Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Oil companies are betting big on “carbon capture” technology that sucks greenhouse gases out of smokestacks and the air

LIKE AN OLD RACEHORSE, the West Seminole oilfield, a 12-square-mile patch of dirt on Texas’s far western flank, has been trudging along for years, kept kicking by an elixir its jockey shoots into its rump.

On a recent afternoon, as storm clouds blanketed the field and a winter wind howled, dozens of rusty pump jacks rocked up and down, groaning with each revolution as they sucked out more black gold. The drug that the field’s operator, Occidental Petroleum, injects into West Seminole loosens the oil in the stone beneath the sagebrush—forcing from the rock ever more of the hydrocarbon treasure locked inside its geologic pores. The magic medicine is an old industrial gas with a new image problem: carbon dioxide.

For decades, Occidental has been pumping massive quantities of CO2 into the ground, juicing the flow of oil in aging fields that have lost the oomph nature originally gave them. The CO2 frees more oil to rise to the surface, where it can be sold and burned. The petroleum industry has used this turbocharging technique—called “enhanced oil recovery” —elsewhere. But Houston-based Occidental is a global expert. Across thousands of square miles of eastern New Mexico and western Texas, on the iconic swath of land called the Permian Basin, the company nicknamed Oxy has built a multibillion-dollar web of infrastructure to manage vast quantities of the CO2. The Permian rocks’ structure makes them particularly giving of their oil when their spongelike holes are coaxed with the greenhouse gas in liquid-like form.

Oxy buys CO2 drilled from natural formations in Colorado and New Mexico, then sends it through thousands of miles of pipelines, goaded by massive pump stations. At the end of the line, the company blasts it into thousands of wells that fan out like toy soldiers across the Permian, a booming chunk of the American West that now accounts, extraordinarily, for some 5% of global oil production. Oxy’s setup amounts to a ruthlessly efficient assembly line for hydrocarbons.

Now, amid rising consumer anger about global warming and ballooning government subsidies for companies working to solve it, Oxy is attempting a stunning CO2 pivot. It hopes to stop pumping into its fields CO2 extracted from the earth, and instead deploy CO2 sucked from man-made sources: from power plants, factories, and even thin air.

The company’s ambition is to build into a core business a process that has long been little more than a science project: “carbon capture and storage,” or CCS. It involves chemically snagging CO2, typically as it’s wafting out of smokestacks but also from ambient air itself, and then injecting it into subterranean rocks. The goal: Rather than continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, where it’s thickening a chemical blanket that’s warming the earth, humanity can bury it underground, ostensibly forever.

Countless difficulties imperil the CCS dream. Influential environmentalists oppose it, arguing it diverts attention from renewable energy. Beyond principle, technical dilemmas loom. One, now fueling a technological race, is how to slash the cost of capturing CO2, which remains too expensive to work without subsidy. Another, now evolving into a high-stakes lobbying fight, is how far regulators should go in forcing oil companies to prove that CO2 they’re sending into rock stays safely where it’s put.

No member of Big Oil is gunning harder for CCS than Oxy. Even before concerns about the coronavirus—and a global petroleum-price war—sent oil-company shares tumbling this March, Oxy was trading around a 15-year low, burdened by debt from a recent acquisition. And its CO2-fueled position in the Permian is core to its viability. So from its Houston headquarters, whose walls are hung with glamour shots of oil rigs, Oxy is making a series of bold CCS bets. One is on a contraption of massive fans that would suck CO2 from the air. Another is a bid to establish what amounts to a green-minded polluters’ club: a network in which some of America’s biggest industrial emitters would capture and sell CO2 to Oxy, delivering it through an as-yet-unbuilt pipeline bankrolled with the help of American taxpayers.

