Shell Oil underwrites “open source” geoengineering project to fight global warming
Shell Oil funds “open source” geoengineering project to fight global warming
July 21, 2008
Shell Oil is funding a project that seeks to test the potential of adding lime to seawater as a cost-effective way to fight global warming by sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans, reports Chemistry & Industry magazine.
Adding lime (calcium hydroxide) to seawater increases its alkalinity, thereby increasing the ocean’s capacity to absorb CO2 and reducing its tendency to the greenhouse gas back into the atmosphere. The process could also help counter acid acidification, which biologists say is increasingly a threat to marine life, including coral reefs and plankton.
While the concept has been discussed for years, it has been believed to be too expensive to be carried out on a scale necessary to affect ocean chemistry. Now Tim Kruger, a management consultant at Corven, a London-based firm, think he has figured out a way to make the idea economical by locating in regions that are rich with limestone and have substantial energy resources that are too remote to exploit for commercial purposes.
“There are many such places — for example, Australia’s Nullarbor Plain would be a prime location for this process, as it has 10 000km3 of limestone and soaks up roughly 20MJ/m2 of solar irradiation every day,” said Kruger.
Although the process generates CO2 emissions, on paper it sequesters twice as much of the warming gas than it produces. Kruger says the process is therefore ‘carbon negative’.
‘This process has the potential to reverse the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. It would be possible to reduce CO2 to pre-industrial levels,’ he explained.
Shell is funding an economic feasibility study of the concept, which is detailed at www.cquestrate.com.. Like other oil companies facing a future with caps on greenhouse gas emissions, Shell is increasingly keen on technologies that can reduce its carbon footprint.
“We think it’s a promising idea,” says Shell’s Gilles Bertherin, a coordinator on the project, which is being developed in an “open source” manner. “There are potentially huge environmental benefits from addressing climate change — and adding calcium hydroxide to seawater will also mitigate the effects of ocean acidification, so it should have a positive impact on the marine environment.”
The project isn’t the first to try to exploit the capacity of the oceans — the planet’s largest carbon sink — to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. Earlier this year Planktos, a California-based firm, attempted to conduct a large-scale iron-fertilization experiment in the equatorial Pacific. It argued that artificial iron fertilization would trigger massive blooms of phytoplankton that would absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help fight global warming. The firm would then sell the carbon credits to individuals and companies looking to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. But the scheme was widely opposed by environmental groups who said it could harm marine life. Some scientists — including researchers at Stanford and Oregon State Universities — said that any bloom of phytoplankton induced by Planktos would be accompanied by a bloom in bacteria as phytoplankton die. These bacteria may produce gases–like nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas–that counteract the effects of carbon sequestration by phytoplankton. Further, bacterial decay consumes oxygen, which alters water chemistry.
In any case, Planktos failed to attract sufficient funding to conduct its experiments. Investors were apparently put off by criticism of its plan, which relied on the use of foreign vessels to skirt the U.S. Ocean Dumping Act.
Related news articles
Geoengineering solution to global warming could destroy the ozone layer
(4/24/2008) A proposed plan to fight global warming by injecting sulfate particles into Earth’s upper atmosphere could damage the ozone layer over the Arctic and Antarctic, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Planktos kills iron fertilization project due to environmental opposition
(2/19/2008) Planktos, a California-based firm that planned a controversial iron-fertilization scheme in an attempt to qualify carbon offsets, announced that it failed to find sufficient funding for its efforts and would postpone its project indefinitely.
Too early to say if iron seeding will slow global warming – scientists
(1/10/2008) Schemes to use feed the ocean with iron as a way to enhance carbon sequestration from the atmosphere are premature and could be damaging to sea life and marine ecosystems, warns a letter published in the journal Science by an international group of scientists.
Ocean CO2 collector could fight global warming and ocean acidification
(11/19/2007) Researchers have proposed a geoengineering solution to global warming that involves building a series of water treatment plants that enhance the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by removing hydrochloric acid from seawater by electrolysis.
Weathering technology could mitigate global warming
(11/8/2007) Researchers at Harvard University and Pennsylvania State University have invented a technology, inspired by nature, to reduce the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by human emissions.
Geoengineering cure for global warming could cause problems
(8/14/2007) Proposed geoengineering schemes to reduce global warming may do more harm than good, warns a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Geoengineering could stop global warming but carries big risks
(6/4/2007) Using radical techniques to ,engineer, Earth’s climate by blocking sunlight could cool Earth but presents great risks that could well worsen global warming should they fail or be discontinued, reports a new study published in the June 4 early online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Modifying clouds to fight global warming
(8/15/2005) An article in The Sunday Times reports that a scientist is working a cloud manufacturing technique to counter global warming.