Carbon Capture and Storage and 1984


The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

George Orwell 1984 [1]

We live in a world where Government energy policies make electricity more expensive and Government blames power companies for these higher prices. We live in a world where Government takes the wrecking ball to power stations cutting our generation capacity margins to wafer thin levels but then threatens the power companies with sanctions should power supplies fail. We live in a world…

…. where Government wants to freeze energy prices, creating losses for power companies that are then expected to invest billions in new energy infrastructure to replace that infrastructure newly wrecked by Government.  We live in a world where intermittent and expensive renewable energy is described as secure and cheap. We live in a world where the language of natural science and energy engineering has been re-written by Greenthinkers so that the ordinary Man no longer understands what is going on and is excluded from the debate since only Greenthinkers know and understand the rules of the false logic that is applied. We live in a world where cheap and reliable supplies of electricity defines our security and prosperity.

I have been wanting to write this article on carbon capture and storage (CCS) for some time but, not knowing if I would be able to contain my frustration at this most bonkers of all energy strategies that the Government has in its arsenal, I have refrained. However, with the publication of a report on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) this week from the UK energy and Climate Change Committee [2], the time now seems ripe to put pen to paper. Before going on to examine the arguments against CCS I want to begin by describing the false pretexts in which the whole ludicrous concept exists.

Why does the concept of CCS exist?

The only reason that the concept of CCS exists is to assist the UK and other nations to meet CO2 emissions reduction targets imposed by the EU and UK 2008 Climate Change Act [3].

Meeting these targets will have close to zero impact on the natural world. The only guarantee is that electricity prices will rise significantly and energy poverty will spread. The logical way to deal with these legally binding targets is to abolish them.

Why do CO2 reduction targets exist?

Rising CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere has raised concern that the enhanced greenhouse effect may cause catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW). A New Science has been developed to characterise and forecast the nature of this problem. Since this New Science was created, enough time has past and empirical data gathered to show that the dire consequences that were forecast initially have not yet come to pass and show little sign of doing so (Figure 1). The logical outcome therefore would be to revise or abolish the CO2 reduction targets in light of the new evidence.

Figure 1 It is difficult to compare IPCC computer model forecasts of future temperature trajectories with reality for a number of reasons. First, the IPCC anchor their latest scenarios on the year 2000 which happened to be a cold La Nina year and second this only leaves 14 years to compare the models with what actually has come to pass [4]. The rate of temperature change in models compared with reality is what I try to present here for three of the main IPCC multi model averages. It should be plain to see that the B1 ensemble is that which lies closest to the actual temperature trajectory of the last 54 years and that temperatures would have to take off in spectacular fashion to get anywhere close to the alarmist A1B or A2 scenarios, and show no signs of doing so. It must also be born in mind that much of the variance observed in the HadCRUT4 [5] observations are down to natural processes. The fact that the HadCRUT4 temperature record falls below the B1 line on this chart is not significant since this is a coincidence of the higher temperature in the start year, 1960. The point is to compare the gradients of the real world with the model world.

For decades a large group of traditional scientists have warned that this New Science is not credible since it is often based on 1) partial data, 2) flawed data, 3) excludes some key natural data [note 1] and 4) is founded upon unproven theories and principles. Traditional scientists are not surprised that the New Science models do not work since data inputs are both wrong and incomplete. However, New Science, with flexible rules, has thus far succeeded in arguing that black is white, cold is hot and wrong is right. The logical behaviour is to conclude that CO2 emissions are not the serious problem forecast a decade ago and to abandon energy policies predicated exclusively on CO2 emissions reductions.

Emissions targets so far have failed to make a significant difference

The strategies deployed by Europe to reduce CO2 emissions way well have lowered emissions at the margin but they have had no discernible impact at the global level (Figure 2). Everything done so far has demonstrably been a waste of time, energy, money and prosperity. The rational response is to abandon the folly like Japan and Canada have already done. While European strategy has failed to reduce global emissions, CO2 emissions have failed to raise global temperatures since 1997 as well. This is the key point. If it were the case that temperatures were rising out of control then we should all be backing measures to address the problem. But they are not (Figure 1).

Figure 2 Global fossil fuel consumption expressed in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent (mmtoe) from the 2013 BP statistical review of world energy. Mmtoe converted to CO2 by assuming CH2 as general formula for oil with molecular weight=14 atomic mass units (amu) and a molecular weight for CO2=44 amu. The arrows show landmark dates in the Kyoto process. During this period, CO2 emissions accelerated. The only process to halt the relentless rise in CO2 emissions is spikes in the oil price causing recessions in 1974, 1979 and again in 2008.

CCS targets only a small part of the whole problem

Most of the fossil fuels we burn are in the form of petroleum in transport and natural gas for space heating. This makes up about 74% of our total emissions that cannot be targeted by CCS unless we convert to electric transport and space heating (heat pumps) which no one can afford to do. Coal and gas burned in power stations makes up only about 18% of our total emissions. Even if we were to fit CCS to all power stations in the UK (which will never happen) it is a very expensive partial solution to the perceived problem. It is a waste of time and money.

Figure 3 Energy use in the UK in 2012 based on this DECC Sankey diagram of UK energy flows. Only 18% of the energy used in this country is consumed in power stations that may potentially be targeted by CCS. Electricity other = nuclear+ hydro+ other renewables.

In summary, CCS exists only to fulfil obligations to reduce CO2 emissions. All strategies to significantly lower global emissions have thus far failed and will continue to do so. Luckily, atmospheric CO2 is proving to be less harmful than climate scientists would have us believe. CCS is yet another strategy that will fail to tackle an exaggerated problem.

