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Geotec’s New Direction
An open architecture for the implementation of Geotec’s proprietary technology with hydrocarbon, gasification, and recombinant genomics technology. This combination has properties under development throughout the United States and in Western Canada. The properties have coal inventory in various forms ranging from reserves through gob, slurry, and met coke. Several properties have permits, some are bonded, and others have amenities such as waterway and rail access. The coal inventory maximized by the company’s proprietary enzyme technology, technology acquired during our asset purchase from Richcorp, Inc. creates value through a combination of recombinant engineering and inductive or inhibitive proteolytic chemistry. These technologies are proven to add value to the coal by the removal of substantial amount of contaminants from the coal and increase the BTU values (See test results). Another value add is the use of precursor technologies utilized in the production of the proteins and enzyme based solutions which can produce very high quality ethanol and methanol for the flex fuel industry.
Geotec through a cooperative effort and the resources that they have acquired and licensed for their current projects will provide a viable opportunity to advantage itself along with our strategic alliances to make a substantial contribution to the alternative and fossil fuel industry and supply needed fuel and electricity for the industry to meet it’s needs. The environmental benefit from the vitrification, or converting contained contaminants and other extraneous minerals and metals to glass, while producing pure oxygen and potable water will have an extremely positive impact on the use of Geotec’s gasification systems along with those developed by the U.S. government and many other governments around the world. Gasification has a tremendous amount of history, deriving gas from coal is not a new technology and has been used throughout the ages to provide as for lighting cities prior to the major shift to electricity from gas lighting for homes and cities during the Victorian Era such as London, New York, Atlanta and Buenos Aires just to mention a few cities that were lighted by gas derived from coal. Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels available around the world.
The use of our proprietary enzyme/protein solution in conjunction with specifically designed processes resolves problems such as acid mine conditions, heavy metal contamination, contaminated slurry ponds and airborne dust control. Re-vegetation and reforestation of reclaimed sites such as slurry ponds and gob piles is accomplished quicker and in a more environmentally friendly manner. If the land is targeted for subsequent use for agricultural products then we can work with the land owner to provide the most favorable conditions for the land owner’s selected first crop. We provide a positive impact on the site as opposed to remediation by dilution of the problem. Usually accomplished by the addition of alkali fly ash containing various types of metals and other contaminants. Then inundating the land with with massive amounts of fertilizers and biomass such as macerated wood chips and vegetation in order to try and return the land to original condition. Not only does this cause problems in the land’s watershed due to high amounts of phosphorus entering inland waterways, it also causes a condition known to farmers as “Hardpan” or “Diablo” which can deter root penetration resulting in poor plant growth by limiting the nutrient uptake by the root system.
Carbon Dioxide Sequestration
A carbon dioxide (CO2) sink is a carbon reservoir that is increasing in size, and is the opposite of a carbon “source”. The main natural sinks are (1) the oceans and (2) plants and other organisms that use photosynthesis to remove carbon from the atmosphere by incorporating it into biomass. This concept of CO2 sinks has become more widely known because of its role in the Kyoto Protocol.
Carbon sequestration is the term describing processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere. To help mitigate global warming, a variety of means of artificially capturing and storing carbon — as well as of enhancing natural sequestration processes — are being explored.
Carbon sequestration from a fossil-fuel power station
Carbon is incorporated into forests and forest soils by trees and other plants. Through photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store the carbon in sugars, starch and cellulose, and release the oxygen into the atmosphere. A young forest, composed of growing trees, absorbs carbon dioxide and acts as a sink. Mature forests, made up of a mix of various aged trees as well as dead and decaying matter, may be carbon neutral above ground. In the soil, however, the gradual buildup of slowly decaying organic material will continue to accumulate carbon, but at a slower rate than an immature forest. The forest eco-system may eventually become carbon neutral. Forest fires release absorbed carbon back into the atmosphere.
The dead trees, plants, and moss in peat bogs undergo slow anaerobic decomposition below the surface of the bog. This process is slow enough that in many cases the bog grows rapidly and fixes more carbon from the atmosphere than is released. Over time, the peat grows deeper. Peat bogs inter approximately one-quarter of the carbon stored in land plants and soils .