If the plans work, Oxy contends, the company will be able to accurately say that much of its oil is “carbon negative” —actually good for the planet, because extracting it would involve the safe disposal of more CO2 than burning it would emit. More immediately accretive to Oxy’s bottom line, the move would boost its oil sales and also capture subsidies governments are rolling out to companies that can prove they’re capturing man-made, or “anthropogenic,” CO2. For Oxy, such a masterstroke might repaint its brown corporate image green. It also could gird the company for a future in which, more oil executives are coming to believe, they will have to somehow neutralize emissions from their hydrocarbons in order to continue selling them.

Vicki Hollub, Oxy’s CEO, tells me that she has concluded that her company’s “social license to operate” —the consumer and political buy-in any firm needs to sell its product—depends on doing “all that we can do to address climate change.” The trick will be to do so while satisfying shareholders. Hollub argues Oxy’s CO2 expertise is a competitive edge in an industry ever more concerned about a warming planet. “The world will transition out of fossil fuels, but it’s going to take quite a long time,” she says. Along the way, “the last barrel of oil produced in the world” should come not from a new well but from an aging field, helped by CO2.“The carbon footprint is lower,” she says, “and it’s just more efficient for the planet.” Like lemonade from lemons, her environmental argument leverages her corporate portfolio.


Let’s quarantine some fake corona and energy news

Junk science and scare stories stampede countries into taking drastic, unnecessary action

Paul Driessen

Some 40,000 children slave away in Chinese-operated Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mines, digging out cobalt for cell phones, laptops, Teslas and Green New Deal technologies, the London-based Guardian has reported. They’re exposed constantly to toxic and radioactive mud, dust, water and air. Blood and respiratory diseases, birth defects, cancer, paralysis and death by suffocation are common. Other investigators have confirmed the horrors. But the human rights violations continue.

Unfortunately, other Guardian stories are a bizarre mix of fact, fake news, junk science, conjecture and nonsense. “Is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?” a recent headline blared, adding “As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics.” The story blamed the destruction and virus on road building, mining and logging.

The article opens with the tragic story of an Ebola-traumatized village in Gabon, just west of the DRC, on Africa’s west coast. Villagers had gotten the disease from eating a wild chimpanzee. Many had died.

But what followed was eco-proselytizing right out of pagans, prophets and other ancient religious lore that attribute calamities to mankind’s sins against gods, God – or in this case Gaia. Some vague “number of researchers” in the new academic “discipline” of “planetary health” now “believe” it is “humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as COVID-19.”

Humans “invade” wild landscapes where animals and plants live that harbor unknown viruses, says one supposed expert. “We disrupt ecosystems and shake viruses loose from their natural hosts,” he asserts.

“Research suggests” that outbreaks of diseases crossing over from animals to humans “are on the rise,” the article continues. While rabies and bubonic plague “crossed over centuries ago,” it’s getting much worse: Marburg, Mers, Nipah, SARS, Zika and West Nile, for example; the Asian flu and AIDS. These “zoonotic” diseases are “increasingly linked to environmental change and human behavior,” such as human population growth, urbanization and the “disruption of pristine forests,” says another “expert.”

It sounds plausible, especially for people with limited scientific, medical or analytical backgrounds. It definitely appeals to those who dislike mining, logging, roads and humanity. But it ignores history and reality, and relies on anti-technology ideologies that claim we are “sinning against our Earth Mother.”

Malaria, dengue, yellow fever and sleeping sickness are also mentioned. But what about cholera, polio (which I had as a child), smallpox, measles, multiple plagues in various cities and countries through the ages, and countless iterations of influenza? We still don’t know where they came from – and many mutate frequently, often defying our best efforts to eradicate them or find vaccines and cures, even today.

Many were carried to Europe or the Americas, Russia or other lands by sailing ships – to populations that lacked natural or built-up immunities, before we knew about bacteria and viruses, even how to make soap.

