Technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are unlikely to offer an economically feasible way to slow human-driven climate change for several decades, according to a report issued by the American Physical Society and led by Princeton engineer Robert Socolow.
"We humans should not kid ourselves that we can pour all the carbon dioxide we wish into the atmosphere right now and pull it out later at little cost," said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The report, issued by a committee of 13 experts, was co-chaired by Socolow and Michael Desmond, a chemist at BP. The group looked at technologies known as "Direct Air Capture," or DAC, which would involve using chemicals to absorb carbon dioxide from the open air, concentrating the carbon dioxide, and then storing it safely underground.
[The full report is available from the American Physical Society.]
In essence, the committee found that such a strategy would be far more expensive than simply preventing the emission of the carbon dioxide in the first place.
Making optimistic assumptions about initial DAC technologies, the committee concluded that, from the evidence it had seen, building and operating a system would cost at least $600 per metric ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere, for a system that could work today. Building a system big enough to compensate for the emissions of a 1,000-megawatt coal power plant would require 30 kilometers of equipment. In comparison, removing carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a coal-fired power plant would cost about $80 per ton.
As a result, the group concluded, DAC is not likely to become worthwhile until nearly all the significant point sources of carbon dioxide are eliminated.
"We ought to be developing plans to bring to an end the carbon dioxide emissions at every coal and natural gas power pla
|Contact: Steven Schultz|
Princeton University, Engineering School