Wednesday, April 24, 2013

potential solution to the challenges of carbon sequestration

Mother Nature: The Master Innovator (As Usual)
The discovery of a cheap and widely available catalyst is promising especially due to the fact that the end product, CaCO3, is chemically inert. In terms of cost, nickel could provide an alternative to the Carbonic Anyhdrase enzyme at a thousandth of the price. The estimated cost incurred per ton of CO2 captured is cited at ~$7.9, considering the recycling potential and low-cost of nickel. Additionally, the opportunity to sell the CaCO3 output represents potential for entirely offsetting the costs of the sequestration system. CaCO3, a chalky substance, is used in industries such as paper/pulp, plastics, cement, and paint. These industries are estimated to consume over 85 million tons of CaCO3 per year, resulting in markets that bring in roughly $650 billion/yr. Other proposed methods for capturing industrially produced CO2 include the underground storage of CO2 in expired oil pockets or in deep ocean sites. The cost of transportation of CO2 to these sites, alongside the measures likely to be taken to ensure that leakage won’t occur, represent downsides to these methods that won’t be present were CO2 to be converted to CaCO3.
Because this technology is low-cost and could be utilized without much re-structuring of the industrial settings in which it would be useful, the political and economic feasibilities of its widespread deployment seem reasonable. The buzz all over scientific columns in the last couple of weeks has been calling this finding ‘a potential solution to the challenges of carbon sequestration’. Will it be? Only time will tell. It is, however, important to remember that  these technologies are still bandaids for our dirty energy economy, and thus shouldn’t be adopted in lieu of clean energy advancements. But considering how far off we are from 100% clean energy, news regarding promising new sequestration techniques is good news.

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