Carbon Sequestration: Distorted Policy Results From Distorted IPCC Science

Watts Up With That
by Dr. Tim Ball

The political objective of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to demonize carbon dioxide (CO2) as the cause of global climate disaster succeeded. Governments and businesses attacked for not dealing with climate change are doing things to reduce human production of CO2, but benefiting from more than public relations. In their blind zeal, environmentalists don’t realize they often provide opportunities for the governments and industries they despise. Worse, there are groups like farmers who they denigrate, who provide benefit without reward. Of course, as always, the taxpayer foots the bill when dealing with non-existent problems. It is all a consequence of policy derived from IPCC climate science that isn’t science. Hopefully, the travesty ends in Paris in September.

Unnecessary Policy In Action

Recently, Premier Brad Ward of the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan touted his government sponsored carbon capture and storage program. The program announced in 2008 is jointly sponsored with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. One part of this is the drive to produce clean coal technology.

Carbon capture and storage is an integral part of the federal Government’s aggressive plan to achieve an absolute reduction of 20 per cent in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  The Canada-Alberta ecoENERGY Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force has estimated that Canada has the potential to store underground as much as 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equal to three-quarters of Canada’s current annual emissions of greenhouse gases.

The project underscores how policy based on the deceptive, false and failed work of the IPCC is almost inevitably wrong, wasteful, and damaging while rife with unintended consequences. Both governments know the realities of the science, but appear to be exploiting opportunities. They seem to cater to the eco-bullies while using tax payers money to increase corporate profits.

Ward told the Ottawa conference,

“While the discussions at this conference as to what we are doing in Canada are important, we need to remember that Canada is responsible for under 2.0 percent of global C02 emissions while China, for example, with its plans to aggressively expand coal-fired electricity generation is responsible for 24.5 per cent of global emissions,”

He pointed to the realities that will cause the nations involved to oppose any climate change policy at COP 21 set for Paris in September.

“China, which is building one coal-fired power plant every 11 days, uses coal to generate about 75 per cent of its electricity.  In 2015, China expects to add 38,000 megawatts of coal-fired power – more than nine times SaskPower’s entire generating capacity – after adding 36,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity in 2014.


Meanwhile, Japan has 43 coal fired power projects under construction or under review.  And India has plans to quadruple its coal power capacity in the years ahead.”

Like all Canadian Provinces, Saskatchewan has a central government controlled energy agency, in their case SaskPower. Most power is produced by burning Lignite (sometimes called Brown Coal) mined from strip mining in the southern part of the province. It is supplemented by hydroelectric power in the central part of the Province and imported energy, primarily from Manitoba.

The Province is energy rich beyond the dreams of most countries. It lies on the northern extension of the massive Bakken field (Figure 1).


Figure 1

It has Heavy Oil in the Lloydminster area and has larger potential deposits of oil sands than Alberta (Figure 2). The problem is it has an overburden making recovery currently unprofitable.


Figure 2

They have uranium deposits in the region of a place appropriately called Uranium City. (Figure 3)


Figure 3

All of this is in a Province the size of Texas with a population of 1.1 million, with half the 651,900 km2 under cultivation. That is approximately 300,000 km2 (Figure 4) of crops absorbing CO2 every summer.


Figure 4

Sequestration: Who Benefits?

The carbon sequestration plan involves gathering most of the CO2 produced from the coal burning plants through a facility opened in October 2014 (Figure 5).


Figure 5.

The recovery of CO2 is very successful,

“To date, the carbon capture plant has removed 135,000 tonnes of CO2, said the SaskPower report. The purity of the gas is higher than expected, said Monea, at over 99 percent.”

