Green cement? Captured carbon may fuel new markets and help climate

Image result for Green cement? Captured carbon may fuel new markets and help climate
Companies are already turning carbon dioxide captured at industrial plants into materials such as road aggregate and low-carbon cement, scientists said in a paper published in the journal Nature. Li-An Lim/Unsplash

LONDON – Capturing planet-warming carbon dioxide and turning it into useful products, from plastics to jet fuel, could make climate action cheaper and become a good business – but market obstacles need to be overcome first, researchers said on Thursday (Nov 7).

Companies are already turning carbon dioxide captured at industrial plants into materials such as road aggregate and low-carbon cement, scientists said in a paper published in the journal Nature.

Eventually products could also be made from carbon dioxide captured directly from the air, as the costs of that technology fall, they added.

“There are a lot of weird and wacky ideas out there, and we’re just scratching the surface,” said Professor Cameron Hepburn, a University of Oxford professor in environmental economics and a lead author of the study. But efforts to turn captured carbon into products are still largely small-scale because most countries have yet to put an economic value on eliminating climate-changing gases while some of the processes require a lot of energy, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Construction standards and other regulations also make creating markets for new products difficult, said Prof Hepburn, also director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

With emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing forests continuing to rise, scientists now believe holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times will require sucking some carbon back out of the atmosphere.

In a landmark 2018 report, they said keeping global temperature rise to that more ambitious of two limits adopted in the 2015 Paris Agreement would substantially cut risks linked to planetary warming, from water shortages to wilder weather.

Scientists say carbon dioxide captured from smoke-stacks or the air could be stored permanently underground, but investment and policy to make that happen on a large scale have been slow to emerge.

In Europe, “we’re so far off trend it makes you wonder what we’re doing”, Dr Andrew Cavanagh, an emissions storage expert at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, told a September conference.

Read also: Explainer: Why climate change should matter to Singaporeans and what the Govt is doing about it

Instead, turning some of the carbon into products with a market value could be another way to drive investment into carbon capture, economists say.


The Nature study, which examined thousands of papers on technologies to remove and use carbon, including natural processes, to gauge their viability, predicted they could together remove between 1 and 10 gigatonnes of emissions a year.

Read also: Green steps that Singapore should take urgently

Burning fossil fuels is currently emitting 37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and scientists predict the world will need to remove somewhere between 100 and 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon in total this century, the study said.

The technologies assessed ranged from turning carbon dioxide into a feedstock for plastic or fertiliser production, to finding ways to build skyscrapers in fast-growing cities out of carbon-sequestering wood or even carbon-negative cement blocks.

Researchers estimate that about US$90 trillion (S$112 trillion) will need to be spent globally by 2030 to build and update infrastructure, particularly as the world becomes more urban and cities grow.

That could create major new markets for carbon-storing building materials, said Dr Ella Adlen, a researcher at the Oxford Martin School and another lead author of the paper.

But attracting investment in many of the technologies remains challenging because of problems ranging from regulatory barriers to poor financial returns due to a low – or absent – price on carbon, Prof Hepburn said.

Capturing carbon directly from the air can also take large amounts of energy, although fast-falling costs for renewables may eventually eliminate that problem, he said.

Finding just a few initial lucrative uses for captured carbon dioxide could help “prime the pump” for more, as business interests push governments to change policy, Prof Hepburn said.

“We have this big oil and gas industry taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air,” he said. “We need an industry almost as big in reverse, taking carbon out of the air.”

Capturing and using carbon dioxide cannot be a substitute for switching away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy, he emphasised, even though the oil and gas industry is “very interested” in the new technologies.

“We need to do both as fast as possible,” he added.

The paper’s authors differed on the prospects for the carbon removal technologies, Hepburn noted, with some highly doubtful most will succeed and others more optimistic.

Mr John Beddington, a former chief scientific advisor to the British government who pushed for the study, warned “the risk of getting (carbon capture and use) wrong is quite high”.

“But if you do it right… you are tackling one of the key barriers to change, which is the cost of (climate) action,” he said.  SOURCE

One thing we can do: Balance our energy demand

Want to encourage renewable energy? Timing is everything.