The arguments against CCS

Having set the scene it is now time to look specifically at the arguments against CCS. The three main arguments are in fact all linked to each other.

The Energy Cost

Engineering the Future stated all of the CCS technologies currently available would require approximately 20–25% more coal or 10–15% more natural gas to be burned to produce the same amount of electricity. [ref 2, p15]

The UK, together with the rest of Europe is running low on indigenous primary energy supplies (Figure 4). There are only two rational responses to this serious problem. 1) We must do all we can to boost sensible indigenous energy production and 2) we must do all we can to reduce energy consumption through energy efficiency and energy conservation strategies. CCS takes us in the opposite direction.

Figure 4 Primary energy production in Europe peaked in 1996, marked by the arrow. Unilateral effort to combat CO2 emissions and global warming has resulted in significant growth of expensive, unreliable electricity (other renewables) that has partly offset decline in oil, gas, coal and nuclear that have been largely neglected on this side of the Atlantic. Every year, Europe must dip deeper into competitive global energy markets, sending prices higher.

The energy costs include energy embedded in massive engineering at power stations, pumping stations, pipelines and burial sites. Coal is burned to create all that steel. And energy running costs to capture, transport and compress CO2. This is going to add to the UK’s, and the rest of Europe’s energy import bills and dependency on imported fuel. The exact opposite of what we should be planning for. And these additional energy costs will be added directly to consumer electricity bills.

The Efficiency Cost

The energy efficiency of a large coal fired power station may be around 35%. That is 35% of the energy contained in the coal is converted to electricity and the remaining 65% is lost as waste heat. This waste heat is a serious problem for fossil fuel based generation and the sensible, traditional science and engineering approach would be to devise ways to address this problem. These strategies do of course exist in the form of combined heat and power generation where waste heat is used to heat homes or greenhouses and modern ultra supercritical coal fired power stations that can be 42% efficient. That 7% uplift in efficiency may not seem a lot but it means the plant will consume 20% less coal.

CCS takes us in the exact opposite direction. A 25% energy penalty on a 35% energy efficient plant will reduce the overall thermal efficiency to 26%. It is totally bonkers.

The Economic Cost

Mr Allam of NET Power highlighted that a power plant with CCS costs 50% to 80% more to generate electricity than power plant without CCS. The CCS Cost Reduction Taskforce’s 2013 final report estimated that the first set of CCS projects may have costs in the range of £150–200 per megawatt hour (roughly three times as expensive as fossil fuel plant without CCS), a figure largely supported by industry. The main reason for this is the high energy consumption of powering the CCS equipment, especially the carbon capture stage of the process. [2]

One would think that any MP, most of whom claim concern on high electricity prices, would read this and conclude that the proposals are unworkable. How can they reconcile in their own minds the concern for high electricity prices with the intention of government to subsidise measures that may result in a threefold increase of these same prices they are so concerned about. And there are no benefits for consumers.

The Benefits of CCS

I personally cannot see any benefits in CCS (without EOR) but the report [2] lists what The Government sees as benefits and so here is a sample:

CCS could be a key technology to help decarbonise the UK’s power and industrial sectors

The Government needs to explain why this is a benefit. Other countries will be carrying on as normal while the UK struggles with expensive electricity prices and unreliable supplies.

CCS could provide wider economic benefits.

How can a technology that increases electricity prices offer economic benefits? The government fantasises that the UK may become a leading exporter of CCS technology overlooking the fact that the whole concept is bonkers and no one will ever want to buy it. And generally speaking the technology is not bespoke.

CCS could open up the potential to utilise the UK’s offshore geological storage capacity

What benefit is there for anyone in opening up geological storage capacity? CCS costs a lot of money, uses a lot of energy and provides no benefits to consumers. End of story.

CCS with EOR

One redeeming feature of this report is that it has a lengthy and positive section on using CO2 injection to enhance oil recovery (EOR) in the North Sea. The motive here is not to save Man from himself but to make money. Given the right sub-surface conditions, injecting CO2 into a mature oil field may mobilise some of the remaining oil. This residual oil occurs as isolated droplets surrounded by water in minute pore spaces. The CO2 expands the oil joining the droplets together allowing some of it to flow. It has been proven to work like magic.

In the USA a world famous project on the Canadian border of N Dakota uses lignite as feedstock for a syn gas plant where it is converted to methane and CO2 [6]. The methane goes to the US grid while the CO2 is piped to the Weyburn Field in Canada where it is injected and has greatly enhanced oil recovery [7].

Doing this with CO2 captured from UK power stations in theory makes good sense. However, the costs may be too high. But with this approach there is at least a revenue stream to fund the whole exercise from additional oil production, that the UK sorely needs with added benefits for companies able to defer the growing costs associated with decommissioning platforms and wider benefits for society from extending the life of the North Sea by maybe 30 years.

Stuck in a time warp

It seems like the UK Government competition to fund a £1,000,000,000 CCS demonstration project has been going on for ever. The report provides a handy table providing a time line for the main decision points and I am surprised to see that it only began back in 2007, a mere 7 years ago [2] (Figure 5). In 2007, UK primary energy production was 171 million tonnes oil equivalent (mTOE). In 2012 that had fallen to 118 mTOE, down 31%!. And a  lot lower today. The members of the Energy and Climate Change Committee need to ask themselves what they have done to mitigate this catastrophe in the 7 years they have been pondering CCS?

