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  • richardmitnick 4:07 pm on August 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From Princeton: “On warmer Earth, most of Arctic may remove, not add, methane (ISME Journal)” 

    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    August 14, 2015
    Morgan Kelly

    1
    McGill Arctic Research Station during late-spring at Expedition Fjord, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, Canada. (Photo by Nadia Mykytczuk, Laurentian University)

    In addition to melting icecaps and imperiled wildlife, a significant concern among scientists is that higher Arctic temperatures brought about by climate change could result in the release of massive amounts of carbon locked in the region’s frozen soil in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. Arctic permafrost is estimated to contain about a trillion tons of carbon, which would potentially accelerate global warming. Carbon emissions in the form of methane have been of particular concern because on a 100-year scale methane is about 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

    However, new research led by Princeton University researchers and published in The ISME Journal in August suggests that, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, the majority of Arctic soil might actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere rather than release it. Furthermore, that ability seems to become greater as temperatures rise.

    The researchers found that Arctic soils containing low carbon content — which make up 87 percent of the soil in permafrost regions globally — not only remove methane from the atmosphere, but also become more efficient as temperatures increase. During a three-year period, a carbon-poor site on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada’s Arctic region consistently took up more methane as the ground temperature rose from 0 to 18 degrees Celsius (32 to 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The researchers project that should Arctic temperatures rise by 5 to 15 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, the methane-absorbing capacity of “carbon-poor” soil could increase by five to 30 times.

    The researchers found that this ability stems from an as-yet unknown species of bacteria in carbon-poor Arctic soil that consume methane in the atmosphere. The bacteria are related to a bacterial group known as Upland Soil Cluster Alpha, the dominant methane-consuming bacteria in carbon-poor Arctic soil. The bacteria the researchers studied remove the carbon from methane to produce methanol, a simple alcohol the bacteria process immediately. The carbon is used for growth or respiration, meaning that it either remains in bacterial cells or is released as carbon dioxide.

    First author Chui Yim “Maggie” Lau, an associate research scholar in Princeton’s Department of Geosciences, said that although it’s too early to claim that the entire Arctic will be a massive methane “sink” in a warmer world, the study’s results do suggest that the Arctic could help mitigate the warming effect that would be caused by a rising amount of methane in the atmosphere. In immediate terms, climate models that project conditions on a warmer Earth could use this study to more accurately calculate the future methane content of the atmosphere, Lau said.

    “At our study sites, we are more confident that these soils will continue to be a sink under future warming. In the future, the Arctic may not have atmospheric methane increase as much as the rest of the world,” Lau said. “We don’t have a direct answer as to whether these Arctic soils will offset global atmospheric methane or not, but they will certainly help the situation.”

    The researchers want to study the bacteria’s physiology as well as test the upper temperature threshold and methane concentrations at which they can still efficiently process methane, Lau said. Field observations showed that the bacteria are still effective up to 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and can remove methane down to one-quarter of the methane level in the atmosphere, which is around 0.5 parts-per-million.

    “If these bacteria can still work in a future warmer climate and are widespread in other Arctic permafrost areas, maybe they could regulate methane for the whole globe,” Lau said. “These regions may seem isolated from the world, but they may have been doing things to help the world.”

    From Princeton, Lau worked with geoscience graduate student and second author Brandon Stackhouse; Nicholas Burton, who received his bachelor’s degree in geosciences in 2013; David Medvigy, an assistant professor of geosciences; and senior author Tullis Onstott, a professor of geosciences. Co-authors on the paper were from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; McGill University; Laurentian University in Canada; and the University of Texas at Austin.

    The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DE-SC0004902); the National Science Foundation (grant no. ARC-0909482); the Canada Foundation for Innovation (grant no. 206704); the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant Program (grant no. 298520-05); and the Northern Research Supplements Program (grant no. 305490-05)

    See the full article here.

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    About Princeton: Overview

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    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on April 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From physicsworld: “How to efficiently capture carbon dioxide out of thin air” 

    physicsworld
    physicsworld.com

    Apr 16, 2015
    Tamela Maciel

    1
    Captive gas: prototype carbon-collection system

    A novel synthetic material that is a thousand times more efficient than trees at capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was presented by Klaus Lackner, director of Arizona State University’s new Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Maryland last Sunday. According to Lackner, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached the point where simply reducing emissions will not be enough to tackle climate change. Referring to recent environmental reports, Lackner emphasized the need for prolonged periods of carbon capture and storage – also known as “negative carbon emission”.

    Trees and other biological matter are natural sinks of carbon dioxide but they do not trap it permanently and the amount of land required is prohibitive. “There is no practical solution that doesn’t include large periods of negative emission,” says Lackner, adding that “we need means that are faster than just growing a tree.” During the past few years, Lackner and his colleagues have developed a synthetic membrane that can capture carbon dioxide from the air passing through it. The membrane consists of an “ion-exchange” resin – positive anions in the resin attract carbon dioxide, with a maximum load of one carbon-dioxide molecule for every positive charge. This process is moisture sensitive, such that the resin absorbs carbon dioxide in dry air and releases it again in humid air. As a result, this material works best in warm, dry climates.

