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Diary dates, CCS edition

Sense About Science has an online Q&A on the subject of carbon capture and storage later this week.

The UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. Achieving this target will undoubtedly require a decreased reliance on the burning of fossil fuels. However, another question has been garnering more and more interest: is it possible to make coal and gas cleaner?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology extracts the waste carbon dioxide from power plants before storing it deep below the earth’s surface. Supporters claim that CCS can capture 90% of the CO2 produced from burning coal and gas, while the IPCC has highlighted the considerable potential of CCS for mitigating greenhouse gas levels over the coming century.

But CCS certainly isn’t the finished article. Only a handful of CCS systems of commercial scale are currently in operation globally, and numerous projects have been scrapped in the last few years. Opponents argue that CCS is too costly, encourages fossil fuel burning, and diverts money away from other avenues of carbon mitigation. Some have also raised concerns over the reliability of the carbon stores: what happens if they leak?

To help make sense of carbon capture technologies we're hosting a live online Q&A on Thursday 22nd October 2015 between midday and 1pm. Our expert panel (Dr Niall MacDowell, Dr Clair Gough and Professor Colin Snape) will answer questions. How does CCS actually work? Will it ever be affordable? Is it safe to keep the captured CO2 underground?

If you want to ask a question then contact us via Twitter, @senseaboutsci using #energypanel, email us at or use our online form.

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Reader Comments (28)

There's more chance that Labour will agree to run a deficit free budget than that the UK will seriously attempt to reduce carbon usage.

As for "CO2 capture", it is by far the most stupid idea ever conceived as there is absolutely no doubt that the CO2 will leak out - and that absolutely no one who can measure this leakage has any interest whatsoever in finding it.

Oct 18, 2015 at 8:54 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Opponents argue that CCS ... encourages fossil fuel burning,

So either this is an unthought-out rant, or there is some secret agenda other than CO2 behind this.

Oct 18, 2015 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

CCS represents one of the most pointless and expensive solutions to a non-existent problem, that man has ever wasted billions on.

You could build vast greenhouses, and then heat, irrigate and fertilise them with steam and CO2 from power stations, far cheaper, and provide food.

In addition, you could bottle the CO2 for industrial and soft drink manufacturing processes, and stop those industries manufacturing CO2.

Anyone would have thought there is scientific proof that increased CO2 is harmful at these miniscule percentages. The media should express CO2 as a percentage, rather than parts per million. Then 400ppm does not seem even remotely worth wasting billions on, and the world population need not live in fear.

Oct 18, 2015 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

or there is some secret agenda other than CO2 behind this.

I'm told that pumping gas can significantly increase the yield of, say, North Sea oil fields though at prohibitive cost.

If only the public would foot the bill . . .

Oct 18, 2015 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

CO2 has been used for years to extract more oil/gas from "conventional wells" but no research has been done to see if these leak. This would seem to me to be the very first avenue to persue if this costly "solution" was used. As a geologist I think that leakage would be immediate and total so a useless solution to a non-problem.

Oct 18, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

CO2 has been used for years to extract more oil/gas from "conventional wells"

True but I read geologists saying it'd be prohibitvely expensive to use in the N Sea. I just assumed they're right. Are they?

As a geologist I think that leakage would be immediate and total so a useless solution to a non-problem.

Again, I've no reason to doubt you're right but who's looking at (who cares?) what happens once the press loses interest? Oil companies get increased yield through subsidised technology, politicians get photo-ops and BINGOs get grants. What's not to like?

I ask because Scottish CCS projects have been promoted at more or less regular intervals during the 15 or so years I've been following the "renewable" energy scene and get knocked down as absurd with the same regularity. The Labourites (remember them?) were at it long before the Nats climbed on the bandwagon. So what's the scam I ask myself.

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

I remember going to a symposium about "clean coal technology" and "CCS" at Sheffield University about 5 years ago.
The guy chairing the meeting was that formidable climate scientist John Prescott MP.

I pointed out in 'questions' that the only reason for "CCS", seemed to be to make coal more expensive than ruinables. And that based on the figures in the presentation by their tame "expert" (could be one of the three listed above - I can't remember) IF the White Rose project was 100% successful, even assuming that the IPPC's calculations were correct, it would reduce their projected temperature rise by something unmeasurable - I think it was 0.00003ºC.
Prescot looked annoyed / bemused and brushed me away by saying "that's better than a rise by that amount" and made sure I didn't get to ask any more questions.

Actually, the CCS scam had another purpose which worked well. That was to bamboozle the coal industry executives (who had never done their homework) into imagining that CCS would be their salvation and they wouldn't have to worry too much about the primary cAGW scam.
You can see how successful that strategy worked. Last UK deep mine closes December 2015, surface mining will more or less end during 2017.

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

It is becoming obvious that to date not one policy, projection, treaty or law that the CO2 obsessed impose actually works technically, reduces CO2, or improves the climate. But their efforts do have the result of more money going to CO2 obsessed causes and people.

Oct 18, 2015 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

'what happens if they leak?'

Plants of the world will rejoice.

Can we call it CCSI (Incontinence)?

Oct 18, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

Hunter: "It is becoming obvious that to date not one policy, projection, treaty or law that the CO2 obsessed impose actually works technically, reduces CO2, or improves the climate. But their efforts do have the result of more money going to CO2 obsessed causes and people."

They are not supposed to work. There is no doubt in my mind that if CCS were cheap, practical and available, we would begin to hear how risky it was, how it would causes earthquakes or methane release or some form of doom beyond my dull imagination but well within that of the opposition. There is no answer which does not involve the demise of the industrial West. Coincidence?