At the beginning of this process BP came up with a world class plan to pipe CO2 from Peterhead power station to the Miller Oil Field to enhance oil recovery [8]. The government of the day refused to support it. It is hugely ironic that this same power station features in the demonstration projects to win government funding today with the difference that enhanced oil recovery does not feature in the plan. The new plan is to simply demonstrate something worthless. Shell, one of the partners in the scheme will benefit from delaying the decommissioning costs of the Goldeneye platform where production began in 2008, 1 year after the CCS competition.

Figure 5 The woeful record of the UK government CCS competition [2].

We need to ask why we are stuck in this time warp. The answer is simple. The nonsense that is CCS and Greenthinking can exist in the minds of politicians and Greenthinkers but not in the real world that is still ruled by economics and thermodynamics. Until energy policy is reformulated along lines that are designed to benefit consumers and the energy companies this state of limbo will persist to the great detriment of all involved.

[Note 1] Climate models that strive to predict the future trajectory of lower troposphere temperatures on Earth do not include the following key varaibales: a) natural cyclic changes in atmospheric water vapour, b) natural cyclic changes in cloud cover, c) natural changes in the dynamics of ocean current circulation, d) changes in atmospheric convection rates in response to natural changes in temperature, e) natural cyclical changes in sea ice cover, f) future volcanic eruptions, and g) spectral changes in solar output and how these may impact patterns of atmospheric circulation. The models do not include these vital variables because the history of this variability is poorly understood and the future variance is impossible to predict. It is simply impossible for climate models to work until all of these variables are understood and constrained.

[1] Wikipedia: Doublethink
[2] House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee: Carbon capture and storage
[3] Climate Change Act 2008
[4] IPCC AR4 WGI Summary for policymakers
[5] Woodfortrees HadCRUT4
[6] Dakota Gasification Company
[7] Cenovus Energy: Weyburn oil field
[8] Wikipedia: Peterhead Power Station

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40 Responses to Carbon Capture and Storage and 1984

  1. Hugh Sharman says:

    Excellent Euan!

    This analysis, based on your exposition of modern day double-think, provides the only explanation for how CCS continues to obsess the chattering political classes.

    In 2000, I developed an ambitious scheme which came to be known as the CO2 for EOR in the North Sea, or CENS project. Pun intentional. A partnership was formed between Denmark’s leading power generator, ELSAM and the Kinder Morgan CO2 Company (KMCO2). KMCO2 remains today the World’s largest CO2 company by far, all of whose Texas oil fields are using CO2/EOR.

    The idea was to collect CO2 from power stations and factories, all around the North Sea rim, send it to a central spine up the UK-Norwegian median line and use CO2 to extend the lives of oilfields, primarily in the Danish, Norwegian and UK sectors.

    Screening showed that most North Sea oilfields, nearly all of which are decommissioned with between 40 and 60% of the OOIP left in the ground, are highly suited to to this technique. There are strong resemblances between the reservoirs in the “global capital” of CO2/EOR, the Permian Basin in West Texas and those in the North Sea. A conservative estimate was and remains that at least 20% of remnant oil can be extracted but very likely more.

    The project was supported by an excellent and highly knowledgeable Civil Service at the technical levels of the then DTI, Denmark’s Energistyrelsen and interested technical sections of the Norwegian oil industry and its civil service. But the politics at the time were poisonous. Blair was in his glory, filling the DTI up with economists who displaced the geologists and reservoir engineers. Denmark’s energy minister, Sven Auken, was viscerally opposed to the use of coal and the Norwegians were all over the place.

    When the DTI announced in May, 2003, that the price of oil was more likely to fall to $16/b than rise fromits then $25/b, the project had to die. As a KMCO2 executive rightly complained at the time, “we are pushing a piece of string, who is pulling?”. Since then, things have only gone from bad to worse, as this report demonstrates.

    I could go on and on (and on) but I must shop for my guests, coming to dinner tonight!

    I may revert with more juicy details as other correspondents put in their ha´porth!

    Thanks once again for a most stimulating read!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hugh, thanks for sharing that background. A couple of years ago I was involved in discussion with 2Co, a small company mentioned in the CCC report, who were in receipt of a gigantic grant from Europe, trying to get a CO2 EOR project up and running. 2Co was staffed by the ex BP hydrogen team that led the Peterhead – Miller proposal and had Gareth Roberts the founder of Denbury resources, second only to Kinder Morgan, as Chairman. So these guys were bidding for the UK government CCS prize and lost. A possibility of realising the type of project you worked on over a decade ago, torpedoed by DECC as recent as last year in favour of this folly at Peterhead and Goldeneye.

      While the CCC report is positive on CCS EOR it is likely too late now since the last chance saloon opportunity to fund an EOR project has probably past. Instead we have drivel about contracts for difference – whatever that means. It is always possible that Shell have EOR in mind but are keeping this quiet.

      Failing that I expect that when the consortia companies Shell, SSE, BOC, Drax and Alstom are expected to cough a few £million they will like all other companies that have been involved, walk away.

      • Hugh Sharman says:


        Thanks. I agree that the date is past for giving a new life to the older platforms. But the unrecovered billions of barrels of remain in the ground and are not going anywhere.

        New directional drilling, coupled with sea-floor CO2 injection is now, surely, the right solution for getting the CO2 into the oil-rich parts of the reservoir.

        Seabed oil recovery units are now in common use, not least on the smaller new finds and in deeper (mostly Norwegian) waters, especially for “smaller” oilfields. Oil recovery and gas/oil separators, mounted on fit-for-CO2-purpose FPSOs must now be the right recovery option.

