Methane, again.

I ended up in quite an interesting Twitter discussion about methane and CO2. I got involved when someone mentioned this thread from Ken Caldeira. The point being made is that because CO2 has a long atmospheric lifetime, and because methane oxidises into CO2, the time integrated forcing due to a pulse of methane is dominated by the contribution once its oxidises to CO2, rather than by the contribution when it’s methane.

The point I tried to make in the discussion was that this is only really true for fossil methane emissions, because biogenic methane (from cows, for example) isn’t really adding a “new” carbon into the system. However, although I don’t dispute the original calculation, I also don’t think the comparison is all that reasonable, which I’ll try to explain using a related, but slightly different, comparison.

In a 2015 paper, Ken Caldeira and a colleage (Xiaochun Zhang) showed that the cumulative radiative forcing from CO2 released in fossil fuel combustion exceeds the thermal energy released by a factor of about 100000. They did this in a reasonably detailed way, but I think I can do a ballpark estimate in much simpler way.

If we just consider coal, then 9.46 x 1010 kg of CO2 is released for every EJ (1018 J) of thermal energy. Therefore, if we consider a scenario where we release 1000 GtC = 3600 GtCO2 from burning coal, then this would provide 3.6 x 1015/9.46 x 1010 = 38054 EJ = 3.8 x 1022 J of thermal energy.

If we do emit 1000 GtC, not all will remain in the atmosphere. Once ocean invasion is complete (which would take a few centuries) we’d expect about 25% to remain in the atmosphere. This means atmospheric CO2 would increase by ~250 GtC, which is about 120 ppm. So, it would roughly settle at about 400 ppm. An increase from 280 ppm to 400 ppm produces a change in forcing of about 1.9 W/m2, which will – on average – persist for 10 thousand to 100 thousand years. If you integrate this forcing over those timescales, and multiply by the surface area of the Earth, you get 3.1 x 1026 to 3.1 x 1027 J. So, yes, about 10000 to 100000 times greater than the thermal energy released (remember, this is just a ballpark estimate).

However, what actually happens is that this energy accrues in the climate system, which warms until a new equilibrium is reached. If we assume an ECS of ~ 3K, then a change in forcing of ~1.9 W/m2 would produce an equilibrium warming of about 1.54K. Most of this goes into the oceans, which has a heat capacity of ~4000 J/kg/K. The oceans have a total mass of about 1.4 x 1021 kg, which means a warming of 1.54 K would increase the total energy by 1.4 x 1021 x 4000 x 1.54 = 8.6 x 1024 J.

This is still bigger than the thermal energy released, but only by a factor of ~220, rather than by a factor of 10000 to 100000. If we were to consider gas, rather than coal, then it would be bigger by a factor of ~130, rather than ~220. So, I think that considering the time integrated forcing over-estimates the relative impact by quite a large margin, and I think the same is true for the comparison between the impact of methane and the impact of the CO2 to which it will oxidise.

As far as I’m aware, for any reasonable scenario, the dominant waming impact of methane emissions will occur when it’s methane, rather than when it has oxidised to CO2. In GtC, annual methane emissions are about 5% of CO2 emissions (~0.5 GtC versus ~10 GtC) yet more than 5% of the warming can be attributed to methane emissions. So, even though fossil methane emissions will oxidise to “new” CO2 that will have a long atmospheric lifetime, it is still a small fraction of the direct CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning and from land-use change.

Ultimately, I think that all this really illustrates is that it’s tricky to compare methane and CO2 emissions. CO2 has a long atmospheric lifetime and, hence, is key to determining how much we eventually warm. Methane, on the other hand, can have a very large impact on shorter timescales, and becomes important if we want to avoid crossing some kind of threshold. Personally, I think we should just consider them separately, rather than doing comparisons. Others may, of course, disagree.

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61 Responses to Methane, again.

  1. Apples and oranges. Reducing methane emissions is low hanging fruit in a quest to slow the short term rise in global temperature, but if we can make huge progress quickly on CO2 emissions, then short term methane heat pulse won’t matter as much.

    It’s like we are coasting down a long hill and building speed and we are not sure if we have good brakes. We tap the brakes and they don’t really seem to slow us down much. That’s our situation with CO2 in my opinion. The long downhill slope ahead of us is our CO2 emissions sending us to destinations unknown! Excellent! Adventure!

    Since tapping the brakes didn’t seem to do much, we tap on the accelerator to see if fundamental laws of physics apply on our long downhill slope. Guess what? The accelerator tap does increase our speed! Cool. Laws of physics still apply. This is not a slope of quantum entanglement or some quirky place in the universe where the fundamental laws don’t really mean that much. That is good news in a lot of ways, but we are now going faster. The accelerator pedal is methane emissions.

    So what do we do to slow down? Should we take our foot off the accelerator first or should we leave the foot on the accelerator? We can always hit the brake with our other foot and think about how we want to approach the accelerator problem. That’s a cautious approach that assumes we can really only do one thing at a time. That’s very orderly and has great appeal in it’s simplicity. It’s almost elegant in its focus.

    You know what? God or Darwin or somebody gave us two legs, two arms, two eyes. It’s almost like we were designed to attempt to do two things at something approaching the same time. Hey, I am going with that. Let’s do two things at a time, let’s take a foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake. By God or Darwin or whoever, let’s do them both!! One person in the back seat has a diagram our about the accelerator function and another one is studying the electronic anti-lock brake system and the silly cable emergency brake system that can only put a little pressure on two wheels. Both parties in the back seat are screaming for more time to study the function that interests them. Person in the passenger seat is an unsciency idiot who just keeps repeating, Hit the brake! Hit the brake! The building speed seems to be making the passenger more and more hysterical.

    Who is driving this thing? What makes it go or stop? Complicated stuff. I think, hey, why worry so much. I see a road closed barricade off in the distance. Let’s just drive to that point and see if we can stop the car right there. If we can’t stop at the last minute, we can find out if the road really is closed or if that’s just some kind of trick the scientists have set up as part of their culture war on The American Empire.

    Enjoy the ride. Don’t worry so much about the details.

  2. russellseitz says:

    There is much room for improvement in curbing anthropogenic methane release in agriculture.

    A recent paper in Waste Management

    reports that modest amounts of an antique fertilizer , calcium cyanamide, can reduce the rate of CH4 emission from cattle and swine by an order of magnitude or more, allowing barn and feedlot slurry to be stored long enough to be used as fertilizer that increases carbon capture in biomass, rather than a prompt source of CH4 forcing.

  3. Tricky. If I understand your argument about the factor 220 you are comparing the direct release of energy with that which is accumulated over time due to GHGs. The direct release of energy leads to warming and is radiated to space, so I think that none of it accumulates in the system. Not sure what to take away from such exercises anyway other than that the direct heating effect is negligible.

    Otherwise I agree, attempts to compare these GHGs lead to methane reductions being used as an excuse for not reducing CO2 emissions, and this leads to more long term warming.