Renewables, by their nature, can be sporadic. The wind isn’t always blowing when you need those turbines spinning. Water levels in hydroelectric dams rise and fall.

But energy demand isn’t sporadic: It tends to run in a predictable curve that peaks during the daylight hours.

That means renewables, so far, can’t always fulfill demand reliably at peak times. Sure, we’ve got solar power, but that, too, is subject to factors we can’t control, like cloudy days. That’s why on-demand energy sources like fossil fuels, which generate plenty of greenhouse gas emissions, are still very important in our energy mix.

Daire McCoy, a fellow at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, called it “a very dumb system.”

What could make the system smarter? Lowering the peaks in demand by shifting some of our consumption to off-peak hours, typically early mornings and overnight. That could go a long way toward lowering our reliance on fossil fuels. And, depending on where you live and the incentives in place, it might also lower your monthly bill.

Rebalancing demand could be as simple as turning off your water heater for a few hours during the day, or using a timer to run your dishwasher and clothes dryer at night.

Another thing you can do is to avoid using your most energy-hungry appliances simultaneously. For example, don’t run your clothes dryer, hair dryer, oven and air conditioner at the same time. That, in theory, has the potential to raise the daily demand peak.

If you’re not sure which machines in your home use the most energy, this appliance energy calculator on the Department of Energy website can probably help.

Changing behavioral patterns, though, is hard. That’s why governments and energy providers are turning to incentives and smart technology in an effort to balance demand and, ultimately, lower emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide.

One of the main incentives is time-of-use pricing, a system that encourages consumers to shift demand by making energy less expensive during off-peak hours. It’s already being used in California and Illinois. Internationally, it’s in effect in France, Spain and Finland, among other countries.

On the technology side, smart meters can relay real-time information, like how much energy is used and when, so that households can adjust consumption and suppliers can further understand demand patterns. A report by the British government estimated that smart meters could save nearly 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from 2013 to 2034.

“If we can make the system a lot more flexible,” Mr. McCoy said, “it would allow integration of more renewables, and not having to build extra coal plants.” SOURCE

Warmer world is unhealthier place for children, doctors say

Meanwhile, China blames climate change for outbreak of pneumonic plague

A woman takes her son’s temperature as he recuperates from dengue fever in a Manila hospital on Aug. Nine of the top 10 years when conditions were most ripe for dengue fever transmission have occurred since 2000, says a new report on the health impacts of climate change. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

Children are growing up in a warmer world where they’ll face more and different health problems than their parents experienced, an international report by doctors says.

With increasing diarrhea diseases, more dangerous heat waves, air pollution and increases in mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, man-made global warming is already harming public health around the world, the annual climate change and health report from the medical journal The Lancet said Wednesday.

But the report and its authors said they worry the future health of young people will get even grimmer if emissions of heat-trapping gases aren’t curbed.

“A child born today as they go through their lives they are going to be increasingly exposed to more and more harms that I did not experience,” said study co-author Dr. Renee Salas, a Boston emergency room physician and professor at Harvard.

“I cannot think of a greater health emergency.”

Already, the number of days when conditions are ripe for the spread of the water-borne bacteria Vibrio, a major cause of debilitating diarrhea, have doubled since 1980, with last year ranking second highest on record, the report said. Because of the warming climate, 29 per cent more of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to Vibrio. The report also said the cholera version of Vibrio has increased nearly 10 per cent.

Nine of the top 10 years where conditions were most ripe for dengue fever transmission have occurred since 2000, the report said.

Children hit harder

Those diseases hit children harder, the report said, and children, the elderly, the poor and the sick are most hurt during extreme heat with dangerous overheating, respiratory disease and kidney problems.

“Children are the most vulnerable. They will bear the vast majority of the burden of climate change,” said Dr. Nick Watts, an Australian emergency room physician and lead author of the global report. “Their health will be hit by climate change in a profoundly different way.”

