Ticking Time Bomb

Home arrow Blog
A blog of all sections with no images
Fuel from CO2 ? PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

Imagine driving up to your local gas station and being able to choose between regular, premium, or carbon-free gasoline.

Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, is already making a liquid fuel by sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and combining it with hydrogen from water. This is an engineering breakthrough on two fronts: A potentially cost-effective way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere to fight climate change and a potentially cost-competitive way to make gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel that doesn’t add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere.

“This isn’t going to save the world from the impacts of climate change, but it’s going to be a big step on the path to a low-carbon economy,” said David Keith, a Harvard Professor of Applied Physics and founder of Carbon Engineering. Keith said capturing CO2 from the air and making fuel didn’t require scientific breakthroughs per se as much as $30 million, eight years of engineering, and a “million little details” to get the process right.

Getting it right also meant keeping the costs below $100 for each ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. The design and engineering cost of the pilot project that’s been running since 2015 in Squamish, British Columbia, was published today in the peer-reviewed energy journal Joule. The company used existing industrial processes to scale up and reduce costs.

“Our paper shows the costs and engineering for a full-scale plant that could capture one million tons of CO2 a year,” Keith said.

Hydrogen through existing pipelines !! PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

As world leaders hammered out a deal last week to slow climate change, gas engineer Michele Ricciardi was digging into a practical problem: How thousands of miles of pipelines across Italy and Europe can safely carry hydrogen.

The Italian is at the forefront of gas carriers' efforts to prepare for a lower carbon future: If fossil fuels are phased out in coming decades, natural gas companies believe that should not mean the infrastructure that carries them must go too. They want to repurpose pipelines to carry zero-emissions hydrogen after countries wean themselves off natural gas.

The effort by nearly two dozen companies reflects the accelerating pace of planning taking place in the global oil and gas industry, from drillers to refiners, keen to adapt as governments and activists ramp up the pressure to slash greenhouse gases. Besides practical preparation, the transition puts firms into competition with other energy sources for funding, even as they invest billions of euros in markets they can't predict.

The hydrogen project - involving Italy's Snam SpA, Spain's Enagas S.A. and Germany's Open Grid Europe (OGE) among others – would rely on vast solar farms as far flung as the Sahara desert to create the energy needed to produce hydrogen from water.

That fuel would then be piped to Europe's industrial heartland along the existing web of natural gas pipelines – a 198,500 km (123,300 mile) network that, if untangled, could encircle the equator four times.

"Once we have the sun of the Sahara in German factories ... that's like the Roman roads we are still walking on today," Ricciardi's boss Marco Alvera, chief executive of Snam, told Reuters. "It's forever."

The companies want to form a European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) to prevent the pipelines from rusting up into what the industry calls "stranded assets." They calculate that some 69% of existing pipelines can be converted for up to 81 billion euros ($94 billion).

The project is one of hundreds of plans to build a hydrogen economy, which the European Union says could involve investments of up to 460 billion euros by 2030.

A hydrogen supply network could add to Europe's energy security: The bloc currently relies on natural gas to meet 28% of its energy needs, with a third of the gas from Russia. Politicians have recently accused Moscow of holding back supplies as gas prices climbed to record levels. Russia says it has filled all its contractual requirements.


Adapting existing natural gas networks to transport hydrogen is about 25% of the cost of building a new infrastructure for renewable energy, he said.

But the European Union is not providing cash for the venture - that must come from industry or national governments. So it will need political and industrial support.

To succeed, the gas grids need to be able to direct hydrogen blended with natural gas to the customers who can use it – like steelmakers, chemical companies and refineries. The supply needs to be safe, and volumes big enough for it to be affordable.

Eventually - if green hydrogen can be provided in huge quantities - the auto industry and home heating suppliers may also start to use it. But that wouldn't be before 2030, studies show.

The gas grid companies say their main challenge now is the fact Europe has no regulatory framework for them to adapt the network. "The regulation needs to define hydrogen as a gas that can be transported and used similarly to natural gas," said Maria Sicilia, strategy director at Enagas. If the regulation sets standards, she said, the networks can be interlinked.


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, mostly occurring bound to oxygen in water. But it's also one of the most highly combustible. In the past, dozens of hydrogen airships that exploded or burned, including the Hindenburg fire of 1937, have convinced many that hydrogen is highly risky.

Snam and other companies say their industry has decades of experience, having built the infrastructure in the first place, so hydrogen need be no more hazardous than other fuels used today. If hydrogen leaks into the open air, it rises and its concentration falls rapidly below the explosive level, according to Zukunft Gas, a German gas lobby.