  4. Thorsten,
    Indeed, and I agree that the thermal energy radiates away. Of course, if we burn the same amount of coal every year, then we would produce the same amount of thermal energy every year and temperatures will remain slightly elevated in order to radiate it away. However, as you say, this energy doesn’t actually accumulate. So, I agree that the impact of the thermal energy is essentially negligible, whether you compare it to how much energy accumulates in the system due to the increase in GHGs, or to the time integrated forcing due to the increase in GHGs.

  5. Richard Arrett says:

    Yes the thermal energy radiates away. But it still creates urban island heat zones where the heat is created, which are warmer than their surroundings. The warming looks different when you only look at the rural temperature sensors – but most temperature sensors are located inside the urban island heat zones. I wonder what a comparison would look like if we compared all temperature sensors to just the rural ones for warming since pre-industrial?

  6. Richard Arrett says:

    A quick search turned up this article:

    Some indication that rural warming was less than urban warming – but I wonder if more recent research has been done on this question?

  7. Rick,

    I wonder what a comparison would look like if we compared all temperature sensors to just the rural ones for warming since pre-industrial?

    It’s been done. If you compare rural only sites, you get the same amount of warming as you get if you consider the full global dataset.

    Click to access UHI-GIGS-1-104.pdf

  8. Willard says:


    It’s a master thesis, not an article. The references should hint at the kind of work this is. If you’re to inject “But UHI” in the thread, you should at least know about Roy’s work. It’d be really surprising you don’t know about it, e.g.:

    4. UHI adjustment. When you write your third post could you perhaps explain the philosophy of this adjustment. I don’t get it. From my point of view we pick a spot and decide to plop a station down. For years it is rural and we have one trend. Then over a decade or so, that spot goes urban and there is a huge warming trend, then once it is urban the trend settles back down and is what it is (just warmer than rural).

    So something tells me it’s mostly rhetorical.

    Thanks for reminding me of Zeke’s post. I added it to my But Data Bingo Page.

  9. Richard Arrett says:

    Thank you ATTP!

  10. Richard Arrett says:

    It is odd that the > 30 year very rural trend is larger than the ALL trend. But I suppose the very rural areas are having more people moving there so their trend is larger because of that. Thanks for the paper.

  11. russellseitz says:

    Richard ,the role of decreased evapotranspiration in urban heat islands is, to put it mildly, well studied and understood :

    Urban policies aimed at increasing urban albedo to curb solar heating date to the Archon Solon ordering Athenians to whitewash their houses in the sixth century BC.

  12. Willard says:

    Yet we could do better, Russell:

    Heirloom, with runs the US’s only operating direct air capture (DAC) facility, does not use the familiar capture technique that involves giant fans. Instead, it binds carbon to exposed rock and then cooks it out using electric kilns — and then binds more carbon to the rock, in a circular process. It claims the capture is cheaper and more efficient than previous methods.

    CarbonCure injects the CO2 into a concrete mixer, where it mineralizes, becoming permanently captured even if the building using the concrete is demolished. In the process, it strengthens the mix, requiring less cement and cutting costs.

    Since they’re both private companies, it can’t be an investment advice.

    (Unless you’re a VC, in which case email me.)

  13. russellseitz says:

    Willard, the linked tech seems less nifty than grifty.

    Experimentally, it’s on a Science Fair scale, and no engineering analysis of energy requirements , or breakdown of the carbon intensity of local energy sources is provided. The locale is underwhelming too- it’s on the Australian Coal Coast.

  14. Willard says:

    I think that we’re a bit later in the project development, Russell:

    Costs for that kind of cement are beginning to be competitive. The second guest says later on that carbon dioxide is becoming the bottleneck commodity.

    But you’re right about the limestone side of the equation. Still, you must admit that the solution is kinda elegant!

  15. Susan Anderson says:

    It’s nice to take the long view, but the short view matters. Just read this (Damian Carrington, who is a skillful reporter) – long read – well worth taking in. (The research caused a flurry of reports, but the Guardian is not paywalled and particularly well supported with graphical material. Quote below is the afternote with specifics.)

    Revealed: 1,000 super-emitting methane leaks risk triggering climate tipping points: Vast releases of gas, along with future ‘methane bombs’, represent huge threat – but curbing emissions would rapidly reduce global heating

    Note on methane bomb methodology: The analysis is based on 2020 information on gas-rich fields from industry data provider Rystad Energy and builds on the research published in the journal Energy Policy on carbon bombs by Kühne and colleagues. This was combined with data on methane leak rates from fossil fuel operations and the heating impact of methane. The central estimates for the methane bombs used a leak rate of 2.3%, based on a US study, and the heating impact over 20 years, which is 82.5 times that of CO2. The conservative estimate used a leak rate of 1.7% from the International Energy Agency, and the heating impact over 100 years, which is 30 times that of CO2. The worst-case estimate used a leak rate of 3.7%, based on analysis of the Permian basin in the US, and the immediate heating impact of methane, which is 120 times that of CO2. The full list of methane bombs and more information on the methodology is here.

  16. Susan,
    Thanks, that is a good article.

  17. Dave_Geologist says:

    Interesting article Susan, although not entirely accurate. The second-biggest was not in a fracking field in Pennsylvania but a failed well in a gas storage facility in a depleted sandstone reservoir that was likely never fracked (fracking of sandstones was done in the 1950s and 60s, but only for tight gas and that’s the last sort of reservoir you’d want for storage). As indeed it says in the linked Guardian article! (I presume the paper is accurate but some sub-editor thought it would be sexy to mention fraccing because it was in Pennsylvania.) It refers to wells drilled in the 1950s or 60s when regulation was more lax*, and where there has simply been more time for corrosion or wear and tear to take its toll. I suspect inadequate inspection and maintenance didn’t help. Something to bear in mind amidst the push for more storage facilities following the Russian gas crisis (Rough in the UK started production in 1975 and was converted to storage in 1985, so is no spring chicken).

    Incidentally Rough (and I suspect some of the German facilities) were not designed with peak-shaving or crisis-outage in mind. They were designed to arbitrage the summer/winter price differential by pumping in for 3-4 months then flowing out for 6-9 months. That kind of steady pressure change sets quite relaxed reservoir requirements. For very rapid turnaround reservoir heterogeneity matters. I was involve in a North Sea proposal which failed because the commercial model was for a fast turnaround, and it was a heterogeneous reservoir where there would not be time for the pressure to equalise between layers, so the actual working volume would have been a tenth of the original assumption. For really rapid turnaround you want things like salt caverns.

    The Achilles heel of former producing fields or salt mines is the long-term integrity of existing wells or other infrastructure, especially where it has been abandoned and is not being used for current activities. There’s no excuse for not monitoring a well if you can get wireline to T.D., but there’s not a lot you can do to inspect past 20-year-old concrete. Also true for carbon capture and storage, or indeed hydrogen storage which the Rough owners were apparently considering. There you have additional metallurgy issues, with materials not having been selected with hydrogen embrittlement or sour-gas corrosion in mind.

    Having said that this sort of catastrophic leak really is low-hanging fruit. As the second article says, it was as loud as a jet engine. People noticed, right away, and pulled out all the stops to fix it. I wonder how many small leaks there were and are, 24/7/365, and whether on a decadal average they’re actually worse because no-one notices, and the cost/benefit balance of fixing them would be very different (e.g. would you spend $5M to remediate a well that was leaking at 20 cubic feet per day?).

    * Prior to the double-isolation rules which spread across the industry after Piper Alpha, i.e. by design it should be impossible to get a leak through a single point of failure. Obviously you can still get a leak through two barriers if you don’t know one of them had already failed two years earlier, but that’s where inspection and maintenance comes in.

  18. Susan Anderson says:

    Dave_G, thanks for the informative addendum. Aside from the horrors at home, I note that it is Putin’s fiefdom that sticks out and from my all too endless doomscrolling/efforts to educate myself, I opine that a huge problem with his oligarchy/kleptocracy is that he has trouble getting good help. That means he has to acquire by conquest or go down. Not a good look. If you are so inclined, I highly recommend Maddow’s passion project book, Blowout which among other things calls out the use of power/bullying/corruption to get and keep power. Note that big fossil prefers to deal with dictators and wastrels: they are uncomplicated and easily bribed/persuaded.

  19. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks Susan.

    With satellite snapshots you really need to have multiple passes to distinguish between one-off, intermittent and persistent emissions.

    Catastrophic failures like the Rager Mountain blowout don’t need external measuring to get them fixed. They’re costing the operator millions, causing it massive reputation damage, and the regulator will be watching like a hawk. They’ll be fixed asap*. The key is to identify and avoid the design, construction, maintenance or operational things which caused the blowout, pipeline breach or pump explosion.

    Then there are intermittent operational things which can’t really be avoided or worked around. Flowback testing and cleanup of a new well before it’s hooked up to infrastructure (really only an onshore issue, only once per thirty years per well, and one way round that is to drill from central pads and hook up immediately). Venting from a separator or whatever during a pressure surge or plant trip, or prior to maintenance. Where possibly it’s better to burn than to vent, but the neighbours probably won’t like flaring. It may be possible to reduce trips, but the operator already has a massive incentive there because it’s not earning money while the plant is down.

    Then the widespread, persistent leaks through porous cement, bad welds, leaky seals, etc. They’re the small, out-of-the-way ones that the operator may not even know about. And probably need regulatory enforcement to incentivise fixing them, because the production loss is minuscule.

    Then intentional 24/7 venting because there’s no commercial market for the gas as it’s an oil play and the nearest gas pipeline is 500 miles away; and it’s an unmanned well so you don’t want to flare.

    Then places like Turkmenistan where commercial or operational practices look completely out of line with the rest of the world. You’d have thought there’d be enough there to justify gathering for commercial gas export.

    * The exception is the likes of, IIRC, DJ-2 in Algeria. It was a gas blowout in Chalk, probably in hindsight like the Hod Geohazard which tormented the Elgin/Franklin/Shearwater fields in the North Sea. Low permeability tank connected to high permeability streaks, hugely over pressured. It was easily killed once the streaks had depleted, but blew out again when they’d been recharged. After several attempts they’d ruptured so much casing and cement it couldn’t be fixed. I presume Sonatrach decided drilling a relief well would be too dangerous (a case in which you’d have to balance a genuine risk to life against emissions and lost revenue), and it was in the middle of the desert anyway. It burned fiercely for two tears and you could see the smoke trail all the way to Egypt on satellite images. Ten years later it was still leaking enough for me to collect a gas sample for geochemical analysis.

  20. from the Guardian article: “The current rise in methane looks very scary indeed,” said Prof Euan Nisbet, at Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK. “Methane acceleration is perhaps the largest factor challenging our Paris agreement goals. So removing the super-emitters is a no-brainer to slow the rise – you get a lot of bang for your buck.”

    A lot of bang for your buck. Pick the low hanging fruit. As each year passes, more scientists come out to declare that the rise in methane looks very scary. We can do two things at once. We can drive CO2 emissions down and we can reduce methane emissions. It’s like walking and chewing gum. It’s not that hard.

  21. Dave_Geologist says:

    You need to identify the actual super-emitters though mike. As I said, the large catastrophic events are not something the operator wants to happen because they cost him millions or tens of millions, and not something he’ll leave unfixed with or without government intervention. That low-hanging fruit is already plucked. The fruit still to be plucked are the interventions which stop it happening again, including elsewhere, thousands of miles away.

    Something that leaks at blowout rates for a few days and then is permanently fixed is spectacular but may leak less methane in the year than a piece of plant which vents for an hour every week when the well cyclically unloads water, and does so for thirty years. And much, much less on a thirty-year timescale. Plus the first has a huge incentive on the operator to fix it, but the second may be regarded as business as usual, a feature not a bug.

    A frac flowback is spectacular if the flare is lit, but it’s emitting CO2, not CH4. A leaky valve or joint emitting 100 times less per hour than that separator tank is emitting more per week, per month, per year and per decade.

  22. Susan Anderson says:

    I’ll go back and reread, but I had the impression this flurry of new articles was based on progress in spotting and measuring based on improved analysis of satellite data. In addition, many of these were not from active or existing fracking operations, but from older sites and several types of emissions not related to mining. Though anti-regulation blowhards don’t care as long as they can privatize profits and socialize risk, that still requires an active “owner” of the emissions. I know this is vague/squishy (a frequent problem with yours truly), but the problem with a skilled engineering-style review of the issues is that it misses the variety and complexity of optimizing use and control of the emissions, which undoubtedly needs doing.

  23. sa says “the problem with a skilled engineering-style review of the issues is that it misses the variety and complexity of optimizing use and control of the emissions, which undoubtedly needs doing.”

    I agree completely. If folks don’t like regulation of emissions, maybe we can just move to a price on the emissions and let the market forces kick in. I am not keen on the market model, I prefer a strong regulatory policy to reduce emissions, but if the price is high enough and can be levied against a solvent entity, the market approach will probably work. If there is no solvent entity associated with a leak, then we are just looking at the model where short term profits are privatized and long term costs are socialized. That is a well known model. Tried and true.

  24. at Dave: It’s fine to identify the super emitters. It makes sense, but the accumulation issue in the atmosphere does not care if our methane ppb is soaring because of a group of super emitters or through millions of small leaks. The accumulation is the problem. The small source problem can still produce the “death by a thousand cuts.” The problem of atmospheric methane accumulation can be estimated well enough to slap an emission tax on each sector that is known to be producing emissions. An emission tax and how it is portioned out to various industrial sectors can be reviewed every couple years and recalculated. An emission tax could be suspended if the atmospheric number stops rising, reinstated if the rise begins again.

    I don’t think we (the USA) will do any of this, but it’s not a tough system to design and apply and can easily include an automatic biannual review and adjustment process. It’s not really that different from a carbon tax and we (the USA) won’t do that either. We (american voters) would rather die than rollback the Reagan no tax/no tax revolution. Once the USA chooses self-service, the issue of ghg accumulation is pretty locked down in the prisoner dilemma. I wish it were otherwise.

