Going negative: Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

February 14, 2015 by Mark Shwartz
Combining bioenergy with carbon capture and storage at a coal-burning power plant would result in a net-negative reduction of atmospheric CO2. Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

To combat climate change, President Obama has called for an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. To help achieve this goal, the President has encouraged big investments in wind, solar and other renewable forms of energy.

But a growing number of scientists warn that low-carbon technologies might not be enough to meet the President's 80 percent target. The solution, they say, could require a new suite of carbon-negative technologies that actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

This negative-emissions approach to reducing atmospheric CO2 will be the focus of a symposium at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Feb. 14, at the San Jose Convention Center.

"Renewables - such as solar, wind, hydro and bioenergy - and sequestration technologies, like and storage (CCS), could help curb CO2 emissions," said symposium organizer Jennifer Milne, an energy assessment analyst at the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University. "To augment these, technologies exist that remove atmospheric CO2 and potentially keep it out of the atmosphere. These negative-emissions technologies have benefits and downsides, and vary drastically in predicted cost."

In 2013, Milne and Stanford Professor Chris Field co-authored a GCEP report on negative emissions. Featured in the report is a promising technology called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The BECCS approach can be used in power plants that generate electricity or factories that make chemicals and fuels.

Power plants fueled by coal and natural gas are among the world's biggest emitters of CO2. Several CCS projects are underway to capture the CO2 emissions before they enter the atmosphere and store them permanently underground.

BECCS goes a step further by taking advantage of the innate ability of plants to capture atmospheric CO2 for photosynthesis. In nature, the CO2 is eventually released back into the atmosphere as the plant decays.

At a BECCS facility, grass and other vegetation is burnt along with coal or . The CO2 emissions are captured and sequestered in the ground instead of going into the atmosphere, thus bypassing the decaying process. The result is a net-negative reduction in atmospheric CO2.

A number of technical and policy issues have to be addressed before BECCS can be implemented at scale. Some of the key challenges will be discussed by symposium speakers Peter Smith of the University of Aberdeen, Jennifer Wilcox of Stanford and James Edmonds of the Joint Global Change Research Institute.

Lisamarie Windham-Myers of the U.S. Geological Survey will compare BECCS with other land-management techniques - such as wetland restoration and sustainable agriculture - that could lead to the large-scale removal of atmospheric carbon as well as other environmental benefits. Peter Byck of Arizona State University will describe a sustainable ranching project that restores grazing land while soaking up atmospheric CO2.

Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford will discuss the physical science of negative emissions and their impact on the .

"Negative-emissions technologies, such as BECCS, can be thought of as part of an insurance policy for climate-change mitigation," wrote symposium moderator Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford, in a 2014 guest editorial in the journal Science. "This approach still leaves unanswered questions, but to not consider it carefully would be too risky."

Explore further: Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western US carbon-negative

More information: Additional information about the symposium is available at the AAAS website: aaas.confex.com/aaas/2015/webprogram/Session9663.html

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Shootist
2 / 5 (8) Feb 14, 2015
Nothing good can come of this. Stop messing with shit your don't understand.

"What I'm convinced of is that we don't understand climate." - Freeman Dyson

As a general rule, if Freeman Dyson doesn't understand something, you don't, either. And yes, I mean you, all of you.
ssatak
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 15, 2015
It would seem the whole thing is an elaborate hoax.

An article over at newsinvestors about: climate-change-scare-tool-to-destroy-capitalism. Punch up 'UN destroy capitalism' on Google.

I wondered when the bean were gonna get spilled.
omatwankr
2 / 5 (2) Feb 15, 2015
"GCEP is a 10-year, $225m research project aimed at developing new energy technologies. It has the support of four major companies - ExxonMobil, General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota."

well we know where the money is from
Megagorgo
not rated yet Feb 15, 2015
Sounds like Exxon is hedging it's bets.
dadpt
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2015
Amazing how we are doing stuff to stop something that has not been proven yet. In fact, latest problems are possible false data collections by believers. If you believe, you can't turn in data that shows temperatures are dropping or not rising. It goes against your belief. If there has been any increase in the earths temperature its just as likely to be caused by the really strange carbon capture schemes that resources are being wasted on. I'd say wait a little while and use modern satellite data to monitor the surface of the earth. But of course it could be corrupted too like the data showing a bunch of ice was missing at the south pole. Strange how that problem has just been forgotten. Probably because it doesn't show global warming. The errant data that showed ice loss was readily accepted. Why because if fit the global warming mind set.
KDK
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2015
You folks are ignorant, arrogant and dangerous!

AGW is a total fraud, as exposed by Climategate, explained by Agenda 21, and confirmed by 18 years of no warming and 7 years of global COOLING--based on Solar Cycle 24 and likely the Milankovitch ice-age cycle as well!
PPihkala
4 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2015
You deniers are ignoring the unrefutable fact that because of fossil fuel use for past 100+ years, the atmospheric portion of CO2 has risen from 300 ppm to 400 ppm. So what we must do is to get it back to 300 ppm. Ocean acidification is messing enough with ecology even if there would not be any temperature changes.
sf09er2002
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2015
You can't dispute the physics. You might as well try and argue gravity doesn't exist. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as supported by the American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union, etc.. This is simple demonstrable physical theory. The change from 300 to 400 ppm is enough to have significant effects. If you want to see it for yourself, watch the mythbusters episode on global warming on youTube.

18 years of no warming is BS. Take the average temp of the past 5 years and compare that to the average temp of a five year period 18 years ago, then let me know if there has been any warming. This quote is propaganda based on comparing every year to 1998, an exceptionally warm el nino year. In climate science, you look at averages and long term trends, not was this year warmer than 1998 and if not, there's no warming trend.

The claims of we don't understand climate science is like refusing all medical treatment, since we don't fully understand medicine.
stopalgaeresearch
not rated yet Feb 15, 2015
US taxpayers have spent over $2.5 billion on algae research at universities over the last 60 years researching how algae consumes CO2. Let's stop the need for more algae research funding and start commercialization and deployment of algae closed-systems at power plants to sequester CO2. We have already co-located closed-loop photobioreactors to sequester CO2 at coal-fired power plants and cement plants on a commercial basis with good results.

Algae researchers claim it takes 1.8 tons of CO2 to make 1 ton of algae biomass. The National Algae Association members stand ready TODAY to co-locate equipment at any coal-fired power plant or cement plants to sequester CO2 anywhere in the world.

They can take the CO2 at the flue scrub it of particulates and metals and make it into co-products and are creating new jobs TODAY. The commercially-minded algae researchers can be involved calculating exactly how much CO2 is being sequestered at each location. It's a win-win.

Losik
Feb 15, 2015
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