Today’s emergent diseases can travel far more rapidly and widely, thanks to trains, cars, ships and planes. With billions living today in crowded cities, rapid transmission of virulent or novel diseases is greatly facilitated, despite modern clinics, hospitals, vaccinations, medicines, antibiotic soaps and proper hygienic practices, especially when responses are slow and the World Health Organization (WHO) colludes with Chinese government officials to spread disinformation about an absence of human-to-human transmission.

Life-saving modern technologies, hospitals, labs, drugs and homes didn’t just happen. They are the product of mining, logging, roads, drilling, modern agriculture, communication and transportation, and especially fossil fuel and nuclear energy – which enable innovation to thrive, help keep Nature’s wrath and fury at safer distances, and helped extend average American life spans from 40 in 1800 to 47 in 1900 and 78 today. How and why this happened is an amazing saga. The story of penicillin is just as fascinating.

The Guardian has it completely backward. Utilizing Earth’s surface and subsurface bounties – God’s blessings – did not unleash COVID-19 and other viruses, bacteria and diseases. Doing so helped save us from pestilence and starvation that have ravaged humanity throughout history. It still does today.

Diseases will always be with us. They will evolve, mutate, cross over from animals to humans, and try to ravage us for as long as we inhabit this magnificent planet. Never forget: it was the fossil fuels that so many detest which enabled so much of humanity to escape the deprivation, starvation and disease that kept human, health and technological progress to barely measurable minimums until about 1800.

Imagine what would happen if abundant, reliable, affordable heat and electricity from fossil, nuclear and hydroelectric were replaced by limited, intermittent, weather-dependent, expensive wind, solar and battery power. The impacts on our healthcare and living standards would be horrific. Try to picture life in African villages and cities, where electricity, clean water, sanitation and healthcare are still almost nonexistent.

Imagine what our planet would look like, if we had to replace relatively few fossil, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants with millions of wind turbines, billions of solar panels and billions of backup batteries, sprawling across hundreds of millions of acres. We would have to open or expand thousands of mines, to provide the metals and minerals required to manufacture all that pseudo-renewable energy.

Disruption of ecosystems and destruction of biodiversity would multiply by orders of magnitude. And switching to organic farming would at least double the acreage we’d have to cultivate to feed humanity.

The Guardian  article subtly but harshly criticizes hunting chimpanzees and other wild animals. But why do African villagers do that? It’s not rocket science. They are hungry! Living on the edge of survival.

And yet UN and EU agencies, eco-imperialist pressure groups, anti-development banks and fossil fuel divestment campaigners demand that Africans compound the misery of already living without electricity, clean water and healthcare – by turning their backs on modern seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and tractors.

Instead, Africans are supposed to survive on whatever meager crops they can harvest using agro-ecology (primitive subsistence farming) and whatever might survive droughts and locust plagues. They’re also supposed to be content with bed nets, avoid using insecticides to kill insects that carry diseases like malaria, dengue and sleeping sickness, and never use the long-lasting spatial insect repellant DDT, which keeps 80% of mosquitoes from entering a home with one spray on walls and doorways every six months.

The article next cites “disease ecologists,” supposed experts from another new “discipline,” who claim these diseases increasingly come from “wet markets” that have only recently “sprung up” to provide fresh meat for large urban populations. Wet markets have certainly been tied to the coronavirus. But they have been around for centuries, due to culture and tradition, as places to meet and gossip, as symbols of wealth, as reflections of the belief that their meat is more natural and healthy – and the reality that there is not enough farm-raised meat because agricultural practices in much of Asia and Africa are still antiquated.

In a final bit of absurdity, the author says the solutions to this modern crisis of disease outbreaks “start with education and awareness” – one must suppose like the junk science, fake news and half-baked ideas carelessly thrown about in his article. And then the newspaper weighs in, railing that under the Trump administration “anger and cruelty disfigure public discourse and lying is commonplace.” But with financial help from readers, The Guardian can “keep delivering quality journalism” – like this fable.

Nonsense like this – masquerading as journalism and science – does immense harm to energy policies, disease prevention, education for all ages, and the health and living standards that all humans deserve.