    It may be that we will be able to achieve some significant CO2 emission reductions through the buildout of greener energy sources, the transition to EV transportation system, sensible push to weatherize and insulate housing. I hope that happens. It appears to be happening. But, as it happens, I also note that the accumulation of ghg in the atmosphere continue to increase. And, with methane increases, some scientists describe the current rate of increase as “scary.” Not my words. I just like to show the numbers and let them speak for themselves. This is where the rubber hits the roads:

    CO2 currently around 420 ppm and increasing at about 2 ppm per year (my rounding from the data)

    Methane currently around 1923 ppb and increasing at about 13 ppb per year (again, my roundings)

    To my “unsciency” eye, it appears that we have a significant problem with these two primary gh gases. We can argue for decades about how many methane molecule angels can dance on the head of a pin. We can argue for years about where they come from, or how they decay, or how much heat increase each may contribute to a warming planet. In fact, I think we will argue these items for years or decades. I think we do these arguments in part because the folks who want to create the argument are motivated primarily by a desire to slow action to stop or slow the increase of ghg accumulation in favor of the next quarter profits.

    I understand that the arcane analysis of the arguments about the gh gases are interesting and that many scientists can avoid taking the bait when the delay/deny sciency types drop it in the water. It’s too bad that the endless arguments that can be launched are so effective at preventing our species from taking coordinate, common sense collective action to actually address the real problem and stop the accumulation.

    Maybe I don’t understand what you are suggesting, Dave? Do you have a proposal for action against the super emitters that you think will solve our problem with ghg accumulation and heat buildup? Explain it to me like I am a fifth grader please.



  25. should be “cannot avoid taking the bait”

  26. Ben McMillan says:

    Rapid decline in fossil production would help solve a lot of these problems. Once you don’t need any more wells, you have a much better chance of tracking down the remaining ones that are still leaking. So hopefully this stuff gets killed as a side-effect of the transition away from fossil fuels, although regulating CH4 emissions better would help.

    That doesn’t solve the issues associated with agriculture and waste, though…

  27. Quite right, Ben. There are multiple points where a solution for one of the two major gh gases will turn out to help achieve reductions with the other. We might even get to the point where we were trying to figure out how to simultaneously achieve nitrous oxide emission reduction. Totally nuts, right?

    There is probably a lot we could figure out if we were solution-oriented, which is to say, driven by measurable slowing or reversal of ghg accumulation in the atmosphere. There is also an endless supply of arcane arguments to be had over the minutia of ghg accumulation and heat build up. It is a lot of fun to play the “I’m right, you’re wrong.” game. I get that. We all do some of that.

    What if we wanted to hit the agricultural sector for some cheap and easy ghg emission reductions? Do we need to identify and argue about who are the big emitters or should we just look around and spot some low hanging fruit? Why wouldn’t we start by immediately transitioning as much land as possible to conservation tillage, reducing nitrogen fertilzer use and by adding small amount of seaweed to cattle feed. UC Davis says a little bit of sea weed added to the cattle feed can reduce cow methane emissions by as much as 82%. I will grant you that cow burbs are not a class of super-emitter, but if you subscribe to the notion that we may be dying a death from a thousand cuts, then you might want to look at everything that can be done rather cheaply and easily. Growing seaweed for harvest and conversion to cattle feed probably takes CO2 out of the water column, so that practice is also probably beneficial. We won’t do simple things on a large scale that would almost certainly help us with the big problem and I think in part that is because, it is so much fun to argue and engage in culture wars instead of considering/discussing/promoting solution science. By the way, the big problem is not whether we should focus on methane or carbon dioxide. The big problem is the accumulation of both in our atmosphere. But, that’s just my opinion, man.

    So many blogs that were more solution-oriented have just disappeared. I will probably go back to sleep on this website for a while now. I wish you all well.


  28. Susan Anderson says:

    Hey guys. Please look at the source. All of you, on all “sides”. The measurements of methane bombs include a variety of sources, many of which are not currently “owned” by “big fossil” – or anyone. I’m not saying your recommendations for making current extractors take responsibility are wrong, only that you are making the assumption that regulation is possible in the stated range of sources. That range is interesting, if dangerously appalling, but please lose the assumptions.

  29. Ben McMillan says:

    Susan A: I’m not clear what you are getting at. For example, the non-fossil-fuels point sources picked out by the satellites seem to be mostly waste-related; I’m sure that regulating those will be practically very difficult, even though big improvements in waste management have been made in places. They also seem to be mostly in the developing world, and I’m not going to patronise those folk by telling them how to manage waste. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, I feel a personal responsibility for.
    The hard bit, to me, seems to be agriculture, where cultural change, rather than regulation, is probably needed.

  30. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mike, first identify the super-emitters on a CH4-relevant timescale, say thirty years. I’m not saying ignore some: tackle them all, but understand what you’re tackling.

    A snapshot of a gas storage field tackling a blowout or a processing plant flushing the tanks and pipes prior to annual maintenance is not relevant to the thirty-year-timescale emissions of either. For sure, the blowout made conditions nearby unlivable and probably left permanent pollution, but there were very good human and financial reasons to deal with that promptly with or without a methane tax. A $5M bill and a $500k fine if you’d cut corners (the maximum I think in the US, as levied on the Deepwater Horizon cement supplier for lying about its post-blowout test results) is far more of a deterrent than a $20k methane tax.

    Planned maintenance should be manageable, being planned 😉 . With most current configurations the least bad option climatically is to flare and convert the CH4 to CO2. But Google Mossmorran or Grangemouth flaring to see what the neighbours think about that. Tax the CH4 at 30 times the CO2 tax and you incentivise the operator to flare not vent. The vents and flare tips are high up for safety reasons: you don’t want heavier-than-air gases falling onto potential ignition sources. You’re probably already burning waste gases and coke 24/7 as generator and heating fuel. With a bit more pipework and pumps, you could capture all or most of the intermittent but planned sources as fuel too. Set taxes and regulations that incentivise that. Not just production sites: refineries, chemical works, storage sites and pumping stations too.

    Unplanned trips in big sites are probably flared already. The flare tip is high enough that it’s safe to leave a pilot light burning so that any unplanned venting is automatically ignited. A 20-foot tall tank in the middle of a crowded production pad, not so much. You also need a CO2 tax to encourage operating practices that minimise trips on the sites that already flare. Some of that will be maintenance. Some design: in the 90s we put in a separator tank four times bigger on an unmanned offshore platform so it could handle spikes in water production not just steady-state. For economic reasons (lost production, maintenance visits were very expensive and limited by regs to 40 days per year), and because some trips also dumped oily water with fines if we exceeded an annual limit, but a CH4 tax could drive change too. There are other engineering solutions to that cyclic well: install smaller-bore production tubing once the well has declined to 20% of its initial rate or whatever. Drop foaming agents down the well. Automate it for unmanned sites. By now I reckon we’re at the point where the CH4 tax needs to be more than the damage costs to be effective. So maybe a mix of tax and regulation, with annual limits reducing over time. Tough sell in the US, but doable in the EU.

