Carbon Capture and Storage not right for NZ

Now that Gerry “Sexy Coal” Brownlee holds the Energy portfolio, it’s time to look once again at his favourite meme. Should we be investing in new coal fired generation, in the hopes that Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), will rescue us from the emissions downside? Recently published research says that CCS is questionable at best and that policy makers should invest elsewhere. The US and Europe have long since recognised its limitations and have pulled the plug on their billion dollar CCS research.

The international perspective can be cited from the journal Energy Policy:

Carbon capture and storage: Fundamental thermodynamics and current technology
S.C. Page a,, A.G.Williamson b, I.G.Mason c

a b s t r a c t
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is considered a leading technology for reducing CO2 emissions from fossil-fuelled electricity generation plants and could permit the continued use of coal and gas whilst meeting greenhouse gas targets. However considerable energy is required for the capture, compression, transport and storage steps involved. In this paper, energy penalty information in the literature is reviewed, and thermodynamically ideal and ‘‘realworld’’ energy penalty values are calculated. For a sub-critical pulverized coal (PC) plant, the energy penalty values for 100% capture are 48.6% and 43.5% for liquefied CO2, and for CO2 compressed to 11MPa, respectively. When assumptions for supercritical plants were incorporated, results were in broad agreement with published values arising from process modelling. However, we show that energy use in existing capture operations is considerably greater than indicated by most projections. Full CCS demonstration plants are now required to verify modelled energy penalty values. However, it appears unlikely that CCS will deliver significant CO2  reductions in a timely fashion. In addition, many uncertainties remain over the permanence of CO2  storage, either in geological formations, or beneath the ocean. We conclude that further investment in CCS should be seriously questioned by policy makers.

& 2008 ElsevierLtd. All rights reserved.

 That advice is pretty unequivocal. On the domestic front, kiwi research is coming to similar conclusions:

Carbon Capture and Storage: An applicable technology for New Zealand?

Page, S.C, Mason, I.G. and Williamson, A.G. (2008)

Proceedings of the NZ Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science Conference “Blueprints for a Sustainable Future”, 9-12 December, 2008, Auckland, New Zealand.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been widely touted as a practical way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, and if successfully implemented, could permit the continued use of coal and gas for many decades, whilst at the same time meeting greenhouse gas targets. In this paper we discuss the applicability of CCS technology to existing coal-fired electricity generation in New Zealand, and to new thermal generation using Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology, with specific reference to the time frames signalled for deep cuts in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and those required for major works of this nature. Energy penalty estimates show that adoption of CCS with IGCC would involve the consumption of at least 22% additional coal for the capture and compression stages only. The current global absence of full-scale coal fired power plants with operational CCS systems, and the planning and construction times likely for adoption and construction of new plant, indicate that CCS technology will not assist New Zealand to meet interim GHG reductions of 20-40% by 2020. If applied to a 900 MWe (IGCC) thermal power plant, the technology could contribute 7% of annual GHG reductions starting from 2024-2030. However, considerable technical, commercial and legal uncertainties remain to be resolved. On balance we consider CCS technology to be inappropriate for New Zealand conditions and recommend alternative investment of research funds into the use of woody biomass, a permanent and sustainable resource, for future thermal heat and power generation.

Hmm. “Inappropriate for NZ conditions”.  That pretty much says it all. The energy penalty, (read economic penalty) is just too great. So what is NZ supposed to do Gerry? Hey, I’ve got an idea – lets build heaps more geothermal baseload, and wind, and worry about the real sources of our emissions, namely transport and agriculture. In short, execute the renewables policy put in place by the last government, but with even less timidity than they showed.

As for transport – well, that Biofuel Bill, with it’s excellently crafted sustainability principles, could easily sail back through the house. How about some fuel economy standards too, but only for cars entering the NZ fleet for the first time?

Agriculture? Well, the government could restore the research and development cash and tax breaks it threw away in such haste. We could be a world leader in reducing ag emissions, if we tried.