    Show and tell

    Lackner plans to install corrugated collecting panels incorporating the membrane material on the roof of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions this summer. The researchers hope that this public installation will demonstrate the economic feasibility and efficiency of a new technology that can address the issue of climate change, and help shift the debate from reduced carbon emissions to negative carbon emissions.

    To keep costs low, the first step – capturing the carbon from the air – is free. “We made it cheap by being passive. We can’t afford to be blowing air around,” says Lackner. The resin itself is readily available and can be mass-produced, because it is already widely used to soften and purify water. The collectors trap between 10 and 50% of the total carbon dioxide that passes through. Compared with the amount of carbon dioxide that a typical tree collects during the course of its lifetime, these panels are a thousand times more efficient.

    2
    Able membrane: panels of carbon-capture resin

    “I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” says Lackner. “The Center for Negative Carbon Emissions cannot do it alone.”
    Post trappings

    Lackner estimates that about a hundred-million shipping-container-sized collectors would be needed to deal with the world’s current level of carbon emissions. As these collectors would typically become saturated within an hour, Lackner envisions a possible “ski-lift” approach where saturated panels are taken away to a humid environment to release their carbon dioxide and then recycled back to the dry air for more carbon capture.

    The question also remains of what to do with the carbon dioxide once it is trapped. Burying it is one option, which is something Lackner says is likely, given the sheer quantity of carbon that must be captured. His centre is also testing ways to recycle the carbon dioxide and sell it to industries that could use it to make products such as fire extinguishers, fizzy drinks and carbon-dioxide-enhanced greenhouses, and even synthetic fuel oil.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:27 pm on March 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration, LBL Kavli   

    From Kavli: “New Material Captures Carbon at Half the Energy Cost” 

    KavliFoundation

    The Kavli Foundation

    03/16/2015
    James Cohen
    Director of Communications
    The Kavli Foundation
    (805) 278-7495
    cohen@kavlifoundation.org

    1
    Animation showing effect of carbon dioxide binding to diamines3 in a metal-organic framework. The view is a cross section through one of the pores of a metal-organic framework, showing diamine molecules (containing blue nitrogen atoms) attached to metal (manganese) atoms (green). Carbon dioxide molecules (grey carbon atoms with two red oxygen atoms) bind through a cooperative mechanism akin to a chain reaction along the pore surfaces. Some H atoms (white) are omitted for clarity. (Thomas McDonald, Jarad Mason, Jeffrey Long/UC Berkeley)

    UC Berkeley chemists have made a major leap forward in carbon-capture technology with a material that can efficiently remove carbon from the ambient air of a submarine as readily as from the polluted emissions of a coal-fired power plant.

    The material then releases the carbon dioxide at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials, potentially cutting by half or more the energy currently consumed in the process. The released CO2 can then be injected underground, a technique called sequestering, or, in the case of a submarine, expelled into the sea.

    “Carbon dioxide is 15 percent of the gas coming off a power plant, so a carbon-capture unit is going to be big,” said senior author Jeffrey Long, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute. “With these new materials, that unit could be much smaller, making the capital costs drop tremendously as well as the operating costs.”

    The material, a metal-organic framework (MOF) modified with nitrogen compounds called diamines, can be tuned to remove carbon dioxide from the room-temperature air of a submarine, for example, or the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) flue gases from a power plant.

    “It would work great on something like the International Space Station,” Long said.

    Though power plants are not now required to capture carbon dioxide from their emissions, it will eventually be necessary in order to slow the pace of climate change caused by fossil-fuel burning. If the planet’s CO2 levels rise much higher than they are today, it may even be necessary to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere to make the planet livable.

    Long and his colleagues describe how the new materials — diamine-appended MOFs — work in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

    From flue gas to submarines

    Power plants that capture CO2 today use an old technology whereby flue gases are bubbled through organic amines in water, where the carbon dioxide binds to amines. The liquid is then heated to 120-150 degrees Celsius (250-300 degrees Fahrenheit) to release the gas, after which the liquids are reused. The entire process is expensive: it consumes about 30 percent of the power generated, while sequestering underground costs an additional though small fraction of that.

    The new diamine-appended MOFs can capture carbon dioxide at various temperatures, depending on how the diamines are synthesized, and releases the CO2 at only 50 C above the temperature at which CO2 binds, instead of the increase of 80-110 C required for aqueous liquid amines. Because MOFs are solid, the process also saves the huge energy costs of heating the water in which amines are dissolved.

    MOFs are composites of metals — in this case, magnesium or manganese — with organic compounds that, together, form a porous structure with microscopic, parallel channels. Several years ago, Long and his lab colleagues developed a way to attach amines to the metals in an MOF to produce pores of sufficient diameter to allow CO2 to penetrate rapidly into the material. They found that MOFs with attached diamines are very different from other carbon-capture materials, in that the CO2 seems to load into the material very quickly at a specific temperature and pressure, then come out quickly when the temperature is raised by 50 C. In the new paper, UC Berkeley graduate students Thomas McDonald and Jarad Mason, together with other co-workers, describe how this works.

