back to article Earthquakes will release captured carbon: Stanford study

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) won’t work, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, because underground earthquakes are certain to cause the carbon to be released too soon. That’s the gloomy prediction of a group of Stanford University scientists, and a blow to those seeking …


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  1. Tom 35

    large-scale CCS

    I don't think it will ever happen anyway, takes too much energy to separate and pump the CO2 into the ground and would cost too much even if nuclear powered.

    It's just something the oil companies like to talk about.

    No problem with that Turbo V8 SUV/Pickup because we are going to make it all OK real soon now with Carbon Capture... not that carbon is a problem.

    1. Filippo

      Re: large-scale CCS

      Not to mention that if you are talkin about "nuclear powered" anything, I have to wonder why not just use nuclear power to make plentiful electricity without producing CO2 in the first place...

      1. Yag

        Re: large-scale CCS

        Because, due to some green integrists, people would rather live near an uranium-belching coal-burning power plant instead of a potentially risky nuke plant.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: large-scale CCS

      Do the CCS above ground rather than below - plant a fuckload of trees instead of stripping forests bare for logging / subsiszence farming / mining.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: large-scale CCS

      That and: How many people seriously think that it's a good idea to use more fossil fuels to generate the same amount of energy, in order that you can overcome the efficiency drop in capturing the CO2 that comes out of the combustion.

      Maybe using less energy, or the same amount more wisely is the way forward.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carbon capture made easy

    Grow trees.

    Make paper from trees.

    Bury paper in disused coal mines.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Carbon capture made easy

      You might be near an idea there!

      How about instead of paper, just paper pulp, and pump it into used oil wells?

      Then you could come back in a decade, tap the well for natural gas, lather, rinse, repeat.

      Using the "recycled carbon" instead of fossil fuels would cut down on new (more) CO2 entering the atmosphere, and since no process is 100%, would even lead to a net loss of atmospheric CO2 over time.

      Ah, there's the rub, innit? Since it'd take decades (at least) to reduce CO2 levels, there'd be no immediate profit/glory for anyone doing it.... so fuggedaboutit!

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: Carbon capture made easy

      Or don't even reach the make paper stage. Lets have some reforestation. The only way we can really make life at this level and pace sustainable is by a smaller population. Lets let the population decline (by humane voluntary methods such as greater education and more sexual equality as has demonstrably worked throughout the West), and then let Britain and other nations restore some of the forests and jungles that we have, in our spread, destroyed. I think we could all be just as sociable and productive if the population were two billion.

      1. The Axe

        Re: Carbon capture made easy

        More trees were destroyed during the Napoleaonic wars to build all those big wooden ships than have been destroyed in modern times in the UK. Did the climate change because of that? No. So considering that we have loads of trees (and growing in number) is there any real need to apply yet more fixes to cut carbon when the changes already in place will do quite nicely.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Carbon capture made easy

          NONE of the wood for ships of the line came from the UK. The UK was out of trees long before the time of the Spanish Armada. During the Napoleonic wars the U.S. exported more ships to the UK than they built themselves. It was one of our first profitable exports!

          Trees are one of the primary drivers for colonization in the States. The Spanish had been here for ages but the British were happy getting their wood and ships stores from Eastern Europe at outrageously high prices. They decided to come here because they could take the trees for free with the nifty side effect that all the people in Britain freezing to death for lack of wood could purchase it from the Crown.

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: Carbon capture made easy

          "Did the climate change because of that? No. So considering that we have loads of trees (and growing in number) is there any real need to apply yet more fixes to cut carbon when the changes already in place will do quite nicely"

          Alright, you got me - I'm actually a sceptic about the role of carbon climate change. I just don't like people. ;)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Carbon capture made easy

      Mines are quite wet places, the wet will cause the wood to start to compost, releasing Methane, which is worse than CO2.

  3. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    High pressure gaseous CCS

    This was always the sort of idea that would appeal to politicians rather than engineers. Its sort of obvious that expecting large amounts of very high-pressure gas to stay put for a couple of hundred years, let alone a few thousand years is very likely asking the impossible. Then, when you expect it to stay in a worked-out coal-mine (barmy) or even a depleted oil-well ( what, no cracks? really? what about corroding well liners?), you're asking for the impossible.