A child cholera patient lies on a bed as he receives medical care at a health centre in the village of Islim, Yemen. Climate change is linked to an increase in diseases such as cholera and those diseases hit children harder, the new report says. (Eissa Alragehi/Reuters)

While medicine and public health have improved over the decades, allowing people to live longer, climate change “threatens to undermine all of the gains we’ve had,” Salas said. SOURCE


A New Tool to Imagine Getting to Net Zero Emissions

Climate change can feel insurmountable. ‘Design Our Climate’ aims to break down possible paths forward.

‘There’s no silver bullet to get from where we are to where we need to be.’ Sectors like transportation, electricity, land use, buildings and materials all matter. Photo via Shutterstock.

How do we move from feeling paralyzed by polarized politics toward meaningful action on an issue as overwhelming as climate change?

This is the question at the heart of a new tool developed by a team of chemistry and physics professors and undergraduate students at a research centre of the King’s University in Edmonton.

Peter Mahaffy, the director of the King’s Centre for Visualization in Science, thinks the team from the oil capital of Canada is well situated to address such large existential issues.

“If these conversations about energy efficiency and climate can happen in Alberta, they can happen anywhere in the world,” Mahaffy said.

He acknowledges these conversations in Alberta are “extremely polarizing,” but believes the gaps can be breached by thoughtful and intentional communication that encourages people to see how they can be a part of the solution.

Design Our Climate, known as DOCs, is an interactive simulation supported by Energy Efficiency Alberta, a provincial government-funded program. The tool is peer-reviewed by 25 global experts on a variety of intersecting fields including climate change, mitigation strategies and impacts and education.

The tool takes the complicated challenge of climate change and breaks it down into “wedges” that are more manageable.

Users can use the tool for free through the KCVS website on a laptop or desktop.

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The ‘Design Our Climate’ tool. Use it here.

Users can see where global greenhouse gas emissions are headed if we continue our current trajectory of exponential increase, and they can see where we need to go if we’re to hit “net-zero” emissions by 2050.

They can design their own climate future by customizing mitigation strategies through adjusting multiple variables from five different sectors: electricity, transportation, land use, buildings and materials.

Each sector breaks down into sub-categories to reveal more specific information about how some variables are more carbon-intensive than others. For example, coal power and natural gas are more carbon-intensive than solar, wind and nuclear. The DOCs tool provides feedback as the user adjusts the variables, flagging a “reality check” message when they’ve veered into territory that isn’t realistic or has alternative costs. For example, move the solar energy meter too high and the tool will alert you that solar energy requires a certain amount of land for solar panel deployment.

“There’s no silver bullet to get from where we are to where we need to be,” Mahaffy said. “We’re not going to do it all with wind, not just with solar, but maybe we can get to where we need to be with a silver buckshot — a mosaic of solutions.”

Once the user finishes changing the different variables to lower global GHG emissions, they can move towards “what’s next” and create their own action plan. People are invited to share the resource with friends, family, colleagues and even their elected officials.

The hope, Mahaffy said, is “to get people engaged in deep and meaningful conversations about climate change solutions.”

DOCs uses an approach, introduced at Princeton University 15 years ago, that addressed the seemingly insurmountable problem of greenhouse gas emissions by breaking it into smaller, more tangible challenges. Mahaffy found the approach to be a hopeful one when the King’s group was feeling discouraged and overwhelmed after years of working on providing digestible information on climate science.

The team drew on research about the best ways to engage people about climate change, and they are hopeful the tool will help people navigate past polarizing viewpoints. “We frame the language, the conversation, to get at the things the audience care about and communicate with trusted messengers,” he said.

Mahaffy said environmental advocates and educators around the world have shown interest in the tool, as has the Chemical Institute of Canada, a professional association that includes people who work in the fossil fuel sector.

The Alberta Council for Environmental Education, a charity working to advance environmental education in the province, is working on getting the simulation into the province’s Grades 9 and 10 science and social studies classrooms. Staff at Student Energy, a non-profit that distributes energy information to students globally, are distributing it to university students. And Energy Futures Lab, an Alberta-based think tank, is using the tool with their public outreach and industry education.