Oct 18, 2015 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

rhoda, that is a very cynical attitude. As it is one I have been forced to adopt, how can I disagree?

There is no point in any of these scams, unless they cause massive damage to industrial nations, and lead to a switch to economies revolving around people employed to stop everybody else fulfilling useful functions.

When we are reduced to hand pulled ploughs, and hand scattering seeds, the Greens in their luxury watchtowers, with gold plated machine guns for defensive purposes only, will pronounce themselves very proud of their achievements.

Oct 18, 2015 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

John Marshall:

Not quite true. e.g. see:

The warning seems to be that doing this on a grand scale will almost certainly cause problems.

Oct 18, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I am ashamed to post that my institute, the I Chem E, and even particularly its President, are committed to the promotion of CCS when all the facts show that it will never be used widely unless the mass lunacy that grips the
warmists leads to us emulating lemmings. The only commercial CCS unit is in Canada and has reduced the power output per unit of fuel used by up to forty percent and nearly doubled the installation cost. All widely reported in much detail, but I still stress that I believe that the loss of absorbent in the "flue gas" is being ignored. The absorbents are all amine derivatives and are quite noxious.

Oct 18, 2015 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

"...there is absolutely no doubt that the CO2 will leak out-"

So the science is settled then?


"As a geologist I think that leakage would be immediate and total so a useless solution to a non-problem"

You maybe a geologist John but obviously not a petroleum geologist.

To doubters of the science/technology can I ask how do you think the oil and gas in a reservoir stays there for tens and even hundreds of million years? which it generally does or we would have reservoirs.

The need and economics is a different issue but the science/engineering for enhanced recovery or depleted reservoir storage is well understood but of course never settled. You can even pump natural gas back into a depleted reservoir for storage and recover it later as required

Oct 19, 2015 at 5:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan

Of course that is " or we wouldn't have reservoirs"

Oct 19, 2015 at 5:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan

We're happy to put any queries, questions directly to the panel ahead of the Q&A on Thursday. You can ask these right here in the comments section or if you prefer to keep them anonymous you can email


Oct 19, 2015 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterSense About Science

In 1986, hundreds of Cameroonians near Lake Nyos were suffocated by a cloud of carbon dioxide which rolled down from the crater lake. Unlike carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide isn't toxic, as such, but it will still kill you, if it replaces the air supply: a million ppm.

Atmospheric CO2 isn't a problem and storing it, therefore, can't be a solution, except for an executive looking for a big subsidy, a tidy bonus, a gong and a retirement to the green (and, by the way, those greens wouldn't be all that green, without CO2). The only way to make carbon dioxide a serious threat to life is to store it in large quantities.

Oct 19, 2015 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

It keeps them off the streets I suppose...

Oct 19, 2015 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh


The planet has been capturing and storing CO2 for hundreds of millions of years, the storage facilities do not leak and the CO2 is easily recoverable, the system is 100% tested and safe. Why are we spending money on an untested alternative?

Oct 19, 2015 at 11:08 AM | Registered CommenterDung

QUESTION: What is the expected long term impact on the environment of the amine solvent carried over in the de-carbonised nitrogen flue gas?

Oct 19, 2015 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

Certainly some questions to challenge the panellists - keep 'em coming!

Oct 19, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSense About Science

QUESTION, what evidence is being relied on to presume that any harm will arise from a change in CO2 levels?

QUESTION, why do climate science scaremongers insist on using units of Parts Per Million of CO2? Is it because if percentages were used, the public would realise there really is nothing to worry about?

QUESTION, including all Research and Development costs, how much has it cost so far to catch and store a single tonne of CO2? At what cost do they expect the taxpaying public to think it is cost effective?

QUESTION, what is the carbon footprint of building a carbon capture and storage facility? Is any of it caught and captured?

Oct 19, 2015 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

QUESTION, What cost assumptions are used to determine whether carbon capture technology makes any sense at all.

QUESTION What is the total number of tonnes of CO2 deliberately manufactured every year, for commercial sale and/or use?

QUESTION, How many tonnes of CO2 are produced per year for a) Fizzy Drinks, B) Alcoholic drinks, C) Breadmaking and other yeast fortified doughs and baking?

QUESTION, What is the average lifetime production of CO2, per human life? Would the planet be better off if we exterminated all human life?

Oct 19, 2015 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

QUESTION, What weight of CO2 is produced by the natural weathering/breakdown of a tonne of limestone?

QUESTION, What is the accepted correct level of CO2 in the atmosphere? When was it at this level and for how long? Did anything dramatic or undramatic happen?

Oct 19, 2015 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

QUESTION, Have CCS scientists and researchers learned anything that may be of use in fields other than CCS?

Oct 19, 2015 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Is it ethical for any engineer or scientist to aid, design, or construct any sort of massive industrial undertakings for permanent carbon dioxide sequestration, bearing in mind that our carbon based life is derived essentially and almost entirely from the carbon taken up from the atmosphere. Would it not be a crime against humanity and all living things on earth to reduce its atmospheric concentration below what is barely adequate for life as it is? Are not these schemes insanity beyond parody?

Oct 19, 2015 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterEForster


No,yes,yes, welcome to the club ^.^

Oct 19, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung

QUESTION, How many billions of dollars have been spent on CCS so far, and how many lives could have been saved if the same money had been spent on water sterilisation tablets, drilling wells, and sewage treatment?

QUESTION, Can you begin to quantify the humanitarian cost of this pointless vanity project so far?

EForster +1
Dung +1

Apart from all the above comments going back to MikeHaseler at 8:54, CCS seems to be not worth wasting any more taxpayers money on. The Guardian could probably put out an emergency appeal to their readers, as their experts have more faith than common sense.

Oct 20, 2015 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

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