        I am not under-playing the technical challenge. But a fortune awaits the first company that can assemble this value chain and do it on a commercial basis. How much oil (for example) is left “undisturbed” in Brent?

        Oil recovery in Danish chalk oil-fields is typically less than 30%!


        • Euan Mearns says:

          Brent is probably a bad example since it was an extreme light oil field bordering on condensate turned into a gas field at the end, and its a long, long way away. How do you get CO2 out to a FPSO?

          I can put you in touch with folks with expertise and money if you can raise your £100 million share of the risk;-)

  2. Euan Mearns says:

    This is a good comparison of global temperatures compared with models comparing what has come to pass with the models published by IPCC First Assessment Report back 1990. It shows that after 17 years of moving sideways we are now off the bottom of the low estimates. I’m guessing that the low, best and high estimates roughly equate to the three estimates shown in my Figure 1. There can only be one conclusion for the IPCC to draw from such data and that is we were wrong then and we are wrong now.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’ve gone to the IPCC First Assessment Report from 1990, cut out their forecasts and stuck it behind a plot of HadCRUT4. I’ve added 0.4˚C to HadCRUT4 to bring it in line with the models in 1850. It’s interesting to see back then they were forcing their models with CO2 from 1850 meaning that their high estimate was already about 0.8˚C too warm by 1990. It should be pretty obvious that best and high are not in contention. Low will fall before we get to 2020.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m having some fun here. So this is AR4 (fourth assessment report) from 2007 (when I got sucked in to New Science). I’ve had to add 0.6˚C to HadCRUT4 to bring it in line with 1900 this time. I think the models are datumed on 2000. You can see that before 1960 they still don’t hindcast well. If the recent temperature record is doing anything it is following the year 2000 mustard coloured constant concentration trend.

      The fact that the models don’t replicate the observed warming 1910 to 1940 basically proves the models are crap. They are not programmed to capture natural variability. The good fit 1960 to 2000 is basically down to tuning models to fit data.

      • Euan:

        Here’s my favorite model mismatch. It compares the CMIP5 multi-model sea surface temperature means (“tos”) with the unadjusted ICOADS SST record, which is probably closer to reality than the massively-massaged HadSST3 series used to construct HadCRUT4.

        You can download the CMIP3 and CMIP5 climate model results from KNMI Climate Explorer if you want to have even more fun. The format is user-friendly 🙂

      • Whoops, I linked to Figure 3 by mistake. Here’s Figure 4, the one I meant to link to:

        Although Figure 3 doesn’t look too good either …..

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Roger, if you are still around. Looking at the models from the FAR with an 1850 datum. These all have different sensitivities leading to model divergence by 1990 and beyond. This is how it should be. But then looking at the AR4 models, these are all aligned prior to 2000 and diverge thereafter. Is the pre 2000 alignment not impossible?

          • Euan: Still here 🙂

            The whole question of how we compare climate models with observations would have me tearing my hair out if I wasn’t running so short, because there are some fundamental problems with the way we do the comparisons that everyone ignores.

            What are they? Well, most people compare model output with HadCRUT4. What’s wrong with that?

            First, the first ~100 years of HadCRUT4 is far too heavily (and subjectively) massaged to be used as anything more important than wallpaper, but that’s not a problem unique to HadCRUT4 so I’ll ignore it for the time being.

            Second, HadCRUT4 is an apples-and-oranges weighted average of air temperatures read ~5 ft above the ground on land and ocean temperatures read anywhere between the sea surface and a depth of 50 ft. Combining these two data sets would be okay if they always showed the same trends, but often they don’t.

            Third, climate models don’t output a variable that can be compared directly with HadCRUT3. To get one you have to area-weight the “tos” SST and “tas” SAT variables in the same way as HadCRUT4, which is in fact what the IPCC does. (Why? Because the comparisons look better that way.)

            Fourth, directly combining the SATs and SSTs greatly overemphasizes the heat contribution from the atmosphere. Almost all of the usable heat is contained in the SSTs.

            The correct way to do it is to compare “tas” model output with land air temperature observations and “tos” model output with SST observations, with a heavy emphasis on the SSTs because that’s where all the heat is.

            Regarding your question on alignment, I think the first order of business would be to find out exactly what the IPCC means by “global mean temperature”, which is what they plotted in the FAR. If it’s a combined land/ocean variable it will be (at least theoretically) acceptable to compare it with HadCRUT4, but if it’s an air temperature variable, as I suspect it is, then you would have to compare it with an air temperature series.

  3. Glen Mcmillian says:

    Well now……They say here in these hills -inhabited mostly by Scots Irish a few generations from the old country incidentally, that a well is a deep subject.

    Energy is certainly a deep subject.

    You are right about CCS- it’s a boondoggle and a smoke screen to allow the coal industry to continue business as usual.It might be technically feasible at least in some locations but it is going to be so expensive in most cases that it simply won’t be implemented in the first place and in the cases where it is implemented it will be abandoned once the economic situation deteriorates badly enough.. and that is pretty well baked into the cake given depleting resources and increasing population.

    Most countries simply will not implement this Rube Goldberg foolishness in the first place.I really doubt it will ever be widely adopted even in the US or other rich western countries.

    Now I am an old fan of the classic anti utopian writers and have read them all. Orwell is the very best of them.

    We usually use the term cognitive dissonance these days but double think is alive and well and one of the monkey wrenches in the gearbox of the human brain.