From his office near Snam's critical gas-flow room at Milan headquarters, Ricciardi and his team have for the past three years combed bit by bit through Europe's biggest gas transport network to make sure it can handle the gas. Snam has said it is ready to spend more than 3 billion euros on the replacement of gas pipelines that are hydrogen-compliant.

"We've been moving natural gas around for the last 80 years," says Ricciardi, whose job is to establish standards that the industry can agree to make pipes safe. "Now we've got to do it with hydrogen."

Flammability is just one problem. Compared to natural gas, hydrogen also leaks more easily because its molecules are smaller. Its flow patterns are different, and it even attacks some grades of steel, making them brittle.

The changes needed will vary by gas grid, but companies must examine pipes meticulously to make sure the steel is sound and the seals airtight. Compressor stations along the way may need to be adapted, and installations will be fitted with sensors to track leaks and then vent and divert them.

The oil and other industries already use hydrogen as a feedstock - Germany's supply amounts to the equivalent of about a tenth of its power usage, mostly in steel and chemicals. But that gas is made using fossil fuels and is known as "grey" hydrogen.

The pipeline network already includes four lines connecting Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia with Spain and Italy.

"The problem now of course is that it is filled with natural gas," said Ad van Wijk, a professor of future energy systems at Delft Technical University. But "the backbone is already in place," he said. He advocates linking up Europe and Africa to run Europe's energy system on 50% renewable energy and 50% green hydrogen.

Cost is another concern. So far, "green" hydrogen has been produced mostly for experimental projects. It costs four to five times more than the grey variety to produce.

To cut that, the industry and consumers need to scale up production and demand.

Snam's Alvera says solar panels in southern Spain, the Sahara and parts of the Middle East can provide cheap renewable electricity to power electrolysis plants which pump hydrogen into the repurposed pipes. Spain is already one of the cheapest sites in Europe to produce renewable electricity, according to industry association Solar Power Europe, and costs are projected to fall.

Meanwhile, the companies say they can also carry gas produced from fossil fuels but with the resulting emissions captured - known as "blue" hydrogen.

Thomas Deser, a senior portfolio manager at huge German fund Union Investment, is sceptical. He believes that "before the middle of the decade, without subsidies, you cannot make any money from producing green hydrogen."

The hydrogen backbone is now in competition for state money. Germany is Europe's biggest energy consumer. Berlin has pledged 9 billion euros up to 2030 to develop a green hydrogen industry, two billion of it earmarked to boost imports from partner countries such as Morocco, Chile, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

But electricity is another fast-growing source of relatively clean power, and Germany's electricity transmission network is also in growing demand. Germany plans to spend 1 billion euros by 2025 on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, plus hundreds of millions more on purchasing premiums and tax breaks.

The country is home to the world's biggest carmaker by volume, Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen AG. While car firms are developing hydrogen fuel-cell prototypes alongside battery cars, Europe's automakers don't see hydrogen as their first choice of power.

VW has already committed billions of euros to battery-based electric vehicle technology. It told Reuters it believes changes in powering mobility must take place in large volumes. Herbert Diess, VW's CEO, tweeted in May that "the hydrogen car is proven to NOT be the climate-friendly solution," saying "electrification has established itself in traffic."

Nonetheless, new demand for hydrogen is emerging: Globally, 359 large-scale projects had been announced by July 2021, according to the Hydrogen Council and consultants McKinsey, which said 80% of new initiatives were in Europe.

Snam says it has successfully tested a mix of natural gas and 30% hydrogen to fire furnaces at an Italian steel company.

In Milan, Ricciardi says ramping up blending rates is tricky, so standards are crucial.

"We're working on the new rule book to make sure the network is up to the job," Ricciardi said. "There's a lot riding on it."

Algae the new foodstock for the planet PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

Why aren’t we already eating it?

The problem is twofold: lack of awareness and a roadblock in European legislation. “In China they have been cultivating algae and they know a lot more about how to do it. In Europe, we haven’t got to grips with the different species that we’ve got, we don’t know how to cultivate it properly and we don’t know how to process it properly. Algae is going to be the food of the future, but we need help to get there.”

It takes investment to get a new type of food production of this scale off the ground, and experts say: “The investors want to invest, people want algae, but one of the big roadblocks is that we’ve got really tight legislation

Essentially, most types of algae aren’t legally recognised as “food” in Europe. Dunaliella “is being consumed in America and has been eaten in Japan for centuries, but in Europe it’s got to pass the Novel Food status categorisation, and until that happens, we can’t eat it”.

But attitudes are changing all the time, and millennials are leading the way,  “There’s a big move amongst young [people] who want to have healthy lifestyles, who want to move to algae; a lot of work is now showing people are much more receptive than they used to be.|

Greta tells the world PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

e UN secretary general, António Guterres, called the recent IPCC report on the climate crisis a “code red” for humanity. “We are at the verge of the abyss,” he said.