One has to wonder. If we can close restaurants and parks, and ban gatherings of more than ten people, can’t we quarantine nonsense about disease, mining, and wild ecosystems disrupted because we haven’t sufficiently adopted “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” wind, solar, battery and biofuel alternatives?

If we can’t quarantine nonsense, can’t our print and electronic media at least refrain from propagating it?

Via email

Reuters Invents Fake Seaweed Crisis as Harvests More than Double

Reuters published a March 30 article claiming climate change is causing a crisis in seaweed growth and harvesting. However, the facts say just the opposite. According to a 2018 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, the global seaweed harvest more than doubled between 2005 and 2015. Reuters is inventing a fake climate crisis and hoping people will simply believe the claim without bothering to check the facts.

The Reuters article, titled, “India’s women seaweed divers swim against the tide of climate change,” claims climate change is changing ocean conditions and reducing the seaweed harvest.

“The women talk about the harsh conditions of the sea, the rising tides and the great physical strength required to hold one’s breath and go down to the depths. But with every passing year, yields are falling…,” Reuters claims.

To bolster its claim, Reuters quoted a climate-activist scientist. “With the rise in sea temperature and salinity, seaweed growth has declined in the last decade,” Reuters quoted K. Eswaran, a scientist at the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute in Ramanathapuram district.

But objective facts say just the opposite. The United Nations 2018 report, “The global status of seaweed production, trade and utilization,” reports global seaweed production was 14.7 million tons in 2005, growing to 30.4 million tons in 2015.

So, how does Reuters reconcile a doubling of global production with “every passing year, yields are falling”?

For one, Reuters does not cite any actual data, globally or from India. Reuters can claim it talked to (alarmist) scientists, so the claim must be true.

Also, Reuters chose to focus on India, which is only a small player in global seaweed production. India does not rank in the top 10 seaweed producers, and India produces less than 0.1 percent of the global seaweed harvest. It appears unlikely that India is defying the global trend and that seaweed harvests are declining there, but even if that is so, that would be just one very minor country that defies the wonderful news regarding the overall global trend.

Reuters blasts out scary headlines seeking to ramp up fears of a climate crisis, but here – like with so many other scary climate claims – scientific facts completely obliterate the asserted Climate Delusion.


UN Climate bigshot Dismisses Coronavirus Deaths and Misery

She's a fanatic

The architect of the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement has joined the list of climate activists calling coronavirus deaths “an opportunity.” While dismissing the human misery caused by the coronavirus, Christiana Figueres advocated for permanent restrictions on human behavior and economic activity similar to what governments have imposed in response to the coronavirus.

Christiana Figueres was the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the top UN climate official overseeing the drafting of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. This week, in an April 1 article in New Scientist, Figueres callously dismissed the deaths and misery caused by coronavirus in comparison to climate change.

“Moments of crisis are always moments of opportunity,” Figueres upliftingly wrote.

In her article, Figueres failed to mention any of the tens of thousands of people who have died from the pandemic. The closest she came was a brief reference to a “tragedy,” while quickly minimizing that tragedy in comparison to climate change.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy and its consequences will be felt for a long time. Yet though global health conditions will eventually return to a form of normal, our environment will never do so,” wrote Figueres.

Figueres followed up by advocating permanent government restrictions on individual freedom and the economy similar to what government is imposing in response to the coronavirus.

“But global challenges also require individuals to change their behavior, which many people have shown can happen quickly,” wrote Figueres. “These changes are only effective if all members of society participate. To tackle climate change, we as individuals need to change our diets, consumption patterns, ways of interacting with one another and how we travel.”

“Our approach to covid-19 can also help tackle climate change,” she emphasized.

Figueres further argued that coronavirus financial assistance to unemployed workers and crippled businesses must take a backseat to climate activists’ longtime goals.

“We must ensure these packages don’t compound the climate crisis,” wrote Figueres.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: