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Drilling has begun on a massive $84M USD U.S. Department of Energy carbon sequestration project. The project and other sequestration efforts have many critics, including the IPCC and utilities, two rivals which typically disagree on climate issues but in this case are in agreement.  (Source: Wired)

The DoE project drills deeper than past U.S. sequestration projects, into sandstone of Mt. Simon, shown here. The reservoir along with similar ones in other parts of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois could store up to 100 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.  (Source: Wired)
Why worry about your problems, when you can bury them away?

As the U.S. Department of Energy's first-of-its-scale project in carbon burial launches, interest in carbon burial and sequestration is at an all time high.  Many nations wish that there was an alternative to traditional emissions cuts, which can hinder growth, and could reduce their net contribution to atmospheric carbon.

Carbon sequestration could provide just such a solution.  By burying the substance in underground cavities or in carbon rich soils in swamps or other sites, the net contribution of a country to emissions can be reduced.  And while many in the environmental community no longer like the idea, pointing out that such deposits could be easily released and don't solve the overall problem, the movement to adopt carbon sequestration still has powerful supporters.

Drilling began this week in Illinois on the DoE project, which will bury one million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the ground by 2012.  The project is the first of its scale in the U.S., and while still small compared to total U.S. emissions has the potential to grow much bigger.  Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have enough underground space to store approximately 100 billion tons of CO2, enough to completely negate 25 years of emissions at the current rate, if fully filled.

Robert Finley, the manager of the current project states, "This is going to be a large-scale injection of 1 million metric tons, one of the largest injections to date in the U.S."

While Mr. Finley is enthusiastic about the project, others aren't.  The Bush administration last year canceled funding for an even bigger carbon sequestration project, FutureGen, citing concerns about the practice.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, typically a strong voice in support of emissions control, has sided with the utilities for once in vocally opposing carbon burial.  It has released studies indicating 30 percent of the energy from a coal burning plant would be wasted trying to capture the carbon dioxide from the flue gas.

One thing that could give supporters of burial a boost though is new carbon-specific filtering materials produced in labs like Omar Yaghi's at UCLA and at Georgia Tech under Chris Jones.  These materials may potentially make capture much cheaper and more efficient, making storage the only remaining challenge.

John Litynski, who works in the fossil-fuel-centered National Energy Technology Laboratory's Sequestration Division, believes storage should be easy as pie for the U.S.  He states, "What we found in the U.S. with the research that we've done over the last 10 years is that there is a significant potential to store CO2 ... in these very large reservoirs that are underground."

However, many of these reservoirs are deeper underground that existing sequestration projects have reached.  That's why the deep reaching Illinois project, which drills into the Mt. Simon sandstone, is such a critical test bed.  Scientists will, for the first time, be able to observe what happens when they pump compressed carbon dioxide 6,500 feet below the surface.  Describes Mr. Litynski, "We have numbers for what we think the capacity is in the U.S., but the only way to prove that is to actually drill a well."

The Illinois project will pump carbon dioxide produced by ethanol fermentation underground.  Archer Daniels Midland provided land for the site.  Even with these concessions, the project will cost over $84M USD, thanks to the high cost of drilling.

At a recent speech Mr. Litynski was challenged by an audience member who pointed out that 10,000 projects of the scale of the Illinois one would be needed to offset current emissions.  Mr. Litynski refused to back down from his support of the concept, though, dodging the question and stating, "From my point of view as someone working in this field ... the political rhetoric gets to the point where it's all supposed to be solar or wind or coal or natural gas (versus sequestration).  The reality for the situation is that we need all of these technologies."

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$84,000,000 plant food sustenance removal program.
By A Stoner on 2/17/2009 4:16:46 PM , Rating: 5
So, we are going to spend millions, actually billions to take/keep out of the air a trace element that is needed by every living creature on the planet in order to fight the phantom menance of disproven global warming? Plants are actually at their best when CO2 is at around 1000ppm and remains as strong up to 1500ppm. That is why greenhouse owners pump CO2 into greenhouses, not to warm it up in their, but to increase productivity.