    “This material is unique in that it binds CO2 in a cooperative mechanism,” Long said. “When the first CO2 starts to adsorb at a very specific pressure, all of a sudden it facilitates more CO2 adsorption, and the MOF rapidly saturates. That is really a different property from any other CO2 adsorbent based on amines.

    “Then,” he added, “if you raise the temperature by applying heat, at some temperature all the CO2 will come flooding off.”

    Long’s team found that the diamines bind to the metal atoms of the MOF and then react with CO2 to form metal-bound ammonium carbamate species that completely line the interior channels of the MOF. At a sufficiently high pressure, one CO2 molecule binding to an amine helps other CO2 molecules bind next door, catalyzing a chain reaction as CO2 polymerizes with diamine like a zipper running down the channel. Increasing the temperature by 50 degrees Celsius makes the reaction reverse just as quickly.

    The pressure at which CO2 binds to the amines can be adjusted by changing the metal in the MOF. Long has already shown that some diamine-appended MOFs can bind CO2 at room temperature and CO2 levels as low as 300 parts per million.

    The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is now 400 parts per million (ppm), and policy-makers in many countries hope to reduce this below 350 ppm to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, from increasingly severe weather events and sea level rise to global average temperature increases of 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

    ‘We got lucky’

    Last summer, Long co-founded a startup, Mosaic Materials, to use the new technology to radically reduce the cost of chemical separations, with plans in the works for a pilot study of CO2 separation from power plant emissions. This would involve creating columns containing millimeter-size pellets made by compressing a crystalline powder of MOFs.

    “We’re also hoping to develop something that might be tested in a submarine,” Long said. That would pave the way for eventual scale-up to capturing CO2 from natural gas plants, which produce emissions containing about 5 percent CO2, to the higher concentrations of coal-fired power plants.

    “We got lucky,” he said. “We were just trying to find a simple way to attach these amines to our MOF surface, because they are one of the best compounds for selectively binding CO2 in the presence of water, which can be a problem in flue gas. And it just happens we got the right length in the amine to make these one-dimensional chains that bind CO2 in a cooperative manner.”

    Long suggested as well that the findings may have relevance for the fixation of CO2 by plants, owing to striking structural similarities between the magnesium-based MOF and the naturally occurring CO2-fixing photosynthetic enzyme RuBisCO.

    Long also received assistance from colleagues at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China; the University of Turin in Italy; the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; the Université Grenoble Alpes and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France; the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway; and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

    The work is supported by grants from ARPA-E and the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Center for Gas Separations Relevant to Clean Energy Technologies, an Energy Frontier Research Center operated jointly by UC Berkeley and LBNL.

    See the full article here.

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    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:03 am on February 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From NOVA: “The New Power Plants That Could Actually Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere” 

    PBS NOVA

    NOVA

    12 Feb 2015
    Tim De Chant

    1
    The Kemper County Energy Facility, seen here under construction, will use CCS, one of the two technologies proposed for negative-carbon power plants.

    What’s better than a zero-carbon source of electricity like solar or wind? One that removes carbon from the atmosphere—a negative-carbon source.

    It’s entirely possible, too. By combining two existing, though still not entirely proven, technologies, researchers have devised a strategy that would allow much of western North America to go carbon negative by 2050. In just a few short decades, we could scrub carbon dioxide from the air and reverse the emissions trend that’s causing climate change.

    The trick involves pairing power plants that burn biomass with carbon capture and sequestration equipment, also known as CCS. While politicians and engineers in the U.S. have been trying—unsuccessfully—to build commercial-scale, coal-fired CCS power plants for more than a decade, the technology is well understood. Originally envisioned as a way to keep dirty coal plants in operation, CCS may be even better suited for biomass power plants, which burn plant material, essentially turning them into carbon dioxide scrubbers that also happen to produce useful amounts of electricity.

    2
    Schematic showing both terrestrial and geological sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired plant

    The power plants would take excess biomass, burn it just as they would coal, and then concentrate and inject the emitted carbon dioxide deep into the earth where it would be remain sequestered for generations, if not millennia. (Technically, its the plants in this scenario that are scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere, but the CCS equipment ensures it doesn’t return.)

    John Timmer, writing for Ars Technica:

    The authors estimate that it would be economically viable to put up to 10GW of biomass powered plants onto the grid, depending on the level of emissions limits; that corresponds to a bit under 10 percent of the expected 2050 demand for electricity. The generating plants would be supplied with roughly 2,000 PetaJoules of energy in the form of biomass, primarily from waste and residue from agriculture, supplemented by municipal and forestry waste. In all low-emissions scenarios, over 90 percent of the available biomass supply ended up being used for electricity generation.

    Dedicated bioenergy crops are more expensive than simply capturing current waste, and they therefore account for only about seven percent of the biomass used, which helpfully ensures that the transition to biomass would come with minimal land-use changes.

    The tidy proposal suggests that we could add these power plants to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere while, as Timmer points out, still allowing us to use fossil fuels like natural gas to help stabilize the grid. In fact, the biomass plants equipped with CCS could begin their lives burning coal while the market for biomass waste collection and distribution develops, smoothing the transition.