The IPCC demonization of CO2 is the only reason it is being removed. The goal is to prevent it from going into the atmosphere so it must be removed, at least temporarily, from the Carbon Cycle. As a result, there is a variety of unnecessary solutions many potentially hazardous to the environment and society, and all expensive. In most cases, it is pumped into the ground in the process known as carbon sequestration. The oil industry has used the procedure for at least 40 years but calls it Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

Pumping is the normal oil recovery procedure, but no matter how effective there’s always a significant percentage left behind. In the early days pumping water down created a more fluid mixture that allowed continued pumping. Water injection is still the major EOR procedure. Experiments with injecting CO2 began in 1972 and showed its efficiency so by 2008 it was 37 percent of the total EOR. Clearly, EOR is a viable technology that increases oil reserves by making more in a deposit recoverable. Oil fields already in production can extend the operation, and global oil potential reserves increase. Oil fields around Midale, Saskatchewan were among the first to practice EOR with water injection, and then they added CO2.

EOR increases the reserve but is an expensive technology;

First, CO2 is not a costless input. Significant up-front investments are required to make production and injection wells suitable for CO2 use. In addition, maintaining a given injection rate over time requires continuous purchases to make up for the fraction of injected CO2 that remains sequestered in the reservoir. Separating the remaining fraction that resurfaces with the produced oil, and then dehydrating and recompressing it, is costly as well.”

The EOR market is enormous.

Visiongain calculates that spending in the CO2 EOR market will total $5.305bn at the start of 2014.


EOR is expensive but profitable, and companies do it even if they have to pay the cost of CO2 collection and delivery. Any reduction in those costs increases the reserves and the profit. It is happening in Saskatchewan as the government recovers the CO2 then sells it to the oil industry.

“This translates into good news for Cenovus, the Calgary-based oil company that is purchasing the gas for use as an oil recovery agent in the nearby oilpatch. They are purchasing about 2,300 tonnes per day for their project in southeast Sask.”

It is good news for Cenovus, but only because the taxpayer is subsidizing and enhancing their profit. It is bad news for the taxpayers who subsidize the profit. The company is exploiting an opportunity created by the false claims of the IPCC that CO2 is a problem. Meanwhile, farmers in the region of coal-powered production are denied the 2,300 tonnes per day of CO2 to enhance their crop yields.

CO2 and Plant Growth

The role of CO2 in plant growth is well documented. Figure 6 shows a recent NASA image of expanding vegetation.


Figure 6

There is a contradiction in the analysis.

Researchers confirm that plant life seen above 40 degrees north latitude, which represents a line stretching from New York to Madrid to Beijing, has been growing more vigorously since 1981. One suspected cause is rising temperatures possibly linked to the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.


They credit increased vegetation to increased temperature, which is credited to increased CO2. The problem is temperature only increased for approximately half the period. There is no mention of increased vegetation due to increased CO2, which increased over the entire period of record. Professor Liming Zhou says,

The area of vegetation has not extended, but the existing vegetation has increased in density.


This and other data suggest the CO2 fertilization is a major factor. Research by the US Department of the Interior says,

A key finding is that the Great Plains region is currently a “carbon sink,” meaning it takes up more carbon than it emits.

In other terms, the amount of carbon stored per year in ecosystems within the Great Plains is about 21% the amount of emissions from personal vehicles nationally and 3.6% of total fossil fuel emissions.

In another study

Results showed that between 1985 and 2010, soil organic C content increased at a rate of 326 lb C/A/year, for a total increase of 24%.

Overlooked in all this is the transition in agriculture that provides a more likely explanation for increasing carbon fixation. Soil erosion became identified as a serious problem in the 1980s so the new practice of minimum or zero till was introduced. This meant the practice of summer fallow, which is the removal of all vegetation, was reduced or even stopped. It changed the dynamics of the surface and subsurface including the albedo, soil temperature, and moisture retention.

Few people know what the farmers did to deal with soil erosion, but few people know what goes on outside the city. Environmentalists located mostly in urban areas display this ignorance all the time. Their ignorance includes being duped by the IPCC about climate science. When coupled with their blind faith, they demand policies that hurt those they think they are helping and helps those they think they are hurting. Meanwhile, they forget that they only exist because of food from the farms. As I said years ago, there are no farms in the cities, but no cities without farms. A possible, but unrealistic, wider solution involves farmers stop feeding the urban environmentalists for a year. A more realistic fix, for political abuse of climate science at least, is to stop paying the IPCC at COP21.

Watts Up With That