    An industry-wide levy won’t work because of the Tragedy of the Commons. You need to reward good actors and punish bad actors. And don’t say they’re all bad actors: avoid things that look like you’re being mean and nasty to some companies or industries because you personally think those companies or industries are mean and nasty. You’ll never get it through Congress, and you just give ammunition to Team Delay. By all means vent 😉 privately.

  31. Susan Anderson says:

    Ben McMillan: You’re right (and the rest of you too). I finally got back to the original, and it’s quite clear in the opening paragraphs that it is mostly and oil and gas and much of it is waste that could be dealt with (if we (collectively in the guise of good government) only had a brain and a heart). I was interested in the size some of the other sources, and in the ones under Russian control, but got carried away, and lost the plot. Mea culpa. Good discussion all, over and out.

  32. russellseitz says:

    “Still, you must admit that the solution is kinda elegant!”

    So is under-sink worm tray composting. But the virtue it signals does not solve the problem of scale.

    In the CO2 capture case the chemistry race goes to the system with the smallest temperature swing and swiftest cycle time, and as you correctly note , limestone has problems.

    This is not like olivine-rich basalt weathering to serpentinite. Limestone doesn’t absorb CO2 . Lime does. and getting from CaCO3 to CaO means roasting limestone to red heat to liberate CO2 to sequester , which is what giant cement plants are gearing up to do.

    Concrete construction companies may earn Green Concrete bumper stickers on their diesel trucks, with 1 ton a day front-yard lime kilns , but they can’t compete thermodynamically on any scale with Ethanolamine sorbtion cycles that run hundreds of degrees cooler, orders of magnitude faster , and without ( read fine print on links in Carboncure link ) having to waste energy on drying wet air .

    You’re right about the demonstration scale though. It’s got the wattage of a full scale laundromat.

  33. Thanks, Dave. I think you are pushing against an open door. I agree with you about the inherent incentives that exist for a company to cap a blowout or any type of big, short term catastrophic event. Of course, they are on it.

    Maybe remove caps or raise them on fines, triple the fines for gross negligence or “cutting corners?”

    I can’t follow a lot of your technical points because cataracts are making reading more difficult. Typing is a bit of a mess for me because I am taking kinda big doses of lyrica as a pain modulator and one side effect of that med is loss of balance and tremors. So, I try to economize and type less because having my hands shaking all over the keyboard is distracting.

    As for your point about good and bad actors: I don’t know. It differs depending on the industry. I think that is not unreasonable to treat all of the petrochemical extraction industry as a bad actor. They have collectively and individually funded confusion about the problem with ghg accumulation. I think they are a bit like big tobacco with BT’s denial and obfuscation regarding the dangers of their product.

    I have a friend or two who worked in the oil patch over their lifetime and we talk about this issue on occasion. I understand that some folks and small companies may have done their work safely and with great integrity, but the industry has worked hard to push disinformation about global warming. Heck, in the US, I think we are still spending a lot of money subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. How crazy is that? How could that be happening today? I can tell you how: the fossil fuel industry has behaved exactly like big tobacco.

    I think reasonable people with slightly different value systems might disagree with me, but that’s where I stand.

    Haven’t heard from Everett in a while. Hope he is doing ok. I have consult with neurosurgery folks on Tuesday! Oh boy. I have appt with cataract doc on Wednesday! It’s great getting old and having the opportunity to meet all these doctors. I was planning to turn down all this acute care stuff and just do end of life care, but thanks to the stupidity of the opioid crisis in the US, we are in a backlash and doctors are now afraid to prescribe the pain meds that are needed to tamp down the pain level on many end of life disease processes that a person may encounter. So, against my plans, I am back in the queue for all sorts of acute care.



  34. Willard says:

    If every laundromat could save 100K metric tons of CO2 every 365 days, Russell, we would not need to think about micro bubbling the Great Lakes.

    Patio Drummond is less bearish than you are on a similar tech:

    and the cement industry is known for being quite conservative.

  35. SA is right. There are numerous sources of methane emissions. I am interested in reviewing all of them to identify how we might drive the emissions down. The three big anthropogenic sources in the US are agriculture, energy and waste. The options to drive emissions down in each of those three may be quite different. A modest methane tax would provide a reasonable incentive across all the anthro sources. I have already mentioned ways that agriculture could reduce methane emissions.

    As for waste and landfills, there is much that we could do right now. We need to impose incentives in some form to help the industry cultures evolve and address the problem.

    A big dog on global methane emissions is wetlands. Ok, that one is in a different class. A quick glance suggests it would be better to address wetlands on the issue of carbon dioxide by restoring water levels to historical levels.

    I also see geoengineering ideas like introducing plant species in wetlands that would reduce emissions. Two words come to mind when I read that: cane toad.
    Maybe re-introducing and increasing natural beaver populations would make more sense? I don’t know, but if the US would stop fossil fuel subsidies immediately and redirect that money to reducing ghg emission, there is much we could do. Why can’t we do that? The primary reason is that Big Oil is functioning exactly like Big Tobacco did in the heyday. They are funding crap science to create confusion and they are buying politicians. That makes them a bad actor in my opinion.

    I read a bit from vonnegut that is circulating to the effect that we will be a species that goes extinct because avoiding extinction is not cost-effective. well…. something like that.


  36. russellseitz says:

    Dave gets points for adding cane toads to the geoengineering bucket list ”

    “ideas like introducing plant species in wetlands that would reduce emissions. Two words come to mind when I read that: cane toad.
    Maybe re-introducing and increasing natural beaver populations would make more sense? I don’t know”

    But as beaver ponds are about the color of asphalt they endow their builders with radiative forcing footprints in the save league as SUV owners.

    Might Willard interest Carbcrete in recycling Chinese backyard steel furnaces so they can make their own rebar?

    There’s a boatload of Great Leap Forward-surplus 土法炼钢) going for cheap in Shandong

  37. Willard says:

    If beavers ponds give us less than 400M tons of CO2 per year, we might wish to focus on improving the ways we produce our materials, e.g.:

    From an environmental perspective, LC3 technology has the potential to substantially reduce CO2 emissions in the concrete industry. This is evident from the change seen in initial studies. In 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that they projected by 2050, due to the limited availability of slag cement and fly ash, it would only be possible to reduce the global average clinker factor for cement to 73%.5 Now, with LC3, clay suitable for calcination is readily available globally, which means that the clinker factor can be even further reduced. Using LC3, a global reduction with an average of 60% would mean extra CO2 reductions of 400 million tonnes (440 million tons) of CO2 per year. The high performance of the combination of calcined clay and limestone allows for even greater reductions in clinker and CO2 emissions. As mentioned, one of the greatest features is that this technology can be implemented immediately using existing plants, and production costs will remain low. Due to the urgent needs of the climate crisis, this is of significant importance.