    There’s still the matter of shifting the current system, which favors fossil fuels, over to this more diverse mix. But it’s a sign that, with the right investments, we could achieve some very audacious reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in a very short time.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:27 am on February 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From NYT: “Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Rock, and Burying It” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    FEB. 9, 2015
    HENRY FOUNTAIN

    1
    CarbFix, a pilot program at Iceland’s Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station, seeks to tackle climate change by injecting greenhouse gasses into the ground for permanent storage. Photo by Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times.

    HENGILL, Iceland — In a cramped work trailer not far from Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, a researcher pored over a box of core samples — cylinders of rock that a drilling rig had pulled from deep underground just a few minutes before.

    In a test that began in 2012, scientists had injected hundreds of tons of water and carbon dioxide gas 1,500 feet down into layers of porous basaltic rock, the product of ancient lava flows from the nearby . Now the researcher, Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a doctoral student at the University of Iceland, was looking for signs that the CO2 had combined with elements in the basalt and become calcite, a solid crystalline mineral.

    In short, she wanted to see if the gas had turned to stone.

    “We have some calcites here,” she said, pointing to a smattering of white particles in the otherwise dark gray rock samples. “We might want to take a better look at them later.”

    Ms. Snaebjornsdottir and her colleagues are certain that the process works, but the cores — eventually hundreds of feet of them — will undergo detailed analysis at a laboratory in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, to confirm that the calcites resulted from the CO2 injection.

    2
    A drilling rig at the CarbFix site in Iceland, where researchers are testing whether gaseous carbon dioxide can be turned into rock as a way of keeping it out of the atmosphere. Credit Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

    The work is part of a $10 million project called CarbFix, which is developing an alternative way to store some of the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants and industries. When that carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, it traps heat, making it the biggest contributor to global warming. So to help stave off the worst impacts of climate change, experts say, billions of tons of CO2 may have to be captured and stored underground.

    But doing so is costly. And with little in the way of economic incentives to spur carbon storage, there are only about a dozen large-scale projects operating around the world, storing a total of less than 30 million tons a year, according to the Global CCS Institute, which promotes the technology. Only one of these is at a power plant — the Boundary Dam project in Saskatchewan, Canada, which started capturing and storing emissions from one of its coal-fired boilers last fall.

    Boundary Dam and the other projects operate roughly the same way: Carbon dioxide gas, highly compressed so that it acts like a liquid, is injected into a formation, usually sandstone and often an old oil or gas field. Impermeable rock layers above the storage zone should, in theory, keep the CO2 trapped indefinitely, but because the gas remains buoyant, there is a risk that it will move upward through cracks and eventually bubble back into the atmosphere.

    The CarbFix project differs from this conventional approach by using water along with carbon dioxide, and by injecting them into volcanic rocks. The technique is designed to exploit the ability of CO2 to react with the rocks and turn into solid minerals.

    “Basically we’re using a natural process and engineering it for climate-change mitigation,” said Juerg Matter, a geochemist at the University of Southampton in Britain and one of the lead researchers on the project. Until last year, Dr. Matter was at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, a CarbFix partner.

    3
    CarbFix scientists examine a box of just-pulled cores. Credit Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

    But whether the approach will prove to be commercially viable and lead to wider adoption of carbon storage, particularly on the huge scale that will be required to help stem the forces of climate change, remains uncertain.

    In the CarbFix process, the injected water and CO2 mix inside the well as if it were a giant geological soda machine. The resulting carbonated water, which is acidic, helps break down the rock, releasing calcium and other elements that combine with the carbon and oxygen from the CO2.

    Because the gas, in effect, disappears, “we don’t like to call it storage,” said Edda Aradottir, who manages the project and works for Reykjavik Energy, the utility that runs the geothermal plant and is another CarbFix partner. The preferred term, she said, is mineral carbonation.

    But injecting huge amounts of water along with the CO2 — 25 tons of liquid for each ton of gas — adds to the cost. CarbFix scientists have estimated that transportation and injection could cost about $17 per ton of CO2, about twice the cost of transporting and injecting the gas alone. (These costs are on top of the much higher costs of capturing and separating CO2 from a power plant smokestack.)

    But Sigurdur Gislason, a geochemist at the University of Iceland and the project’s chief scientist, said the CarbFix approach might have a cost advantage over the long term. Because of the risk of leakage, a conventional storage site would have to be monitored, potentially for hundreds of years, at a cost that is difficult to estimate. A CarbFix site, with its stable minerals, could be left alone.

    4
    CO2 from a power plant is injected into a dome-covered borehole. Credit Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

    “No one ever talks about monitoring,” Dr. Gislason said. “This is where we score very highly.”

    Mineral carbonation can occur in many kinds of rock, but often it is extremely slow. The CarbFix approach accelerates the process by injecting into basalt, a very reactive rock. And few places in the world can top Iceland for basalt; the country is made almost entirely of it. The island sits atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the boundary between two of the planet’s largest tectonic plates, where basaltic magma rises from deep within the earth to form new crust.

    What Iceland lacks, however, are significant CO2 emissions. Geothermal generating stations, like the Hellisheidi plant across a road from the CarbFix site, do emit some CO2 — it and other gases bubble up naturally along with the hot water and steam used to generate electricity — but the amounts are only about 5 percent of the emissions from an equivalent natural-gas plant.

    “We can never do large-scale CO2 injection” in Iceland, Dr. Aradottir said. But because of the geology, the country is an ideal place to demonstrate to potential users like power companies that the process works. (Since the initial test, CarbFix has scaled up its process and is now injecting 10,000 tons of gas per year from the plant at a nearby site.)

    Large basalt deposits are found in other locales, including the Pacific Northwest in the United States. There, at a site in the Columbia River basin near Wallula, Wash., a similar test project — the only other one in the world — is also in an analysis phase, having completed the injection of 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2013.

    5
    A driller pulls rock cores for analysis. Credit Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

    The project, a partnership of several companies and Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research and development organization that operates the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, might best be described as a hybrid between conventional CO2storage and the CarbFix approach.

    Only carbon dioxide is injected, said Pete McGrail, a research fellow at the laboratory who leads the project. That helps to keep costs in line with conventional CO2 storage. And the basalt has dense, impermeable layers that keep the buoyant gas contained.

    But because basalt is so reactive, after a relatively short time — a matter of years, not centuries — most of the CO2 should be mineralized, making long-term monitoring unnecessary. (With the CarbFix process, once the CO2 is dissolved in water, it is no longer buoyant, so there is no need for an impermeable layer.)

    Like the CarbFix researchers, Dr. McGrail was surprised by how reactive basalt was when he conducted some initial experiments in the early 2000s.

    “We had a conventional view that reactions would be slow,” he said, as they are in sandstone and other rocks. “But much to our surprise, when we cracked open those samples, it was one of those game-changer moments.”

    6
    Alteration minerals are studied in a recently recovered core section. Credit Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

    In Iceland, the detailed analyses of the core samples should conclusively determine if the CarbFix approach works. But already the researchers have a strong indication that their technique is successful. A submersible pump installed at the bottom of a nearby well to monitor the injection process broke down twice. Both times when it was hauled up for repairs it was covered in calcite. “That’s basically the proof,” Dr. Aradottir said.

    But it remains an open question whether the mineralization approach will be adopted when and if carbon storage becomes more widespread. While there is more than enough basalt around the world — Ms. Snaebjornsdottir has calculated that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge alone could handily store every last bit of emitted CO2 — getting the gas to the storage sites would be impractical in many cases.

    And given that the economics of carbon storage are already poor, it is difficult to see many companies taking on the added expense of injecting water, too.

    “If you’re looking at it from the point of view of, ‘Would a fossil-fuel power plant choose to sequester CO2 by carbonating water?’ — no, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Elizabeth Burton, general manager for the Americas of the Global CCS Institute. But if the plant has to re-inject wastewater anyway, “maybe the economics would work out,” she said.

    Dr. Matter and the other CarbFix scientists are confident that mineralization will be an answer, at least for some efforts to fight climate change.

    “The problem is big enough,” Dr. Matter said. “We need many solutions.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:24 pm on January 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From PNNL: “Geologic CO2 Sequestration Inhibits Microbial Growth” 


    PNNL Lab

    January 2015
    Tom Rickey

    Microbes’ response to injected CO2 has implications for microbial ecology, engineering processes

    Results: A recent study used a novel combination of techniques to reveal how carbon dioxide (CO2) injections—a process that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere—could affect sulfate-reducing bacteria that catalyze a key biogeochemical process in the deep subsurface. Ultimately, these findings offer an insight into the effects of CO2 sequestration on indigenous microbial populations, and could lead to new strategies for improving the success of CO2 sequestration, thereby helping to reduce climate change.

    1
    Scientists at PNNL used a novel combination of techniques to reveal how carbon dioxide (CO2) injections that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions could affect sulfate-reducing bacteria catalyzing a key biogeochemical process in the deep subsurface. Ultimately, these findings offer an insight into the effects of CO2 sequestration on indigenous microbial populations, and could lead to new strategies for improving the success of CO2 sequestration, thereby helping to reduce climate change. No image credit.

    Combining novel high-pressure nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and transcriptomic measurements, researchers from The Ohio State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) tracked the response of a model sulfate-reducing bacterium, Desulfovibrio vulgaris, to CO2 exposure under a range of pressures.

    Their findings suggest geologic sequestration of CO2 may significantly inhibit sulfate reduction in deep subsurface environments where this metabolism is a key respiratory process. This effect may help limit harmful subsurface processes such as sulfide-induced corrosion, mineral precipitation, and injection-well blockage, thereby improving the overall efficiency of CO2 sequestration.

    “Although pressure itself had no negative effect on the health of the microbes, some microbial activity was significantly impacted by CO2 exposure, even at relatively low pressures,” said Dr. Michael Wilkins, Ohio State University, who led the study while at PNNL. “In particular, cell growth was limited and respiration ceased under all conditions of pressurized CO2 exposure, which disrupted the integrity of the cell membrane. However, the cells initially remained viable and continued to transcribe genes at all CO2 pressures.”

    Why It Matters: CO2 sequestration in deep subsurface environments has received significant attention and investment as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. However, relatively little is known about the effect of CO2 on the microbial community in the deep biosphere—the largest biosphere on earth.

    The research team’s findings suggest CO2 injected in subsurface systems likely acts as a driving force for shifts in microbial community structure, which in turn could influence efficiency of the CO2 sequestration process.

    What’s Next? The study paves the way for future research aimed at further examining mechanisms that inhibit the activity of microbial populations to improve CO2 sequestration. Moreover, this work could be a foundation for understanding how some indigenous microorganisms survive in conditions of high pressure levels and CO2 in deep subsurface environments.

    See the full article here.

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    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington.

    PNNL scientists conduct basic and applied research and development to strengthen U.S. scientific foundations for fundamental research and innovation; prevent and counter acts of terrorism through applied research in information analysis, cyber security, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; increase the U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil; and reduce the effects of human activity on the environment. PNNL has been operated by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.

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  • richardmitnick 11:52 am on December 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From NASA: “NASA Finds Good News on Forests and Carbon Dioxide” 

    JPL

    December 29, 2014
    Carol Rasmussen
    NASA Earth Science News Team

    A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas. The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion — more than is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia and other northern regions, called boreal forests.

    e

    “This is good news, because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical forests may continue to take up carbon for many years,” said David Schimel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Schimel is lead author of a paper on the new research, appearing online today in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

    Forests and other land vegetation currently remove up to 30 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. If the rate of absorption were to slow down, the rate of global warming would speed up in return.

    The new study is the first to devise a way to make apples-to-apples comparisons of carbon dioxide estimates from many sources at different scales: computer models of ecosystem processes, atmospheric models run backward in time to deduce the sources of today’s concentrations (called inverse models), satellite images, data from experimental forest plots and more. The researchers reconciled all types of analyses and assessed the accuracy of the results based on how well they reproduced independent, ground-based measurements. They obtained their new estimate of the tropical carbon absorption from the models they determined to be the most trusted and verified.

    “Until our analysis, no one had successfully completed a global reconciliation of information about carbon dioxide effects from the atmospheric, forestry and modeling communities,” said co-author Joshua Fisher of JPL. “It is incredible that all these different types of independent data sources start to converge on an answer.”

    The question of which type of forest is the bigger carbon absorber “is not just an accounting curiosity,” said co-author Britton Stephens of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. “It has big implications for our understanding of whether global terrestrial ecosystems might continue to offset our carbon dioxide emissions or might begin to exacerbate climate change.”

    As human-caused emissions add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, forests worldwide are using it to grow faster, reducing the amount that stays airborne. This effect is called carbon fertilization. “All else being equal, the effect is stronger at higher temperatures, meaning it will be higher in the tropics than in the boreal forests,” Schimel said.

    But climate change also decreases water availability in some regions and makes Earth warmer, leading to more frequent and larger wildfires. In the tropics, humans compound the problem by burning wood during deforestation. Fires don’t just stop carbon absorption by killing trees, they also spew huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere as the wood burns.

    For about 25 years, most computer climate models have been showing that mid-latitude forests in the Northern Hemisphere absorb more carbon than tropical forests. That result was initially based on the then-current understanding of global air flows and limited data suggesting that deforestation was causing tropical forests to release more carbon dioxide than they were absorbing.

    In the mid-2000s, Stephens used measurements of carbon dioxide made from aircraft to show that many climate models were not correctly representing flows of carbon above ground level. Models that matched the aircraft measurements better showed more carbon absorption in the tropical forests. However, there were still not enough global data sets to validate the idea of a large tropical-forest absorption. Schimel said that their new study took advantage of a great deal of work other scientists have done since Stephens’ paper to pull together national and regional data of various kinds into robust, global data sets.

    Schimel noted that their paper reconciles results at every scale from the pores of a single leaf, where photosynthesis takes place, to the whole Earth, as air moves carbon dioxide around the globe. “What we’ve had up till this paper was a theory of carbon dioxide fertilization based on phenomena at the microscopic scale and observations at the global scale that appeared to contradict those phenomena. Here, at least, is a hypothesis that provides a consistent explanation that includes both how we know photosynthesis works and what’s happening at the planetary scale.”

    NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

    For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in the last year, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

    See the full article here.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 5:54 pm on December 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Sequestration, ,   

    From Huff Post: “These 6 Countries Produce Nearly 60 Percent Of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    12/05/2014
    DINA CAPPIELLO

    Six countries produce nearly 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. China and the United States combine for more than two-fifths. The planet’s future will be shaped by what these top carbon polluters do about the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming.

    How they rank, what they’re doing:

    CHINA

    s
    A general view shows residential and commercial buildings on a hazy day in Shanghai on November 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE

    It emits nearly twice the amount of greenhouse gases as the United States, which it surpassed in 2006 as the top emitter of carbon dioxide. China accounts for about 30 percent of global emissions. U.S. government estimates show China doubling its emissions by 2040, barring major changes. Hugely reliant on fossil fuels for electricity and steel production, China until recently was reluctant to set firm targets for emissions, which continue to rise, although at a slower rate. That changed when Beijing announced last month in a deal with Washington that it would stem greenhouse gas emission growth by 2030. About a week later, China’s Cabinet announced a coal consumption cap by 2020 at about 62 percent of the energy mix. While politically significant, the U.S.-China deal alone is expected to have little effect on the global thermostat.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 11 billion tons

    2013 Population: 1.36 billion

    UNITED STATES

    2
    In this March 8, 2014 photo, steam from the Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the setting sun near St. Mary’s, Kansas. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

    It has never entered into a binding treaty to curb greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, it has cut more carbon pollution than any other nation. It is on pace to meet a 2009 Obama administration pledge to reduce emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon emissions are up, though, as the U.S. rebounds from recession. President Barack Obama has largely leaned on existing laws, not Congress, to make progress — boosting automobile fuel economy and proposing to reduce carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. The White House vowed in the China deal to double the pace of emissions reductions, lowering carbon pollution 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. Expect resistance when Republicans control Congress in January.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 5.8 billion tons

    2013 Population: 316 million

    INDIA

    3
    In this Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 photo, smoke rises from chimneys of brick kilns on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

    The U.S.-China agreement puts pressure on the Indian government, which could announce new targets during a planned Obama visit in January. Meantime, India plans to double coal production to feed a power grid still suffering blackouts. Its challenge: to curb greenhouse gases as its population and economy grow. In 2010, India voluntarily committed to a 20 percent to 25 percent cut in carbon emissions relative to economic output by 2020 against 2005 levels. It has made recent strides installing solar power, which it is expected to increase fivefold to 100 gigawatts by 2030. Under current policies, its carbon dioxide emissions will double by then, according to the International Energy Agency.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 2.6 billion tons

    2013 population: 1.2 billion

    RUSSIA

    4
    Electrical light illuminates a petroleum cracking tower at the Lukoil-Nizhegorodnefteorgsintez oil refinery, operated by OAO Lukoil, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    It never faced mandatory cuts under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol because its emissions fell so much after the Soviet Union collapsed. A major oil and gas producer, Russia in 2013 adopted a domestic greenhouse gas target that would trim emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Russia’s carbon dioxide emissions today average 35 percent lower than 1990 levels. To meet its goal, Russia has set a goal for 2020 of boosting energy efficiency 40 percent and expanding renewable energy 4.5 percent. The state-owned gas company Gazprom has energy conservation plans, as has the federal housing program. But in 2006, Russia announced a move to more coal- and nuclear-fired electricity to export more oil and natural gas.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 2 billion tons

    2013 population: 143.5 million

    JAPAN

    5
    A passenger jet flies over factory facilities in the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki City, near Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008. (Toshiyuki Aizawa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    The shuttering of its nuclear power plants after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster forced a drastic change in plans to curb carbon pollution. In November, Japanese officials said they would now reduce greenhouse gases 3.8 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. With more fossil fuels in the mix, Japan’s emissions will be up 3 percent from 1990 levels, its benchmark for its pledge at a 2009 United Nations summit in Copenhagen to reduce emissions 25 percent. Beginning in 2012, Japan placed a carbon tax based on emissions of fossil fuels, with the proceeds going to renewable energy and energy-saving projects.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 1.4 billion tons

    2013 population: 127 million

    GERMANY

    6
    In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

    It has outperformed the 21 percent reduction in greenhouse gases it agreed to in 1997. Emissions are down 25 percent against 1990 levels. To comply with 2020 European Union-set goals, Germany must reduce greenhouse gases 40 percent by 2020. On Wednesday, it boosted subsidies for energy efficiency to help it get there. Germany has in recent years seen back-to-back emissions increases due to higher demand for electricity and a switch to coal after Fukushima, which prompted a nuclear power phase-out. Coal use is down this year and renewables continue to gain electricity market share. Renewables already account for a quarter of Germany’s electrical production. The country plans to boost that share to 80 percent by 2050 — and put a million electric cars on the road by 2020.

    2013 CO2 emissions: 836 million tons

    2013 population: 80.6 million

    ___

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on October 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carbon Sequestration,   

    From AAAS: “Storing greenhouse gas underground—for a million years” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    14 October 2014
    Jia You

    When Canada switched on its Boundary Dam power plant earlier this month, it signaled a new front in the war against climate change. The commercial turbine burns coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, but it traps nearly all the resulting carbon dioxide underground before it reaches the atmosphere. Part of this greenhouse gas is pumped into porous, water-bearing underground rock layers. Now, a new study provides the first field evidence that CO2 can be stored safely for a million years in these saline aquifers, assuaging worries that the gas might escape back into the atmosphere.

    g
    Geologist Martin Cassidy, who co-authored the new study, samples a gas well at Bravo Dome, the world’s largest natural CO2 reservoir.

    “It’s a very comprehensive piece of work,” says geochemist Stuart Gilfillan of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. “The approach is very novel.”

    There have been several attempts to capture the carbon dioxide released by the world’s 7000-plus coal-fired plants. Pilot projects in Algeria, Japan, and Norway indicate that CO2 can be stored in underground geologic formations such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs, deep coal seams, and saline aquifers. In the United States, saline aquifers are believed to have the largest capacity for CO2 storage, with potential sites spread out across the country, and several in western states such as Colorado also host large coal power plants. CO2 pumped into these formations are sealed under impermeable cap rocks, where it gradually dissolves into the salty water and mineralizes. Some researchers suggest the aquifers have enough capacity to store a century’s worth of emissions from America’s coal-fired plants, but others worry the gas can leak back into the air through fractures too small to detect.

