens if we take the 4 ton equivalent of other vegetation and dump it in an acidic tailing pond - do we get an artificial bog and would it capture rather than just slowly re-emit?

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.