    About the only safe storage would be as solids - think artificial limestone or, better, marble. But don't think that will be cheap because it won't be. I wouldn't be surprised to find that whole of life costs for thorium nuke generators are cheaper.

  4. BigFire

    Sure it'll work

    Just tax the 1% 110% of their net worth. Isn't that what this scam is all about?

  5. Richard Boyce
    Thumb Down

    There's a bigger problem....

    The bigger problem with CO2 storage is human duplicity. The moment you start paying people to store CO2 underground at high cost, they'll pretend to do so and laugh all the way to the bank as the "stored" CO2 makes its way into the atmosphere out of sight.

  6. Corporate Scum


    Why is it today's hippies have no grasp of history. Or am I the only one who remembers a little incident in Cameroon in the Mid Eighties? Try googling Lake Nyos, Monoun, or Kivu, or "Limnic eruption". Don't both with CO2 dangers, or all you'll get is more of the same halfwit screed that passes for environmental science these days.

    Think the people who complain about badly run fracking operations causing their tap water to catch on fire? Wait till it smothers their whole house as the "Carbon Vault" empties itself through their well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BRILLIANT!

      I'd have though any proper sort of hippie would never have thought CCS a good idea anyway - better to reduce fossil usages or improve efficiency.

      1. Yag

        "better to reduce fossil usages or improve efficiency."

        It's not even an hippie idea, any sane people should think it's a better idea than playing hide'n'seek...

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: BRILLIANT! waste carbon

      We used to store it above ground, until Aberfan.

      But who gives a toss anyway, as long as the current generation don't have to sort out the resulting mess and the money comes in (this is what it's all about isn't it?).

    3. Corporate Scum

      Re: BRILLIANT!

      So... in scraping around online... It seems to be mostly Oil companies that were already pumping CO2 into their wells to increase extraction that are championing this method of carbon sequestration. Nothing beats shamelessly promoting your Green cred while endangering the locals and potentially making money in additional oil extraction. In short, being a modern oil company.

      Apologies to any modern hippies whose delicate sensibilities were bruised. Still, they may be on to something, mass human extermination by direct CO2 poisoning... is it a good plan? NO... but it is faster than human extinction by climate change(or the slow poisoning of the food chain with industrial waste..)

      It might have a better chance of success than the Kyoto Protocol though...

  7. vandenbudenmayer


    Why not just store it in the atmosphere? There is only 0.04% CO2 in there now, so surely room for plenty more? If molecules were the size of people, you'd have a hard time finding a CO2 among all that oxygen, nitrogen and water.

    1. scatter

      Re: Hmm

      You do know that oxygen and nitrogen (comprising about 99% of the atmosphere) are not greenhouse gases and so do nothing to trap heat so this talking point is one of the lamest ever put out there?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      Because at concentrations higher than 2%, CO2 has some nasty side effects. Higher than that and it becomes toxic, even lethal. More often than not, death in a sealed chamber comes from CO2 poisoning, not hypoxia. That's why rescue breathers and diving rebreathers carry CO2 scrubbers.

  8. proto-robbie

    Just pump it down a big pipe...

    ... into the sea - about 1000 ft down it will liquify, then sink. OK it might change the ecology of the sea bed, but hey we're not using it.

    1. Yag

      Re: Just pump it down a big pipe...

      Sure, as if ocean acidification was not one of the issue already...

  9. Pooka

    Since we're going with wacky schemes....

    Couldn't you just freeze it and fire it off into space?

    (That's actually a vaguely honest question - I know it would probably be very expensive, but at least it probably wouldn't cause earthquakes :P)

    1. Rob Carriere

      Re: Since we're going with wacky schemes....

      A very quick Google suggests putting 1 kg of CO2 into low orbit would generate at least 7 kg of CO2 in the form of rocket exhaust. And you'd actually want to reach not low orbit but escape velocity, making the ratio even worse.