    The potential for real CO2 reduction can vary and depends on the conditions of calcination and the proximity of the clay. Gains can be up to 40%. Because of climate change issues, it must be evaluated on a worldwide basis as well. In the last 10 years, companies that are members of the Global Cement and Concrete Association have shown a general substitution rate stagnated at around 20%. From a technical basis, it will be easy to go to an average substitution level of 40%. As mentioned, if that is done with a mixture of calcite, clay, and limestone, the savings will be 400 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That is the equivalent of 1% of all global CO2 emissions. This is a very conservative estimate because it is indicating a 40% substitution, and recent research has shown that amount could even be up to 60% by 2050, doubling the potential CO2 savings to 800 million tonnes (880 million tons) of CO2 per year.


  38. russellseitz says:

    Willard, I rely on Canada for beaver impact statistics , (which I hope are better than Climate Audit’s)svia the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

    A deep dive into the stats in 2014 indicated thatCastor faber‘s post- fur trade population boom, has given the Great White North more than 100,000 square kilometers of beaver ponds, on a par with the combined urban area of its most populous cities.

    The boreal forest landscape has an albedo in the .17 to .24 range . but the ponds are below .07

    Absent beavers, Canada would absorb 10^5 times 10^6 times 240 watts times the albedo differential less solar heat on a clear summer’s day.

    Translating the resulting terawatts into SUV miles, barrels of bitcrude or Hiroshima bombs is left to the taste of the reader, but the last time I looked it worked out to ~6 SUV’s per cauda

  39. russellseitz says:

    If you want to see a VC and commercial free discussion of what’s up in carbon removal, try this Carbon Removal Law & Policy event

    CRLP webinar series – Scrubbing the Skies: The Role of Carbon Dioxide Removal in Combatting Climate Change

    invites at

  40. paulski0 says:

    There’s a lot written about methane but I think there should be a broader focus on non-CO2 WMGHGs. Yes, the recent growth in methane is not really consistent with <2C scenarios but the recent growth acceleration of N2O is so extreme it's barely consistent with 5C scenarios. Likewise, net forcing growth from man-made gases (e.g CFCs, HFCs…) is skirting with the upper end of no-policy expectations, due to both growth of newer gases and slower-than-expected decline of older gases. Some older gases (e.g. CFC114) have even stopped declining.

    2021 saw the highest growth in total net non-CO2 WMGHG forcing since 1992, with methane and N2O data indicating that 2022 will be see similar growth. Basically, non-CO2 WMGHGs have been following RCP8.5 for the past 15 years. Even as a collection non-CO2 WMGHG forcing growth is still much smaller than CO2 though. Ultimately when we start talking about non-CO2 gases now we’re inherently getting into the weeds. We’re no longer talking about whether we’re getting 4-5C or 2C. We’re talking about the difference between 2C and 2.5C, 2.5C and 3C.

    A simple point to make is that almost all 2.6 scenarios (reasonably consistent with the Paris “well below 2C” goal) assume net non-CO2 WMGHG forcing growth should be zero right now and heading quickly towards strongly negative. It’s pretty obvious why this is the case when you consider that we’re at 3.4Wm/2 WMGHG forcing now and reasonable consideration for other factors gives current net anthropogenic forcing of 2.9W/m2: We’re already past the 2.6 budget and can’t really afford much more of an overshoot. So, it’s a bit of a problem that non-CO2 WMGHG forcing is actually heading in the opposite direction.

    This is something which should be kept in mind when looking at figures about carbon budget remaining for various targets – do they actually take into account observed recent trends in non-CO2 forcing?

  41. Ken Fabian says:

    Like Ben I think a focus on building clean energy will address a lot of methane emissions; right now and somewhat unexpectedly (enough that a lot of people still outright dismiss it) clean energy is the low hanging fruit – and not only is it the most cost effective thing we can do it represents actual emissions reductions rather than doing something of limited effectiveness about the emissions after. As the proportion of clean energy grows the embedded emissions in everything, including the manufacture of clean energy tech, declines.
    Agricultural emissions look like they need biological and possibly biotechnology approaches – animal gut biota, rice paddy biota; I remain somewhat doubtful our dietary choices, assuming enough people care or have the luxury of choice if they do, can be a major solution.
    Rightly or wrongly – I think wrongly – we remain incapable of committing to anything that involves any kind of society wide sacrifice and lots of popular opposition is grounded in alarmist economic fear of reduced prosperity from taking action at the institutional level; people making personal choices rocks no institutional boats – and remains ineffective, with the “bonus” of accusations of hypocrisy for those advocating the institutional responses over the personal.

  42. Ken Fabian says:

    Low emissions concrete? The example above left me scratching my head – is it capable of capturing a high proportion of cement manufacture emissions and injecting them back into the cement? Good if it can but 4 billion tons of concrete per year makes 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions, half that released chemically in making the cement, ie not fixed by using clean energy. Can a quarter of the weight of concrete really be made of mineralised CO2 collected from cement production? Is the result inert over the longer term, ie beyond the life of the concrete?
    Beyond the cement production we are still left with about 10X that much CO2 to reduce. I don’t know how things like reforestation – with or without beaver dams – can sequester more than deforestation released, without what fossil fuel use has added. Less, because so much deforested land is agricultural land and must stay productive. I also expect global warming itself threatens the durability of such carbon sinks. So I come back to clean energy as the principle action to take.

  43. Paul,
    Interesting points, thanks. I hadn’t really looked at that in that much detail before.

  44. Ken,

    I don’t know how things like reforestation – with or without beaver dams – can sequester more than deforestation released

    Yes, this is an important point. As you say, a big part of reforestation would simply be reversing the emissions associated with land-use change. Also, fossil fuels are a source that has been sequested in the lithosphere for millions of years. It’s hard to reverse these emissions using something that isn’t going to have that same kind of lifetime.

    Zeke Hausfather made these points in a recent Twitter thread.

  45. Dave_Geologist says:

    It’s not methane but it’s worth noting why we can only decarbonise cement production by about a half. What makes cement cement, and not just reconstituted limestone, are the calcium silicate and aluminosilicate granules and fibres formed by the reaction between calcium hydroxide and the aluminosilicate clays which make up about half the mix. The curing period until full strength is reached is those fibres forming, extending and interlinking. The Ancient Romans didn’t know it but cement is a metamaterial. Pure slaked lime would make a pretty rubbish cement.

    Every calcium atom that takes part in that can’t get its lost CO2 back because its bonds are fully occupied with something else. Some sort of sequestration of CO2 captured from the flue of an enclosed kiln is the only way to keep that CO2 out of the atmosphere.

  46. paulski0 says:

    Tangentially, I think it’s a worthwhile question to ask why scenarios tend to focus on reducing methane (and fgases) before CO2. SSP 2.6 scenarios tend to feature immediate rapid decline in methane emissions, whereas rapid CO2 reduction is delayed for a couple of decades. This pattern is similar across other mitigation levels. Even though future WMGHG forcing increase in baselines is 80-90% CO2, there’s a strong tendency in mitigation scenarios for non-CO2 WMGHGs to be the primary cause of forcing reduction (relative to baseline) up to 2040.