Last weekend the King’s team launched the simulation at the Alberta Teachers’ Association science council conference where Mahaffy said it was well-received.

“My sense is that Canada is ready for non-polarizing conversations about climate change,” he said.  SOURCE


Protecting KI watershed gets funding support from Canada

Image result for Chief Donny Morris

BIG TROUT LAKE, ON – Chief Donny Morris is pleased to announce that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug has recently signed an Agreement with the Government of Canada in support of its project to establish an Indigenous Protected Area(IPA) in the Fawn River Watershed (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug homeland). Located approximately 600 km northwest of Thunder Bay, the watershed is 13,025 km2

“We are happy with Canada coming on board with our project,” says Chief Donny Morris. “We see this as an important step along the reconciliation path. This funding will help us move to the next phase of our project working alongside Wapekeka First Nation. We are jointly connected by this watershed and I look forward to working together,” Morris described.

This is an important milestone for the community and they wanted to let their supporters know from all across Canad that progress is continuing on protecting the watershed. KI was successful in securing a $387,500 grant from the Canada Nature Fund with additional matching funding commitments from Metcalf Foundation and International Boreal Conservation Campaign. Wildlands League and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada are providing in kind support and scientific advice to the community to support implementing this project. Dr. David Peerla is also advising KI on this project.

The Chief acknowledged that this is an important moment not only for the community itself, its staff and leadership but for everyone, “This area is important for the planet and our community is playing a role in helping to fight climate change by safeguarding a watershed that provides clean drinking water for all life, habitat for the fish, water life and animals, food and travel ways for our people, moisture for the air and rich carbon peatlands our people refer to as the breathing lands.”

“I want to thank all the individuals and groups that have worked with us over the years. There are too many to list here but they have all been important allies. I want them to know this work is continuing and we are also looking forward to working with both levels of government on protecting the watershed. Hopefully they’ll see that there is another level of government up here,” Chief Morris said.

This project was undertaken with the support of the Government of Canada through the federal department of Environment and Climate Change. SOURCE (PDF)


B.C. grants $1.2 billion in deep well subsidies to fracking companies in two years: new report

Although the amount of natural gas fracked in the northeast corner of the province has increased by 70 per cent over the last decade, British Columbia is increasingly out of pocket when it comes to collecting on this industry’s resource royalties, according to newly released data

Fracking Farmington B.C.
Fracking operations near Farmington. B.C. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

As deep well credits are used to reduce the amount of royalties companies pay to the province when the production process has ended, that means B.C. is increasingly out of pocket even though the amount of gas produced in B.C. has risen more than 70 per cent over the last decade.

The total in the deep well credit account now amounts to $2.2 billion.

Last year, natural gas royalties flowing into the provincial treasury amounted to $102 million compared to $1.3 billion a decade earlier and, although the decline is partially due to falling market prices for gas, the deep well credits are partially responsible for the shrinking revenues, says Ben Parfitt, CCPA resource policy analyst.

“And, with a combined $2.62 billion in credits sitting in the credit account, thanks to the credit program’s 17-year duration, those anemic revenues will be a fixture for years to come,” Parfitt, who is also a contributor to The Narwhal, said.

Oil and Gas Development. Farmington Area.Gas development near Farmington, B.C. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

“That’s a huge sum of money and it’s getting bigger each year. It’s high time the province explained why such subsidies are necessary or, if they are not, why they continue,” he said.

The ongoing loss of revenue means less available funds for healthcare, education and other public services, said Parfitt, who spearheaded a battle to force the provincial government to release the data, which was being kept a closely guarded secret.

From grain country to gas land

Deep well credit data withheld for two years

The CCPA made a Freedom of Information request for the figures two years ago, but the Finance Ministry fought release of the documents claiming that the information could not be made public because it constituted sensitive tax information.

That argument was successfully appealed by the CCPA, but last year, the government argued that publicizing such figures would harm the interests of “third parties.”

That was also successfully challenged by the CCPA and — finally — the figures were released.