      1. The Axe

        Re: Since we're going with wacky schemes....

        Depends on which type of rocket. Rockets fueled by LOX with Hydrogen only generate water.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Rockets fueled by LOX with Hydrogen only generate water"

          I don't think we have many LOX-lactating cattle or magical hydrogen-weeing fairies out there. Where do you think rocket fuel comes from?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: "Rockets fueled by LOX with Hydrogen only generate water"

   or nuclear-powered electrolysis?

          2. Rob Carriere

            Re: "Rockets fueled by LOX with Hydrogen only generate water"

            Well, I was dumb enough to over-specify and say "rocket exhaust", so The Axe has a fair chop.

            Taking one step back, what the 7:1 tells you is that it takes more energy to put the CO2 into space than what that CO2 itself "produced". So irrespective of sources and methods of propulsion, the scheme could only possibly make sense in a scenario where energy is abundant. That's unlikely to happen anytime soon.

            1. sisk

              Re: "Rockets fueled by LOX with Hydrogen only generate water"

              1) Build a big fracking gun, on par with that German monstrosity from WW2, maybe a little bigger. In fact, make it a railgun, significantly bigger than the ones the US Navy is playing with. That way you can power it off a clean energy source instead of gunpowder.

              2) Put CO2 into durable canister rounds.

              3) Shoot them into space.

              4) Once they're in space, have them captured by a satellite (build specifically for the job, of course) which then fires them out further (via a solar powered rail gun). The moon would make a good target. Or, better yet, shoot it at Mars and we can get a jump start on terraforming it by warming it up a bit. If you don't shoot it out further than Earth orbit then the canisters will eventually fall back into the atmosphere and burn up, releasing the CO2 right where we least want it.

              The only problem I see with this plan is that the hardware to make it happen will probably cost more than the GDP of some European nations. If it were build in the US the costs would run into the trillions of dollars.

  10. NomNomNom

    Can't we just call it something else?

    In the US a policy think-tank called the Competitive Energy Institute ran TV adverts with lots of happy children in parks and bright blue skies, the punchline was "they call it CO2, we call it life".

    See if you just give something the right name there's not a problem any-more. Similar to how a re-branding of "radioactive waste" to "totally rad yield" would help (and get the kids on side).

    I also recommend the re-branding of Arctic sea ice as The Crawling White Death. That way it can't possibly be a bad thing if it declines. Not that I am admitting the Arctic sea ice is declining of course. I'll hold out against that idea as long as I can!

  11. Alperian

    More Legislation

    What we need is to clampdown on earthquakes. In particularly, tremors in local constituencies where carbon capture is being implemented. Perhaps a new Westminster carbon forum would be the answer?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: More Legislation

      Absolutely! Earthquakes are a clear and present danger to the safety of our citizens and THE CHILDREN - think of the children! Earthquakes act in cowardly ways, giving no warning they are going to attack and threaten our way of life.

      We must act preemptively and destroy this threat at it's base. Our forces are now mobilizing to annihilate the Earth's core and failing that we'll just attack those nearest to it. God Save the Queen!

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: More Legislation

      Almost -- we need to bury the stuff elsewhere and when it all goes titsup we can blame them and not us.

      (And have some bogus 'international body' fine the perps enough to unbalance thier economy).

    3. Euripides Pants Silver badge

      Re: More Legislation

      We don't have to clamp down on all earthquakes, just the underground ones in the article.

  12. Mike Richards


    Injecting carbon dioxide and water into basalt leaches calcium and magnesium ions from the lava to form solid carbonates which remain deep underground. A trial called CarbFix is already underway at the Hellisheiðivirkjun power plant near Reykjavik.

  13. JeffyPooh

    Just shove it in deeper...

    I assume that if the CO2 is injected into a place that is sufficiently hot, it'll break down into its constituent elements. That'll be carbon and oxygen. Job's a good'en.

    1. philbo

      Re: Just shove it in deeper...

      "Just shove it in deeper"???

      How many times have I heard that in answer to things not going as well as they might?

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