Energy Efficiency? The government could hold fire on canning the billion dollar Green Homes Fund and actually allow the 2:1 return on investment that it represents to flow back into the government coffers while at the same time creating much needed jobs in local communities.

It’s tough taking on two huge portfolios at once – namely Leadership of the House and Energy. I know Gerry, where your attention has been lately – and rightly so. So why muddle up the latter portfolio by ripping apart all your predecessor’s work when you have nothing of substance with which to replace it?

But I digress. The point of my post is “Get off the coal train, Gerry!”

8 Comments Posted

  1. frog,

    The problem I have with the peer review is that the qualification and quality of the reviewer must be open to inspection. And the reviewer must be independently removed from a fixed notion of climate change.

    After all when we have financial audits we have indepent arbortrators to judge the figures. It is high time the “peer review” concept had the same seperation and transparency.

    Instead of a ”peer” review we should have independent impartial observers to judge the viability and accuracy of any report.

    All “peer” reviews are worth nothing.

    If I publish a report that states that sea levels in the Manukau have not risen a millimeter, I can get that peer reviewed by fellow Manukau Harbour users.

    Does that make it true? Yes because my report has been peer reviewed by my fellow long time Manukau Harbour users.

    Am I qualified? Yes, I have been on the harbour for over forty years and have studiously noted the high water marks on the boat ramp, so have most of my peers.

    Trouble is you wont believe my report not my peer review because it is not scientifically documented nor do I have the title Prof or Doctor.

    And therein lies the problem, We are expected to believe the experts and their “peer” review but when we look at the fact, they differ. Hence untold sceptisism of “peer” review statistics.

    Both the researcher and the “peer” may be working from the same bias and see the same incorrect conclusion.

  2. wat, when you start producing the peer reviewed science that debunks AGW, we’ll start listening. So far it is the sceptics that are smearing the real science, not the other way around.

    You act as if science is a democratic process rather than based on the facts and the best models we can build at the time. Get with the programme!

  3. Trevor,

    Your confused statement is really just a concession that the models are indeed worthless.

    To quote one study of the models’ accuracy: “at the annual and the climatic (30-year) scales, GCM interpolated series are irrelevant to reality.”


    The short of it is that, if you are correct and the models do indeed have valuable predictive skill, you will have no trouble demonstrating how they predicted the last decade of cooling.
    On the other hand, if the models predicted warming rather than cooling, you would have to concede that the models are completely worthless.

    The evidence is that they are worthless:-

    But the broader point here is that the Green party’s approach is to try to smear AGW sceptics as unscientific.
    For example, they try to tar ACT with this brush.
    But here’s the truth of the matter. ACT’s approach, from what I can gather, is broadly similar to the position held by Dr. John S. Theon, who declared:-

    “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.
    “As Chief of several of NASA Headquarters’ programs (1982-94), an SES position, I was responsible for all weather and climate research in the entire agency, including the research work by James Hansen, Roy Spencer, Joanne Simpson, and several hundred other scientists at NASA field centers, in academia, and in the private sector who worked on climate research,” Theon wrote of his career. “This required a thorough understanding of the state of the science. I have kept up with climate science since retiring by reading books and journal articles,” Theon added.”

    And with Dr J. Scott Armstrong “a founder of the International Journal of Forecasting, Journal of Forecasting, International Institute of Forecasters, and International Symposium on Forecasting, and the author of Long-range Forecasting (1978, 1985), the Principles of Forecasting Handbook, and over 70 papers on forecasting,”

    Amongst hundreds of other scientists, of course.

    The question is, will the Green party still have the gall to repeat their Stalinesque smear tactic, or will they (gasp!) have to actually start debating the science?

  4. Wat,

    The article you link to is unadulterated bulls*>t and here is why:

    1) It claims: (scientists have) “resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists”.

    False: You can download the source code and documentation for at least one frequently used climate model from here: Other models are also freely available if you simply ask for them.