    I am not trained in statistics but it seems to me you have made your mind up we are not forcing climate change primarily via increased co2 concentrations caused mostly by burning fossil fuels- based on the atmospheric temperature record of the last decade or so.

    Perhaps you are so trained and able to sort out the bullshit from the facts. As I see it the facts are on the side of the forced climate change faction.

    The heat energy of the planet is so far as I have been able to determine it by reading many sources is increasing at a fairly steady rate. Right now that heat is mostly going into the upper levels of the waters of the oceans which are of course capable of absorbing enormous amounts of heat compared to the atmosphere while actually getting only a bit warmer.

    But that ” little bit” is going to emerge with a vengeance and warming is going to resume with that same vengeance sometime pretty soon.The waters are known to turn over on a somewhat regular basis and the next turnover is probably going to occur any time now.

    I do have some relevant training in biology and the carbonic acid levels in the oceans are almost as big or as big a problem as warming in my estimation.There is no doubt these levels are increasing.

    You have also obviously made your mind up that renewables in the form of wind and solar are pretty much boondoggles on the same order as CCS.

    There is a difference though. Renewable energy investments do pay a return although it may be a paltry one if the investment is made on the basis of bad engineering practice. I agree solar power in Scotland is a joke.CCS is not going to return anything at all.

    Now if you don’t go to renewables and you don’t believe coal and oil and natural gas are going to last forever – or perhaps I should express this differently- that fossil fuels will be affordable forever- then you are putting all your future eggs in the one nuclear basket.

    Do you really believe that you can get enough nukes permitted and built to solve our energy problem?

    I am a very reluctant supporter of building more nukes- a new generation of safer ones that can be cheaper and faster to go online thru standardization.

    But another Chernobyl or another Three Mile Island or another Fukushima are close enough to mathematical certainties to just go ahead and assume we will have another catastrophic nuclear accident in the relatively near future.

    I am not complacent about the political aspects of building new nukes in the West.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Mac, with the data we have I have certainly made my mind up for the time being that the scaremongering levels of warming we have been promised are not supported by the data. Its possible that the B1 scenarios are on the money in which case the IPCC should telling us that things are not nearly as bad as they have warned. In fact they are doing the opposite. I sit at the lower end of IPCC scenarios, accept that Man is probably having an influence at margin but much of the observed record is in fact natural. I am more concerned about deforestation than emissions. And I am more concerned about natural climate change that may bring extreme cold weather to my part of the world in the decades ahead. A part of the same pattern that has brought recurring drought to California.

      The theory of ocean heat is just that, a theory. They are looking for missing heat that may quite simply not be there if the other theory based on Clausius–Clapeyron also proves to be incorrect. The amount of temperature rise in the oceans is tiny and it is debatable if the buoys where this is measured actually have the accuracy to measure it. If the oceans are indeed warming then as Roy Spencer points out, that is great – they are a gigantic heat sink. Would you care to explain how you envisage all that heat pouring back out again? A little bit of physics required.

      As you know when you eliminate all the other options we are left with just one and like you I am a reluctant proponent of nuclear, recognising that there are risks which are in fact very small. The risks to society of not having reliable and affordable electricity are huge – this is a point our politicians fail to understand. The Scottish National Party who are trying to lead Scotland to independence are anti nuclear and so there is no chance of Scotland continuing with nuclear power should they win. They will also have the UK arsenal of nuclear submarines and weapons that is based in Scotland, removed. If Scotland goes independent then I really don’t know what the energy future holds.

      As part of the UK a likely scenario is that we have more blackouts in the years ahead and the human and economic cost of failed energy policies become transparent. We then have a crash course building new nukes and suffer badly for 10 years while this building program is under way.

  4. Jonathan Madden says:

    Excellent and informative rant, Euan; most enjoyable. Down my way, we are awaiting demolition of the rather fine cooling towers at Didcot power station:

    Death of a Monster

    “What vasty thighs outspread to give thee birth
    Didcot, thou marvel of the plain
    Colossal funnels of the steamship Earth
    Thy consummate immensity
    Enshrines the rare propensity
    Of fumes to form eternal acid rain.”

    Extract from “Ode to Didcot Power Station” by Kit Wright

    Note the reference to Sulphur – Didcot A closed last year because NPower declined to add desulphurisation kit to the combustion effluent tower. Acid rain never seemed to do much harm to the local environs, so I assume the coal it burnt was pretty ‘sweet’.

    CCS – daft concept. Rant over.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      UK coal is actually quite sulphur rich and I believe Russian coal is S poor. And so it is quite possible that Didcot was not belching sulphuric acid – but who cares, rules is rules.

  5. G. Watkins says:

    Thanks Euan. Another great post, but how do we get politicians and civil servants to read it?
    All very depressing.
    An aside – I was visited this morning by a real live Euro MP asking me to support the Tories ( Wales ). A very pleasant obviously intelligent lady. I asked about her views on energy etc and the EU directives impacts. She was completely flummoxed and seemed surprised to be asked such a question. Heaven help us.
    And no I can’t remember her name nor the names of the other three EU members for Wales.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I have a mail list of all 650+ MPS. Last time I used it, the Secretary of State for the Environment asked the MET office to respond. I will certainly be mailing this to Westminster. Senior management at DECC are on my weekly mailing. This might ruffle a few feathers. But it really is difficult to fathom how they can support CCS whilst protesting about high electricity prices.