Under some conditions, forests and peat bogs may become sources of CO2, such as when a forest is flooded by the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Unless the forests and peat are harvested before flooding, the rotting vegetation is a source of CO2 and methane comparable in magnitude to the amount of carbon released by a fossil-fuel powered plant of equivalent power.
Oceans are natural CO2 sinks, and represent the largest active carbon sink on Earth. This role as a sink for CO2 is driven by two processes, the solubility pump and the biological pump. The former is primarily a function of differential CO2 solubility in seawater and the thermohaline circulation, while the latter is the sum of a series of biological processes that transport carbon (in organic and inorganic forms) from the surface euphotic zone to the ocean’s interior. A small fraction of the organic carbon transported by the biological pump to the seafloor is buried in anoxic conditions under sediments and ultimately forms fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.
At the present time, approximately one third of anthropogenic emissions are estimated to be entering the ocean. The solubility pump is the primary mechanism driving this, with the biological pump playing a negligible role. This stems from the limitation of the biological pump by ambient light and nutrients required by the phytoplankton that ultimately drive it. Total inorganic carbon is not believed to limit primary production in the oceans, so its increasing availability in the ocean does not directly affect production (the situation on land is different, since enhanced atmospheric levels of CO2 essentially “fertilize” land plant growth). However, ocean acidification by invading anthropogenic CO2 may affect the biological pump by negatively impacting calcifying organisms such as coccolithophores, foraminiferans and pteropods. Climate change may also affect the biological pump in the future by warming and stratifying the surface ocean, thus reducing the supply of limiting nutrients to surface waters.
Carbon as plant organic matter is sequestered in soils: Soils contain more carbon than is contained in vegetation and the atmosphere combined . Soils’ organic carbon (humus) levels in many agricultural areas have been severely depleted.
Grasslands contribute to soil organic matter, mostly in the form of roots, and much of this organic matter can remain unoxidized for long periods.
Enhancing natural sequestration
Forests are carbon stores, and they are carbon dioxide sinks when they are increasing in density or area. Thus, reforestation can mitigate global warming until all available land has been reforested with mature forests. In the United States in 2004 (the most recent year for which EPA statistics are available), forests sequestered 10.6% (637 teragrams) as much carbon dioxide as was released in the United States by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas; 5988 teragrams). Urban trees sequestered another 1.5% (88 teragrams). To further reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 7%, as stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol, would require the planting of “an area the size of Texas [8% of the area of Brazil] every 30 years”, according to William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, in Durham, N.C.. Carbon offset programs are planting millions of fast-growing trees per year to reforest tropical lands, for as little as $0.10 per tree; over their typical 40-year lifetime, one million of these trees will fix 0.9 teragrams of carbon dioxide.
The global cooling effect of forests is partially counterbalanced: For example, the planting of new forests may initially be a source of carbon dioxide emission when carbon from the soil is released into the atmosphere. Also, reforestation can decrease the reflection of sunlight (albedo): Mid-to-high latitude forests have a much lower albedo during snow seasons than flat ground, thus contributing to warming.
A long-term sequestration of carbon from forests comes from the use of wood products such as “stick built” (i.e., with lumber) homebuilding, the predominant form of home building in the US. Because most buildings are eventually demolished, the carbon may be released into the atmosphere, depending upon the fate of the scrap lumber. Reusing the lumber, or using it as fuel to replace a fossil fuel, avoids an increase in atmospheric carbon. (In addition to global cooling, planting forests reduces erosion, increases water capture, and provides valuable timber which may be sustainably harvested.)