    If this is not making work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists, I don’t know what is.

    2) It claims that “The models were not intended as forecasting models”.

    False. At least one model (the UKMO unified model) is used for forecasting at all time scales, from NWP (numerical weather prediction; that is computer forecasts of the weather) through to climate studies.

    Furthermore, this claim is backed up by a reference to Trenberth (2007), but the reference is not in the list of references at the end of the article. I am sure Trenberth would be interested to know of this novel interpretation of his work.

    3) It claims “To our knowledge, papers claiming to forecast global warming have not been subject to peer review by experts in scientific forecasting.”

    Well, I don’t know who they refer to as “experts in scientific forecasting”, but to claim papers predicting global warming are not properly peer reviewed is simply a lie: have a look at any of the papers in the AMS (American Meteorological Society) Journal of Climate:

    4) It claims “Expert opinions are an inappropriate forecasting method in situations that involve high complexity and high uncertainty.”

    The climate is complex; but if experts opinion’s can’t be relied on, whose can? What is an appropriate forecasting method? This claim is basically saying the climate is too complex to predict, but doesn’t say why it is too complex to predict.

    5) It claims: “Forecasts are needed for the effects of climate change.” Fair enough, but this is not the job of the climate scientist. The climate scientist can predict the Arctic is warming; it is up to zoologists or whoever to say what the effect on polar bear populations will be (and they do tell us what the effect is likely to be; extinction!).

    6) It claims “Forecasts are needed of the costs and benefits of alternative actions that might be taken to combat climate change.” I thought quite a few economists have been working on this issue? Has the author of the article been burying his head in the sand for the last ten or more years?

    7) It claims “To justify using a climate forecasting model, one would need to test it against a relevant naïve model.” (and show that the complex model does a better job than the simple model).

    This is done. The more complex models are designed to address questions the simpler models cannot answer.

    8) It claims “The climate system is stable.”

    This is false. Was the climate stable when it transitioned from the last ice age to the current interglacial warm period?

    9) It claims “Be conservative and avoid the precautionary principle.”

    The author correctly identifies that the precautionary principle is a political principle, not a scientific one. The climate scientist’s job is to predict and explain what is happening. What action is taken is the role of society as a whole. All the scientists I know are well aware of this distinction, and don’t try and say (in their scientific role) what political actions need to be taken.

    10) It claims the CSIRO models “violate 72 scientific principles.”

    Well Dr Armstrong, please tell us what these scientific principles are. I could claim CSIRO’s models violate 100 scientific principles and 250 principles of good Fortran coding, but why would/should anyone believe me?

  5. Interesting indeed Wat… senior scientists who haven’t done anything in the field in a decade or more mistrust the computers and the models.

    Me, I am more inclined to listen to the people who ARE doing the research who will all (97%) tell you that that the greenhouse is working and it’s us.

    I take Clarke’s first law into account here –

    “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible he is very probably wrong”.


  6. There are a number of computer models all making similar predictions. They have been created independently. Saying that they are not scientific doesn’t automatically mean that they are wrong. If they are wrong, it also doesn’t mean that AGW isn’t going to happen – they could just as easily underestimate the temperature increases.


  7. “YESTERDAY, a former chief at NASA, Dr John S. Theon, slammed the computer models used to determine future climate claiming they are not scientific in part because the modellers have “resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists”.

    Today, a founder of the International Journal of Forecasting, Journal of Forecasting, International Institute of Forecasters, and International Symposium on Forecasting, and the author of Long-range Forecasting (1978, 1985), the Principles of Forecasting Handbook, and over 70 papers on forecasting, Dr J. Scott Armstrong, tabled a statement declaring that the forecasting process used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lacks a scientific basis.

    What these two authorities, Drs Theon and Armstrong, are independently and explicitly stating is that the computer models underpinning the work of many scientific institutions concerned with global warming, including Australia’s CSIRO, are fundamentally flawed.”

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