  6. Hi Euan,

    Timely. As you know, the proposed US EPA rules effectively require CCS for new coal plants. This is a holiday weekend in the US and the rumors are that the EPA will use the holiday to propose rules that would require existing plants to reduce CO2 emissions.


    • euanmearns says:

      Sell Peobody, buy Cabot Oil and Gas?

      Looks like the Republicans will win next time out. US energy consumption is actually in decline. You could likely achieve more by raising taxes on gasoline, but then again that might not be so popular.

  7. Roger Andrews says:

    I just skimmed through the CCS report. It reads like a post-mortem to me.

  8. Doug Brodie says:

    Euan, I think your doublethink analysis is spot on. In a fit of frustration I once expressed it myself in a submission to the Scottish government, which needless to say was totally ignored:

    “In his novel 1984 George Orwell enunciated the concept of doublethink, the ability to hold two mutually contradictory ideas in the mind while at the same time retaining total belief in both. This seems to apply to the weirdly conflicting ideas of “climate change”, e.g. in believing that man-made atmospheric CO2 creates dangerous global warming when all the available empirical evidence shows that this is not true; that deliberately and unilaterally increasing energy costs will confer an economic advantage; that it doesn’t matter that policies to increase energy costs and restrict the use of fossil fuels will penalise the poor most of all, both here and in the developing countries; that unilaterally reducing UK greenhouses gas emissions will help to ”tackle climate change” globally when the UK emits only 1.7% of global CO2. Orwell was referring to old totalitarianism in 1984 but his brilliant insights apply just as well to our present day circumstances.”

  9. Ralph W says:

    For once I can agree with one of your posts! CSS is a dead duck. There are far more cost effective ways of cutting emissions (three be insulation, insulation and insulation) and the opportunity cost of investing engineers time in this boondongle is massive. Put the money into upgrading the grid.

  10. Here’s an interesting statistic, although “depressing” might be a better word.

    Since 2004 the sum of $1.66 trillion – that’s right, trillion with a “T” – has been invested in wind, solar and other renewable energy projects (

    For the same money we could have built over 300 gigawatts of nuclear capacity.

  11. Ian Smith says:

    Euan, you know better than this.

    You’ve ended up in climate denier land in an effort to rubbish CCS. You know that more heat has been going into the deep ocean than was expected, reducing the rise in atmospheric temperatures for a while. You also know that this is NOT a good thing when you take into account what that can do with the thermohaline circulation, ice fields, and how events like El Nino can dump energy back into the atmosphere again.

    Look, CCS doesn’t make sense – because it’s not a fieldable technology and because of the energy input needed. Many times more money (orders of magnitude) should have been poured into it to get it to a stage where EVERY coal power station should have required it. However, it suffers from the same problem as every other attempt to deal with CO2 pollution – the lack of political will.

    The problem isn’t one technology or another, and certainly can’t be understood by financial models. The problem is the lack of urgent will to deal with it before we reach runaway. NOTHING is happening, and nothing is likely to happen – that’s the shining t*rd on the path.

    You need to be thinking at a bigger scale – your thoughts have become small minded; mired in economics rather than reality. There is no route to a solution down the path you’ve been driving yourself – for climate change or peak oil.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Ian Smith,

      Thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

      I have spent (wasted?) a lifetime of “thinking big”! I became a viscerally intuitive “peak oiler” in the 1960s while working in offshore oil production in the Persian Gulf, a position so logical I will not defend it here. I tried to “do something about it” by forming the UK’s first renewable energy company, Conservation Tools and Technology in the mid-1970s (a bl**dy disaster). At the same time, I published “Resurgence Magazine” at my own expense. More recently I have participated actively in electricity storage developments.

      I will not bore you all with further details.

      I now gladly plead guilty to “thinking smaller”! In terms of CO2 emissions, whatever one’s position on AGW and whatever we can think or do from a UK or EU perspective is completely swamped by the cold realities of global population expansion and the moral necessity (I suppose) of “fighting” poverty, disease and hunger in Africa, Asia, South America. The failure of humanity to develop economically and technically realistic alternatives to burning stuff in the pursuit of economic development is manifest. In order to become “richer” in the only way human beings understand, they still need to release and utilize huge amounts low-cost heat energy.

      At present, most of humanity is still limited by its scientific and technical ignorance (and economics as a global species) to doing this with nuclear fission and/or burning things like gas, oil and coal, all from ancient solar energy collected and accumulated over hundreds of millions of years, but now being returned to the atmosphere within a couple centuries. And wood of course!

      In writing that, I can already anticipate the flood of outraged vitriol from technically ignorant bien-pensants, who simply do not understand the fundamental laws of electricity and thermodynamics and deny development economics.

      So let’s not go there.

      That could be another discussion altogther. (BTW, despite my searing personal experiences, I strongly support the use of renewable energies wherever the application of these stand up to technical and commercial scrutiny.)

      Euan is an almost unparalled analyst of cold, hard facts in my experience. He should get a life-time achievement award for his lucid commentary and be encouraged to root out and expose energy double think where ever he sees it. He constantly surprises me with his inventiveness and delights me with his crisp, clear, Orwellian prose!

      If he is able to slow down, halt or reverse the economically suicidal slide of Scottish and/or UK energy and/or EU “energy policies”, more strength to his elbow! If, through the internet, his “parachial” message reaches out further, so much the better. His thoughts

      Keep it going, Euan!

    • Euan Mearns says:


      You’ve ended up in climate denier land

      I point out and back it with evidence that the actual warming trend lies closest to the low estimates of the IPCC. Are the authors of those low estimates also “deniers” to use your mindless Green vernacular?