    I guess there’s an assumption that methane and fgas reductions should be kind of easy, but so far reality seems to disagree. I sort of wonder if it’s because methane and fgases aren’t as tightly integrated in the economics of these models so when producing an economically-optimised scenario for a given target it’s easier to assume rapid reductions in those without much economic hit.

  47. Willard says:

    The crux of the exchange is around the 43th min:

    [Mister Volts]

    So you need CO2 as an input to your process. Is there any supply issue? CO2 easy to get and I’m also curious how much you pay for Heirlooms CO2 versus more traditionally acquired CO2? Is there a big price differential?

    [Robert Niven]

    So the first part of your question is, is there supply chain issues? Yes. Our industry, the concrete industry has been massively impacted over the last twelve months by cost and supply of cement and in our case cost and supply of CO2.

    [Mister Colts]


    [Robert Niven]

    Believe it or not you can’t buy CO2 in certain markets.

    [Mister Volts]

    a shortage of CO2.

    [Robert Niven]

    And the price is skyrocketing because of it.

    [Mister Volts]

    No kidding.

    [Robert Niven]

    It’s a really perverse situation. So we need a lot more air loops and we need them to get them into market faster to start to diversify the supply of CO2 because some of the traditional emitters that you would have been collecting that CO2 are now changing their process so that that CO2 isn’t becoming available anymore. Ethanol is the largest supplier of CO2 in the industrial gas market in the United States. So today if the price varies so much it’s largely dependent on transportation. Very commonly we’re paying well over $500 a ton for CO2. We haven’t gotten to that stage with Heirloom where they have the volume, the capacity to have those discussions yet but we really encourage them to move along as fast as they can to get to that billion ton target because that gives us a lot more CO2 that we can work with.

    So we’re exploring all different options for CO2 supply because just from a supply constraint or supply chain disruptions we’re very encouraged to solve for that problem now.

    [Mister Volts]

    It’s just something that sort of kind of confuses me. And maybe you both can take a swing at this answer, but I’m seeing a process here at your demonstration plant where we’re digging a limestone up, doing a bunch of stuff that strips the CO2 out of it, and then injecting the CO2 back into the concrete process, where it then becomes limestone again. Why not just dig up the limestone and put it directly in the concrete? It seems like a lot of physical processes to sort of end up where you started. Maybe just sort of help me understand that kind of how is this not kind of running in place in sort of energetic and CO2 terms?

    I’m sorry if that was a very vague question.

    [Shashank Samala]

    What we are trying to do is pull CO2 that is already in the air so you need a sponge to pull up that carbon and we find that calcium oxide which is derivative of calcium carbonate is highly alkaline. It’s highly thirsty for that CO2 and then that’s how you create the limestone and then you’re essentially looping the limestone through the cycle.

    [Mister Volts]

    The limestone you’re finding that you’re mining has already absorbed CO2, right? That’s what it’s been doing. It’s what it’s been doing. So in a sense, it’s already absorbed it. Why not just put it directly into the concrete, do you know what I mean?

    [Robert Niven]

    Yeah, maybe my perspective solves that on that bit better. The way that I think about Heirloom is if you take a sponge and you put it into your kitchen sink and then you pick up collects water and then you squeeze it out, then you put it back in and squeeze it out. So it just happens to be calcium. But for our process, there may be some listeners who are from civil engineering and understand concrete a bit deeper, and they say, well, concrete already carbonates, right? So there is a natural process that’s already happening, but that’s limited to the exterior skin of concrete and it’s not value added, it doesn’t provide those performance benefits.

    So some way of looking at that is like, yeah, if you left concrete exposed to the air for 1000 years, which not too many buildings are around for a thousand years, is you might get that full carbonation extent. But even if you did that, you wouldn’t get all the benefits, the performance enhancing benefits that come from carbonating actively in a certain way that create this nanomaterials, which provides the cement savings. And it’s also done in a very short time frame within seconds. And so that’s a key difference here is the time. And the other thing is, if you let carbonation happen passively, that’s called weathering carbonation is it actually has the opposite effects on performance.

    [David Roberts]

    Oh, really?

    [Robert Niven]

    Yeah, it’ll actually cause the PH to drop and then it will make the steel corrode, which makes said structure made with that concrete to have durability issues and may fail. So engineers like myself are trained to limit carbonation because you don’t want that carbonation layer to get to the steel, because then that causes that concrete to fail. So you take many, many steps to stop that from happening. The way that we’re doing it is different in that we’re actually deliberately carbonating to a certain extent. So you get all these performance enhancing benefits and that’s a really important nuance.

    [Mister Volts]

    One question is this sort of demonstration project of Heirloom on the one side, CarbonCure on the other side, pulling CO2 out of the air, putting it in concrete. I obviously see the benefits in terms of like educating the public, making carbon capture and sequestration more real and tangible to people, showing investors that things are happening here, all these effects. But looking down the roadways is the sort of direct capture to concrete pipeline. Is that going to be a real business? Is that going to scale up? Or is this mostly just for demonstration purposes?

    [Robert Niven]

    If they can provide CO2 for less than $500, we’ve already shown it scalable. Right. So for us, that’s the marker. And we’re more than happy to work with Shashank and Heirloom because if they can provide us cheaper CO2 on a reliable supply and the market would prefer atmospheric CO2, I’ll do that all day, every day. But we’re already showing today that using CO2 and concrete is immediately scalable and used in emerging markets, developed economies, what have you.

    Anyone interested in emerging markets ought to realize that we will need a lot of concrete in the near future. A lot more than we can grow forests. Hence why being based in Australia is not that much of a big problem.

  48. Ben McMillan says:

    It is sort of alluded to in the interview, but carbonation will happen inevitably anyway, pretty quickly for things like mortar in bricks, and especially at end-of-life when the concrete gets crushed (most buildings don’t stand for 1000 years). So, rather than putting in that CO2 a bit earlier, I’m much more excited about the idea Ken mentioned, of decarbonising the energy used to calcine the limestone.

    Using reinforcement that won’t start rusting when the concrete carbonates would also save a lot of emissions, because you wouldn’t have to regularly replace concrete structures as they start falling apart.

  49. Willard says:

    I thought that getting carbon neutral steel production would be harder, but I might be wrong:

    For thousands of years, steel has been made using coal to remove oxygen from iron ore, emitting vast amounts of CO2 in the process. But now, SSAB is set to revolutionize the industry with HYBRIT technology, using hydrogen instead of coal in the ore reduction process, and emitting water instead of CO2.

    They promise something by 2026.

  50. Ken says “… I come back to clean energy as the principle action to take.”

    Yes. If we can only do one thing at a time, clean energy would be our work. Is there a compelling reason to believe that we can only do one thing at a time? I may have missed that memo.