The figures show that 26 companies received credits and the top three recipients last year, receiving almost half the credits, were the Cutbank consortium, led by Encana, Painted Petroleum and Tourmaline Oil. Between 2005 and 2017 Encana donated $1.2 million to the provincial Liberals and $113,000 to the NDP.

Also on the list of recipients is Petronas Energy Canada Ltd., one of the principal partners in the planned LNG Canada export facility at Kitimat, which is also benefittng from discounted electricity prices, exemptions from carbon tax increases, corporate income tax breaks and deferral of provincial sales tax on construction.

6 awkward realities behind B.C.’s big LNG giveaway

“If you see a pattern here, you are not alone,” Parfitt said.

Continuing the secrecy trend, the Finance Ministry is now fighting CCPA efforts to obtain figures on what each of the companies receiving credits pays the government in royalty fees. The ministry is again claiming the information would be harmful to undisclosed third-party interests, Parfitt said.

“We think it is shocking that we have to appeal such a decision to the Office of Freedom of Information and Privacy,” Parfitt said.

“Royalty payments are a form of rent and are made in recognition that resources like natural gas belong to the people of B.C. There is no reasonable justification for withholding such basic information,” he said.

‘Resources practically given away’

The aim in obtaining the information is to allow the public, for the first time, to compare credits to revenues and ask some necessary questions, Parfitt said.

“Is the government lowering royalty fees and effectively propping up fossil fuel extraction that would otherwise be unprofitable and, if so, at what cost?” Parfitt asked.

Pipeline construction near Farmington

A gas pipeline is laid across farmer Rod Strasky’s land in Farmington, B.C. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

The obvious comparison, Parfitt points out, is that, for decades, the public has had access to details of what logging companies pay the provincial government for trees cut on private lands.

“If the dollars paid by Canfor for the trees it logs are part of the public record, then the dollars that Encana pays for the natural gas it extracts from the ground should be part of the public record too,” he said.

“By withholding such information, the public is quite naturally left with the impression that its resources are practically being given away to private business interests with the government’s active and very generous support.”

The deep well credit program, which started in 2003, was initially supposed to cover some of the costs fossil fuel companies incurred when drilling deep or horizontal wells, but such practices are now common, meaning most companies are eligible for the credits.

The subsidies have also raised the ire of Green Party of B.C. leader Andrew Weaver who, speaking in the legislature earlier this year, said that, since the program started in 2003, the program has reduced existing and future royalty liability by nearly $6 billion.

“Why is there not a standard public disclosure of these credits and royalties that are received,” he asked in the House. “There is, for example, for stumpage fees in the province, under the harvest billing system. Why are we not making public the royalty credits that are being claimed here?”

 Weaver, in his blog, said the B.C. Greens are deeply troubled “by the generational sellout embodied in B.C. NDP corporate welfare aimed at trying to attract LNG to B.C.” SOURCE


BC’s Drilling and Fracking Credits a $1.2 Billion Subsidy in Recent Years, Researcher Finds

Bloc leader says West’s oil ‘obsession’ rules out separatist help

File photo of Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet at the leaders’ debate in Ottawa in October 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

The leader of the Bloc Québécois says Western Canada’s need to “obsessively want to extract oil from the ground” means it is difficult for his party to help further any separatist sentiment there.

“If they were attempting to create a green state in Western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” Yves-François Blanchet told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“If they are trying to create an oil state in Western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”

Blanchet’s rendezvous with Trudeau is one of a string of meetings the prime minister is holding with political leaders following his minority government’s election and ahead of a new Parliament scheduled to open in December.

Blanchet, however, left his meeting saying he was open to collaborating on Liberal government proposals to tackle climate change. The Liberals are 13 votes shy of a majority needed to pass legislation on their own, and with 32 seats, the Bloc is in a position to lend a helping hand.

“When there will be some initiatives brought forward in order to reduce our emissions to improve the huge problem of climate change, we will be open to discussion,” said Blanchet.

“However, each and every time, we have the duty to remind this government that they are also promoting the extraction, exportation, and consumption of oil throughout the world, which is destroying the effect of what they are trying to do on the other end.” MORE