The Anonymous Widower

Is Carbon Dioxide Not Totally Bad?

To listen to some environmentalists, there views on carbon dioxide are a bit like a variant of George Orwell’s famous phrase Four legs good, two legs bad from Animal Farm, with carbon dioxide the villain of the piece.

I have just read the Wikipedia entry for carbon dioxide.

For a start, we mustn’t forget how carbon dioxide, water and sunlight is converted by photosynthesis in plants and algae to carbohydrates, with oxygen given off as waste. Animals like us then breathe the oxygen in and breathe carbon dioxide out.

Various web sites give the following information.

  • The average human breathes out 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per day.
  • As of 2020, the world population was 7.8 billion.

This means humans breathe out 17.94 billion pounds of CO2 per day

This equates to 6548.1 billion pounds per year or 2.97 billion tonnes per year.

And I haven’t counted all the other animals like buffalo, cattle, elephants and rhinos, to name just a few large ones.

Wikipedia also lists some of the Applications of carbon dioxide.

  • Precursor To Chemicals – Carbon dioxide can be one of the base chemicals used to make other important chemicals like urea and methanol.
  • Foods – Carbon dioxide has applications in the food industry.
  • Beverages – Carbon dioxide is the fizz in fizzy drinks.
  • Winemaking – Carbon dioxide has specialist uses in winemaking.
  • Stunning Animals – Carbon dioxide can be used to ‘stun’ animals before slaughter.
  • Inert Gas – carbon dioxide has several uses, as it is an inert gas.
  • Fire Extinguisher – Carbon dioxide is regularly used in fire extinguishers and fire protection systems.
  • Bio Transformation Into Fuel – It has been proposed to convert carbon dioxide from power stations  into biodiesel using a route based on algae.
  • Refrigerant – Carbon dioxide can be used as a refrigerant. It was used before CFCs were developed and I know of a large Victorian refrigeration system on a farm in Suffolk, used on a store for apples, that still is in regular use that uses carbon dioxide.
  • Dry Ice – The solid form of carbon dioxide has lots of applications, where cooling is needed.

Other important applications are under development.

  • Agriculture – Carbon dioxide is piped to greenhouses to promote growth of crops. It is also used at higher concentrations to eliminate pests.
  • Low Carbon Building Products – Companies like Mineral Carbonation International are developing ways of creating building products from carbon dioxide.
  • Synthetic Rubber – Research is ongoing to create replacements for synthetic rubber.

I can only assume, that the demand for gaseous carbon dioxide will increase, as scientists and engineers get more innovative about using the gas.

Solving A Shortage Of Carbon Dioxide

At the present time, there is shortage of carbon dioxide, that I wrote about in Food Shortages Looming After Factory Closures Hit Production.

In the related post, I said this.

Perhaps we should fit carbon capture to a handy gas-fired power station, like SSE are planning to do at Keadby and use this carbon dioxide.

Consider.

  • The Keadby complex of gas-fired power stations is close to a lot of depleted gas fields, some of which are in Lincolnshire and some are of-shore.
  • Some gas fields are already being used to store natural gas imported from Norway.
  • SSE plan to fit the later power stations with carbon capture.

I talk about SSE’s plans in Energy In North-East Lincolnshire.

If SSE were to build four large gas-fired power stations at Keadby, I calculated that they would produce 5.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

It could be used or stored in depleted gas fields according to demand.

But the complex at Keadby would not release any carbon emissions.

Could Carbon Capture Be A Nice Little Earner?

If demand for carbon dioxide continues to rise, I could see power companies installing carbon capture on gas-fired power stations to generate an extra income stream.

Incidentally, there are 55 operational gas-fired power stations in the UK, that can generate a total of 30 GW, which are owned by perhaps ten different companies.

Development of carbon capture systems could be helped by Government subsidy.

Conclusion

I have long forgotten all the calculations I did with gases, but I do know that when one molecule of methane combusts it produces two molecules of water and one of carbon dioxide.

So I am fairly convinced that if you took X cubic kilometres of natural gas out of a gas field, after combustion there wouldn’t be anything like as much volume of carbon dioxide to put back, specially if a proportion could be used profitably in other processes.

If we are going to use gas to generate zero-carbon power, we probably need to do it with gas fields under our control either onshore or in the seas around our coasts. This is because the depleted gas fields can be used to store the carbon.

Gas-fired power stations with carbon capture supporting industries that need supplies of carbon dioxide will become a large part of our energy economy.

 

September 18, 2021 - Posted by | Energy, World | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I think you are right to outline that we are unsure of the merits and demerits of the arguement that Carbon Dioxide is an unwanted gas. Without it we have no agriculture, and Humans need some to action respiration. Measuring the amount in the air on top of an active Volcanoe is not the way to go, it needs to be mapped across the whole of the Earths surface. The weight is unimportant, as if you look at that, CO2 is heavier than air, so no life would exist on the land surface, it would displace Oxygen and Nitrogen!

    Comment by jagracer | September 19, 2021 | Reply


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