All of the plants you see around you developed, if you are an evolutionist thinker, or were designed for the rest of us, for an atmosphere that has up to 8000ppm CO2. The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is at historic lows for the last 600,000,000 years.

Every 100,000 years we go into an ice age, regardless of the amount of CO2 in the air. For about 90,000 years the temperatures remain low enough to cover most of the world in ICE and then for about 8,000 to 12,000 years it all warms up, no thanks to CO2.

Cold water can hold more CO2 than warm water, so when we come out of an ice age, the oceans start to spew out more, or abosorb less CO2 than they did for the 90,000 years in which it was colder. We had a 200 year cold period called the little ice age that cooled the planet and thus the oceans and they absorbed some CO2, giving the 280PPM that everyone likes to rant about, but that is not the historic baseline, because our earth is dymanic, along with the solar system and the part of the galaxy that it all resides in.

CO2 changes in the atmosphere are for the most part totally natural. The isotopes of Carbon in CO2 are known for the air as well as for the coal and oil we burn. The isotopes do not change very quickly, that is why we can carbon date things back hundreds of thousands of years. The CO2 in the atmosphere has not had a significant increase in the isotopes of Carbon that come from oil and coal, thus, most of the increase in CO2 is coming from another source. The ocean contians orders of magnitude more CO2 than the atmosphere.

Think about what it means to your children if CO2 is cleaned from the air, how many will starve in the famines caused by lack of CO2!!!

By bhieb on 2/17/2009 4:38:50 PM , Rating: 3
Well they are man made holes just pop the cap and adjust the ppm to whatever suits you. Think of it as a big thermostat that we can adjust, and just like any AC the husband and wife (conserv / environ) will never agree on what temp it should be :)

The moral question then becomes if we can artificially adjust the temperature should we? Most (myself included) would say no, but how is it any less natural than detecting an asteroid collision and diverting it? Both are natural processes that have been occurring since the planet's birth so why not? If we can detect a global warming/cooling phase should we not try to control it, if it suits us?

By A Stoner on 2/17/2009 4:58:47 PM , Rating: 3
We are not changing temperature of the earth, we are changing temperatures of areas of the earth by land usage. not CO2. Take all the water out of the aquifer and the lack of evaporative cooling causes higher temperatures in that area, and maybe less rain further away. Cut down the trees here and you change the environment downwind of the lost forest. It is nothing about CO2.

By bhieb on 2/17/2009 5:03:48 PM , Rating: 2
Well that is another debate all together.

By ebakke on 2/17/2009 5:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
Most (myself included) would say no, but how is it any less natural than detecting an asteroid collision and diverting it?
An asteroid collision (of any significant size) is guaranteed to kill humans (which, let's be honest, are far more important to us than any other organism). The same can't be truthfully said of "climate change".

Modifying the temperature of the earth is something that literally every thing on the planet contributes to. It all interacts with everything else constantly. Those changes are neither good, nor bad. They're merely changes. To assume that we (humans) know the ideal state of the planet and that we have the power to somehow keep ourselves in that state is both incredibly arrogant, and incredibly naive.

By LostInLine on 2/17/2009 5:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
So what you're saying is that we really do need to pump C02 into the ground in case we have a future shortage in the atmosphere. Then, we can just release it and fix the problem.

BTW, I was under the impression that at 8000ppm C02 was lethal to humans.

By masher2 on 2/17/2009 6:24:54 PM , Rating: 3
At 8000ppm? No. The astronauts on Apollo 13 were breathing over 100,000 ppm (10%)...enough to cause problems with mental concentration and risk of blackout -- but no one died. NIOSH sets a safety limit of 30,000 ppm, but that's a very conservative standard.

By HollyDOL on 2/18/2009 2:13:04 AM , Rating: 3
They would do more good planting forests for those $84M. Not only it continualy consumes CO2 and exhausts O2, but it's also reusable source as well - wood, paper, fuel...

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