    To resolve the dilemma, geoscientists need to know how long it takes for the trapped CO2 to dissolve. The faster the CO2 dissolves and mineralizes, the less risk that it would leak back into the atmosphere. But determining the rate of dissolution is no easy feat. Lab simulations suggest that the sealed gas could completely dissolve over 10,000 years, a process too slow to be tested empirically.

    So computational geoscientist Marc Hesse of the University of Texas, Austin, and colleagues turned to a natural lab: the Bravo Dome gas field in New Mexico, one of the world’s largest natural CO2 reservoirs. Ancient volcanic activities there have pumped the gas into a saline aquifer 700 meters underground. Since the 1980s, oil companies have drilled hundreds of wells there to extract the gas for enhanced oil recovery, leaving a wealth of data on the site’s geology and CO2 storage.

    To find out how fast CO2 dissolves in the aquifers, the researchers needed to know two things: the total amount of gas dissolved at the reservoir and how long it has been there. Because the gas is volcanic in origin, the researchers reasoned that it must have arrived at Bravo Dome steaming hot—enough to warm up the surrounding rocks. So they examined the buildup of radiogenic elements in the mineral apatite. These elements accumulate at low temperatures, but are released if the mineral is heated above 75°C, allowing the researchers to determine when the mineral was last heated above such a high temperature. The team estimated that the CO2 was pumped into the reservoir about 1.2 million years ago.

    Then the scientists calculated the amount of gas dissolved over the millennia, using the helium-3 isotope as a tracer. Like CO2, helium-3 is released during volcanic eruptions, and it is rather insoluble in saline water. By studying how the ratio of helium-3 to CO2 changes across the reservoir, the researchers found that out of the 1.6 gigatons of gas trapped underground at the reservoir, only a fifth has dissolved over 1.2 million years. That’s the equivalent of 75 years of emissions from a single 500-megawatt coal power plant, they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    More intriguingly, the analysis also provided the first field evidence of how CO2 dissolves after it is pumped into the aquifers. In theory, the CO2 dissolves through diffusion, which takes place when the gas comes into contact with the water surface. But the process could move faster if convection—in which water saturated with CO2 sinks and fresh water flows into its place to absorb more gas—were also at work. Analysis revealed that at Bravo Dome, 10% of the total gas at the reservoir dissolved after the initial emplacement. Diffusion alone cannot account for that amount, the researchers argue, as the gas accumulating at the top of the reservoir would have quickly saturated still water. Instead, convection most likely occurred.

    Hesse says constraints on convection might explain why CO2 dissolves much more slowly in saline aquifers at Bravo Dome than previously estimated, at a rate of 0.1 gram per square meter per year. The culprit would be the relatively impermeable Brava Dome rocks, which limit water flow and thus the rate of convective CO2 dissolution. At storage sites with more porous rocks, the gas could dissolve much faster and mineralize earlier, he says.

    Even so, the fact that CO2 stayed locked up underground for so long at Bravo Dome despite ongoing industrial drilling should allay concerns about potential leakage, Hesse says. Carbon capture and storage “can work, if you do it in the right place,” he says. “[This is] an enormous amount of CO2 that has sat there, for all we can tell, very peacefully for more than a million years.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:27 pm on November 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Carbon Sequestration, ,   

    From Berkeley Lab: “An Inside Look at a MOF in Action” 


    Berkeley Lab

    Berkeley Lab Researchers Probe Into Electronic Structure of MOF May Lead to Improved Capturing of Greenhouse Gases

    November 22, 2013
    Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375 lcyarris@lbl.gov

    A unique inside look at the electronic structure of a highly touted metal-organic framework (MOF) as it is adsorbing carbon dioxide gas should help in the design of new and improved MOFs for carbon capture and storage. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first in situ electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside Mg-MOF-74, an open metal site MOF that has emerged as one of the most promising strategies for capturing and storing greenhouse gases.

    Working at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a team led by Jeff Kortright of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, used the X-ray spectroscopy technique known as Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) to obtain what are believed to be the first ever measurements of chemical and electronic signatures inside of a MOF during gas adsorption.

    “We’ve demonstrated that NEXAFS spectroscopy is an effective tool for the study of MOFs and gas adsorption,” Kortright says. “Our study shows that open metal site MOFs have significant X-ray spectral signatures that are highly sensitive to the adsorption of carbon dioxide and other molecules.”

    Kortright is the corresponding author of a paper describing these results in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The paper is titled Probing Adsorption Interactions In Metal-Organic Frameworks Using X-ray Spectroscopy. Co-authors are Walter Drisdell, Roberta Poloni, Thomas McDonald, Jeffrey Long, Berend Smit, Jeffrey Neaton and David Prendergast.

    spec
    Mg-MOF-74 is an open metal site MOF whose porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants. (National Academy of Sciences)

    See the full article here.

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