      You know that more heat has been going into the deep ocean than was expected, reducing the rise in atmospheric temperatures for a while.

      No I don’t know that. Greenhouse warming of the atmosphere is instantaneous not aggregative. I know enough about the oceans to know that they are so complex that it is near impossible to measure “the temperature” with any certainty. But by all means post a couple of links with data so we can look at it. If CO2 were enhancing the greenhouse effect in the way it is predicted to do then it should get warmer now than it did 10 years ago as more heat should be trapped on its way out. The dominant factor in ocean warming must be direct sunlight and that would be dominated by cloud cover. You seem to imagine that it is conductive heat transfer from atmosphere to oceans.

      And you should check out this:

      As I see it, the real problem is that Greens are in the main also anti nuclear, hence we are stuck in this imaginary time warp of solar panels, wind mills, grid expansion, CCS, demand management et al. In the 7 years the UK government has wasted contemplating its CCS navel we could have built and near completed a new fleet of nuclear power stations – job done.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Checking a few facts. The mass of Earth’s atmosphere is 5.15*10^18 kg. The mass of the oceans is 1.4*10^21 (1400*10^18 kg) kg (whole hydrosphere). That hydrosphere is almost 3 orders of magnitude more massive than the atmosphere. Can you or someone else explain the mechanism where a tiny atmosphere that has not warmed for 17 years heats the massive oceans.

    • “You know that more heat has been going into the deep ocean than was expected, reducing the rise in atmospheric temperatures for a while.”

      Time to stick my oar in.

      The only people who actually know this are the diehard AGW “consensus” scientists. As to how they know it, the logic goes like this:

      * It is an established scientific fact that CO2 warms the earth

      * Atmospheric CO2 has increased since ~1997/8

      * Therefore the Earth has warmed since ~1997/8

      * Observations, however, show no surface warming since ~1997/8.

      * Therefore the heat went somewhere else

      * The only place it could have gone is into the deep oceans

      * Therefore the heat went into the deep oceans.

      And if this sounds like an exercise in circular logic, so are climate models. These models supposedly quantify the impacts of human activity on climate, but the radiative forcings that drive them (directly or indirectly) take only anthropogenic forcings into account. Here are the IPCC’s estimates of net radiative forcings since 1750, taken from Table 8.3 of the AR5:

      * Anthropogenic (GHGs, aerosols, land use changes etc.) = 2.3 watts/sq m
      * Solar irradiance: 0.05 watts/sq m

      And that’s it. No allowance for natural ocean cycles, natural atmospheric cycles, El Niños or La Niñas (the models are supposed to reproduce them automatically, but of course they don’t). 97.8% of the forcings are anthropogenic, and as a result it’s inevitable that the models will show that effectively all of the warming since 1750 was anthropogenic. They can’t show anything else.

      • Hugh Sharman says:

        I do find Paul Holmes’ blog somewhat one-sided but today’s posting looks rather convincing, at least for recent data

        On the other hand, over geological time, temperature changes during this brief inter-glacial seem trivial against the likely exhaustion of all that stuff that we need to burn in order to sustain a rising population in the style which it understandably demands.

        Civilisation as we know it is terribly vulnerable to fossil fuel scarcity, as Putin is about to demonstrate to the babbling classes in the EU when the China deal clicks in.

  12. Peter Shaw says:

    Not quite on-topic, but a question-at-large on the middle C (Capture):
    Bioethanol by fermentation produces ton-for-ton CO2 co-product, in a form near ideal for capture etc. (all mature technology)
    It presents the opportunity for nett removal of CO2, not just “carbon-neutrality”, so I would expect many plants to include CCS at demonstration scale upward.
    But I haven’t seen mention of such; where are they?
    Perhaps double-think = half-think 😉

  13. RobertH says:

    The phrase Global warming risks everyone getting locked into an Apple/Windows type argument where debate occurs but no truth is revealed, so I wonder if it’s best to avoid it?

    The changes in global temperature with atmospheric CO2 concentration show a reasonable match with the lowest projection on the graphs here. Science – old – as far as I know, is the science of the gaps and tries to make projections based on models compatible with existing theory. In this case the science shows a weak link at best

    I’m not sure though if the argument is that if there is a weak link in the temperature change model there’s no problem

    To the punter the weather is up the spout. This may be simply that we have global news now and the media like to show calamity. Unfortunately it is still a ‘belief’ as to whether or not ‘we’ did it

    I am certainly persuaded by the technical arguments here that there is no point doing Carbon Capture for so small a resulting temperature change saving, so expensively, in a way that uses even more energy. We need the oil, even if it is ‘bad for us’, so using the CO2 for recovery seems much more sensible. Bigger than this, we have an economy, and in order to continue we need energy, so we better get building some reactors fast or we’ll be cold and in the dark.

    The dilemma is how to proceed sensibly, when in all likelihood, people won’t vote for it

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m not sure though if the argument is that if there is a weak link in the temperature change model there’s no problem

      I am actually cautious on emissions longer term and distinguish between the hysteria that surrounds going from 280 to 400 ppm and the longer term prospect of perhaps reaching 1000 ppm. Unfortunately, those who are in charge of energy policy are those who are hysterical about emissions, hence we have rafts of bonkers policies that will not work. Only workable solution to energy scarcity and emissions at present is nuclear power – not favoured by most Greens!