You might think those words would sound some kind of alarm in our society. But, like so many times before, this didn’t happen. The denial of the climate and ecological crisis runs so deep that hardly anyone takes real notice any more. Since no one treats the crisis like a crisis, the existential warnings keep on drowning in a steady tide of greenwash and everyday media news flow.


And yet there is still hope, but hope all starts with honesty.

Greta was scathing about most leaders and their inability to accept change is required now. 

Because science doesn’t lie. The facts are crystal clear, but we just refuse to accept them. We refuse to acknowledge that we now have to choose between saving the living planet or saving our unsustainable way of life. Because we want both. We demand both.

But the undeniable truth is that we have left it too late for that. And no matter how uncomfortable that reality may seem, this is exactly what our leaders have chosen for us with their decades of inaction. Their decades of blah, blah, blah.

Military pollution PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

It is accepted that a single B-52 bomber burns 12,000 litres of jet fuel an hour while an F-15 fighter goes through 7,000 litres, figures “comparable to the consumption of an average family car in a whole decade”.

Not surprisingly, one recent academic study described the US defence forces as “one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries”.

In 2017 alone, the US military bought an astonishing 269,230 barrels of oil a day, producing more than 25,000 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide through their use.

In periods of geopolitical tension, such dizzying figures climb higher, as rival power blocs invest in more equipment and deploy it more often. It is estimated that between 10 and 15% of American emissions during the cold war could be attributed to the military.

That’s because war – and the prospect of war – normalises environmentally destructive practices unthinkable in other contexts.

Think of Vietnam and how the US forces deliberately sprayed some 70m litres of herbicide on forests, in an effort to destroy the cover that the North Vietnamese relied upon.

Think of the first Gulf War and the use of depleted uranium in about 340 tonnes of missiles launched into Iraq.

Today, China possesses up to 350 nuclear weapons. The US has perhaps 5,800. The deployment of any of them would take the global environmental crisis into new realms of horror.

As we approach Cop26, we should remember that most of the carbon ever generated by humanity was released after the Kyoto summit, a conference at which the world’s politicians solemnly pledged that emissions would be cut.

Methane escapes from old installations PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 0

While global climate efforts have tended to focus on the fight against carbon dioxide, many other threats that attract less attention are just as dangerous to our planet.

Hundreds of thousands of Oil and gas installations are leaking vast quantities of Methane many of which were abandoned years ago.

 Considered to be too expensive to correct or maintain they are left to discharge 24/7 into the already over stressed atmosphere. 

Negotiations over these more granular issues take place away from the limelight. But the policies and agreements that emerge are some of the most vital steps in the fight against climate change.

 Over the past few weeks, one of these issues  has been methane reduction.

Methane one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases, has accounted for nearly a third of global heating since the pre-industrial era. Yet efforts to combat it have been half-hearted.

Many countries became part of the 24 new signatories to the Global market pledge initiated by the US this year. The pledge, which is outside the traditional UN framework on climate change negotiations, committed its signatories to a 30% cut in methane emissions by the end of this decade.

The international community has a recent history of lagging behind on some of its most celebrated pledges. The $100bn annual target for climate finance for poor countries, for instance, from 10 Cops ago, has still not been reached. Progress on the Paris agreement’s key commitments is mostly lagging around the world.

The only way forward is for the developed world to take immediate action and lead by example. The developing world is more than willing to commit to action, but it is a significant challenge. In our country, as in many others, methane is the principal source of emissions. Cows, which produce methane, have enormous economic and cultural value to many of our nations. Furthermore, rapid urbanisation results in huge increases in waste production, which also releases methane.

The only way forward is for the developed world to take the lead, share technology, and provide financial assistance. Then we can decouple economic development from methane, and strive towards a cleaner future. While there are barriers to cutting emissions in the developing world, we are more than willing to work with our international partners to overcome them. The security of our people is at risk, after all.

While the past week has demonstrated the potential of international collaboration to produce positive outcomes, there is far more to be done. For one, only 33 countries have signed on to this pledge. Major emitters – including China, India and Russia, which are among the top methane emitters – cannot shy away. For another, not enough financial support has been pledged to achieve the targets.

The negotiations around the methane pledge have been similar to the overall negotiation process. The demands from the climate vulnerable ring out as clear as ever: urgent action, global collaboration, and increased financial support are the only routes to a stable future. As Cop26 looms, these demands must be heard, understood, and acted upon by the developed world

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Results 1 - 10 of 498
© 2022 The Environmentalist
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.