    Look at the US Bill of Rights. When it came time to vote on the US Constitution, the voters negotiated ten rights that needed to be explicitly protected in order to approve this weak document. So crazy! Ten things at one time?

    If you were to follow that lead and come up with a climate bill of rights, I think that clean energy would be at the top of the list, but I think it would be easy to fill out a list of ten pretty high priorities.

    Pushing for action and focus on just one thing at a time seems fatally silly to me.

    Scientists and engineering types are in a unique position to develop a Global Climate Action Project that could be limited to ten items, or maybe a dozen, that would really cut ghg accumulation if they were pursued vigorously. There is a meme that needs to be developed and pushed. Maybe that has already been done?

    Instead of arguing over arcane chemical decay or over which is clearly the most important thing we have to do, why not develop the Global Climate Action Project?

    I am greatly encouraged to see how many different interesting ideas for ghg reduction have been presented in the last few days. This can be done. We can do it. We probably need to work on better memes if we want the work to gain traction.


  51. russellseitz says:

    Willard, the takeaway is the tell:

    “we’re more than happy to work with Shashank and Heirloom
    ...if they can provide us cheaper CO2 on a reliable supply…

    Fossil CO2 wells can produce the gas so cheaply that a pipel1ne was run from New Mexico to Long Beach Califoria during WWII to provide dry ice cooldown refrigeration for all the stuff being sent to the South Pacific,

    As the cost of CO2 extraction is inversely proportional to concentration, smokestack CO2 @ 40-60% will forever be hugely cheaper to capture than atmospheric CO2 @ 400-600 PPM.

    Concrete is ubiquitous because it is cheap, and it got cheap when fossil fuels replaced wood in lime-burning and clinker production. Consumers who would prefer cheap & reliable renewable domestic power are in competition with contractors who want to suck it in to electric lime kilns.

    Carbon negative virtue signaling is needed to raise the semiotic tone of the Climate Wars. Where are the electric concrete mixing trucks/

  52. Dave_Geologist says:

    Re US underground natural gas storage: be afraid. Be very afraid.

    A national assessment of underground natural gas storage: identifying wells with designs likely vulnerable to a single-point-of-failure

    The majority (88%) of these repurposed wells are located in OH, MI, PA, NY, and WV. Repurposed wells have a median age of 74 years, and the 2694 repurposed wells constructed prior to 1979 are particularly likely to exhibit design-related deficiencies. An estimated 210 active repurposed wells were constructed before 1917—before cement zonal isolation methods were utilized.

  53. wrt natural gas storage wells with designs likely vulnerable to a single point of failure, I would suggest a hefty annual permit fee to continue to use these storage facilities. Let’s impose an incentive on the owner companies to make these wells safer for all of us.

    Why can’t we do this? I think it’s because the fossil fuel industry is a classic bad actor following the model of Big Tobacco and this bad actor is buying off political groups and individuals to prevent common sense legislation on fees and regulation.

  54. Ben McMillan says:

    The nice thing about electric lime kilns is that they can use a batch production process and only run when electricity is cheap. Flexible demand actually helps bring down the cost of a system dominated by wind and solar, which is part of the reason people have high hopes for stuff like hydrogen electrolysis. The problem is not the total amount of energy you can harvest with wind+solar, it is getting it to people the right place at the right time.

  55. Willard says:

    > Concrete is ubiquitous because it is cheap

    I would say it is the other way around. Concrete is ubiquitous because only in America do we think building wood-frame houses is a very good idea. Hence why we have building codes that makes us build apartment buildings with only two bed rooms.

    And the concrete mixing trucks are right here:

  56. russellseitz says:

    What a wonderful Republican logo.

    If I had a stronger parking space I’d buy one!

    Volvo also has one rated at 330 KW, but don’t look back — the Tarform electric Jet Ski may be gaining

  57. Willard says:

    You could buy an Edumper, but you may need a Swiss Sysyphus gig to never charge it:

    It’s green, so it comes punch-ready.

    Alternatively, Caterpillar launched a new electric model.

  58. russellseitz says:

    The Edumper should figure in a Bollywood remake of Fitzcaraldo, in which the hero creates a Zermatt on the Indus by raising the end of Nanga Parbat’s existing road from 9,000 to 19,000 feet, and installing snow making gear sufficient to save a glacier or two.

  59. Dave_Geologist says:

    Actually mike the headline well in that paper did have double isolation by design and implementation. But the Operator bypassed it! The age of the casing string is not in principle an issue. Well abandonment procedures are designed to last for millennia, in effect indefinitely, which is why they rely on cement on the assumption that steel will corrode and polymers degrade. The difference between old and new wells is that over time regulations have called for more barriers and more cement, both in operating wells and during abandonment. So those regulators have at least some teeth.

    70-year old steel should be fine as long as it’s only been exposed to an inert annulus fluid. The oil or gas flows up narrower-bore production tubing whose metallurgy is optimised for the fluids as well as just for strength, which is the case with casing. Even then you would probably expect to do one or two tubing replacements per well in a long-lived field. The reasons are partly safety but mostly cost: it costs an order of magnitude more to redrill or remediate the load-bearing part of the well than it does to replace production tubing.

    Most of these UGS facilities will be run by utilities or pipeline companies not drilling and production companies, so one issue is probably lack of wells technical expertise and unfamiliarity with regulations. Or maybe they’re regulated differently by an agency that lacks expertise. I’m astonished that they flowed gas up and down the annulus as well as through the tubing. Talk about an accident waiting to happen! Nobody involved in upstream wells would sign off on that, not just at the regulator level but at the company or individual engineer level. It would be like a dealer selling a car without brakes. I wonder who exactly knew? My money would be on casing corrosion caused by water drop-out in the annulus at low flow rates being the cause (the narrowness of the production tubing is in part to keep flow rates high).

    BTW double isolation (even by independent mechanisms) is not an absolute guarantee. Deepwater Horizon had double isolation, at least by design. The reason all the experts got the failure mode wrong is that it’s virtually unheard of for the cement and the casing shoe to fail in the same well at the same time. A one in a million event caused by two independent one in a thousand events happening. But then DWH was a one in a million event.

  60. more methane in the news feed:

    No worries! It’s just methane and it doesn’t last that long in the atmosphere. CO2 lasts a long time. If we could have cut our CO2 emissions over the past few decades, we would probably not be getting this methane news. Cutting CO2 emissions and accumulation in the atmosphere seems to be difficult. Biden recently approved the Willow drilling project in the Arctic. I think the US plan is to use any fossil fuels derived from that drilling as a bridge fuel to help us move away from fossil fuels.

    My guess is that a large pulse of methane to the atmosphere is a one in a million event. Relax and smell the methane!



  61. Ben McMillan says:

    Not that this is any different to the last time, but the Summary for policymakers of the new IPCC AR6 synthesis report shows (in Fig SPM 7) opportunities for actions on methane that could be just as important as wind or solar power. As well as big room for action on other gases like F-gases and N2O. In general the opportunity for improvements in the land sector are huge, too, partly just in stopping the conversion of nature to farmland.

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