      PS – I am a life long Mac user 😉

      • Hugh Sharman says:

        Euan and other readers,

        All emails coming to me appear to come from Mark Lynas to whose blog I subscribed before Energy Matters was launched. Is this the common experience of your other readers? Is it a “bug” that you can iron out painlessly with WordPress?

        On a more salient matter, the plain English phrases “global warming” and “climate change” used to mean something precise. In any discussion now, I am forced to make a distinction between “climate change” which has been a constant process since the earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and “so-called climate change” as defined by a tiny fraction of the human race who seem deliberately ignorant of the sheer majesty of geological evolution over billions of years during which humanity in its present state has been around for only 15,000 years.

        As regards the latter, it is certainly true that CO2 concentrations have not been at 400 ppm for millions of years, nor risen so fast ever in geological time. This does matter! Who knows what the outcome might be as the global population, which was 4 billion in my youth rises relentlessly towards 9 billion within the lifetime of my grandchildren.

        All very humbling! And ummm… rather scary!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Hugh, re Mark Lynas – I don’t know what is happening there but I just checked and you do not appear to have subscribed to Energy Matters either through Word Press or by email.

          On population. The current trend is actually a logistic where there could be a natural peak followed by decline later this century. I believe in Gaia – the Earth will take care of itself. Since industrial society and the Human Race are Ponzi schemes, population decline will present all sorts of problems as well as opportunities. For example, a reducing number of young people will inherit the material goods and wealth of an increasing number of old. We could see this happening already in Norway in the 1980s. And there will be lots of stuff to recycle.

  14. Fred Starr says:

    I agree that CCS is a waste of time….

    .Also in this category is the vision of North Sea EOR. There are basically two types of EOR. One using CO2 injection to drive trapped oil towards the production well. In principle the injection of CO2 can be done via directional drilling from a centralised point. The problem is that such masses of oil have already been subject to EOR using water or other fluids.

    The type of EOR suggested by Hugh Sharman, uses the dissolution of CO2 in oil to reduce viscosity and surface tension. This is done in land based EOR ,but it requires many closely spaced wellheads, as the rate of diffusion of CO2 into oil is quite slow. It would be impractical to have loads of gas wells in the North Sea of this type.

    A further issue is that when the oil/water mixture returns to the surface it is saturated with CO2 which has to be released

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Fred, I am not familiar with the first of your two uses for CO2 EOR. The second, more commonly classified as miscible gas flooding is the main use that I am familiar with where the CO2 mixes with the oil making it expand, coalesce and flow.

      Gareth Roberts, who founded Denbury Resources that went on to become a multi billion $ company founded on CO2 EOR in the USA was / is chairman of 2CO, one of the main players trying to get CO2 EOR off the ground in the N Sea. There are few people on the planet that know more about CO2 EOR than Gareth who is a geology graduate form the University of Oxford.

      I’ve been told that it is possible to raise recovery factor by 10 to 20%. No one is pretending that this is cheap. Ball park figure of £1 billion per platform. And you are right to be sceptical. I don’t think it will ever happen in the N Sea – too late, too much mis information, not enough real political support, too expensive.

      In the N Sea, associated CO2 would be separated from produced oil and re-injected.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Fred Starr, with due respect, you are talking about oil drilling pre-directional drilling, pre-subsea completions, pre-FSPOs and pre-fracking. Kinder Morgan screened the North Sea fields and confirmed their high suitability for CO2 treatment. There is no issue technically.

      On the other hand, of course, it would be a massive infrastructural development and requires that 4 – 6 nominally friendly nations collborate in what is after all, the end-of-life development of a single oil province having the misfortune to be artificially divided into 5 – 6 national territories alll suffering 4 – 5 year election cycles.

      Scottish independence woill make things even more “interesting” and probably impossible.!

  15. Bernard Durand says:

    Euan, Hugh,
    CCS would indeed increase a lot the cost of electricity from coal power plants and waste coal. Unless the value of CO2 on the cape and trade market reach roughly 100 euros/t ( 5 at present?), it is not economically viable, while there is no sign of a significant increase of CO2 value on this market in the near future. Moreover, loosing 35 % of the coal this way is nonsense.
    But oil and gas fields CO2 content is not negligible, and has to be captured on the field, then be sent to the atmosphere. Capture is the most costful operation. Cost of transport and sequestration is around 30 euros/t I believe.
    A roughly equivalent governmental tax in Norway has resulted in the Sleipner sequestration project.
    If the captured CO2 is used for enhanced recovery, could this it be economically balanced with a tax of ,say,10 euros/t?
    Furthermore, is there enough CO2 recoverable in North Sea fields to extract a significant surplus of oil by enhanced recovery?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Bernard, you make a number of good points here. The CO2 trading thing I don’t understand. CO2 in oil and gas I do. Most oil and gas fields do not produce significant CO2 (as far as I know) but some like Sleipner do. The Statoil Sleipner CO2 injection project I consider to be insane. That CO2 could have been used for example to boost oil recovery in the near by Miller Field, that is now shut down. Another gas field that is very rich in CO2 is the North Field in Qatar where a great deal of our LNG comes from. There the CO2 is separated from CH4 and is then simply vented. The UK then claims it is using “low emissions methane” while the reality is that Qatar is spewing CO2 on our behalf. It is the hypocrisy that bothers me.

      Most of the CO2 EOR in N America uses CO2 from natural reservoirs like the Mississippi dome. A sensible strategy for the UK would be to encourage CO2 exploration – this is potentially much simpler than CO2 capture. We will know that a modicum of sense has returned to UK government should they actively begin to encourage CO2 EOR.

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