One way to increase the carbon sequestration efficiency of the oceans is to add micrometre-sized iron particles called hematite or iron sulfate to the water. This has the effect of stimulating growth of plankton. Iron is an important nutrient for phytoplankton, usually made available via upwelling along the continental shelves, inflows from rivers and streams, as well as deposition of dust suspended in the atmosphere. Natural sources of ocean iron have been declining in recent decades, contributing to an overall decline in ocean productivity (NASA, 2003). Yet in the presence of iron nutrients plankton populations quickly grow, or ‘bloom’, expanding the base of biomass productivity throughout the region and removing significant quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. A test in 2002 in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica suggests that between 10,000 and 100,000 carbon atoms are sunk for each iron atom added to the water. More recent work in Germany (2005) suggests that any biomass carbon in the oceans, whether exported to depth or recycled in the euphotic zone, represents long term storage of carbon. This means that application of iron nutrients in select parts of the oceans, at appropriate scales, could have the combined effect of restoring ocean productivity while at the same time mitigating the effects of human caused emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Those skeptical of this approach argue that the effect of periodic small scale phytoplankton blooms on ocean ecosystems is unclear, and that more studies would be helpful. For example, it is known that phytoplankton have a complex effect on cloud formation via the release of substances such as dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that are converted to sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere, providing cloud condensation nuclei, or CCN. But the effect of small scale plankton blooms on overall DMS production is unknown.
Since the 1850s, a large proportion of the world’s grasslands have been tilled and converted to croplands, allowing the rapid oxidation of large quantities of soil organic carbon. However, in the United States in 2004 (the most recent year for which EPA statistics are available), agricultural soils including pastureland sequestered 0.8% (46 teragrams) as much carbon as was released in the United States by the combustion of fossil fuels (5988 teragrams). The annual amount of this sequestration has been gradually increasing since 1998.
Methods that significantly enhance carbon sequestration in soil include no-till farming, residue mulching, cover cropping, and crop rotation, all of which are more widely used in organic farming than in conventional farming. Because only 5% of US farmland currently uses no-till and residue mulching, there is a large potential for carbon sequestration. Conversion to pastureland, particularly with good management of grazing, can sequester even more carbon in the soil. Terra preta, an anthropogenic, high-carbon soil, is also being investigated as a sequestration mechanism.
For carbon to be sequestered artificially (i.e. not using the natural processes of the carbon cycle) it must first be captured, or it must be significantly delayed or prevented from being re-released into the atmosphere (by combustion, decay, etc.) from an existing carbon-rich material, by being incorporated into an enduring usage (such as in construction). Thereafter it can be passively stored or remain productively utilized over time in a variety of ways.
For example, upon harvesting, wood (as a carbon-rich material) can be immediately burned or otherwise serve as a fuel, returning its carbon to the atmosphere, or it can be incorporated into construction or a range of other durable products, thus sequestering its carbon over years or even centuries.
Indeed, a very carefully-designed and durable, energy-efficient and energy-capturing building has the potential to sequester (in its carbon-rich construction materials), as much as or more carbon than was released by the acquisition and incorporation of all its materials and than will be released by building-function “energy-imports” during the structure’s (potentially multi-century) existence. Such a structure might be termed “carbon neutral” or even “carbon positive”. The significance of this becomes apparent in light of the fact that building construction and operation is the source of nearly half of the annual human-caused carbon additions to the atmosphere .
Natural-gas purification plants often already have to remove carbon dioxide, either to avoid dry ice clogging gas tankers or to prevent carbon-dioxide concentrations exceeding the 3% maximum permitted on the natural-gas distribution grid.
Beyond this, one of the most likely early applications of carbon capture is the capture of carbon dioxide from flue gases at power stations (in the case of coal, this is known as “clean coal”). A typical new 1000-MW coal-fired power station produces around 6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Adding carbon capture to existing plants can add significantly to the costs of energy production; scrubbing costs aside, a 1000-MW coal plant will require the storage of about 50 million barrels of carbon dioxide a year. However, scrubbing is relatively affordable when added to new plants based on coal gasification technology, where it is estimated to raise energy costs for households in the United States using only coal-fired electricity sources from 10 cents per kWh to 12 .
Currently, capture of carbon dioxide is performed on a large scale by absorption of carbon dioxide onto various amine-based solvents. Other techniques are currently being investigated, such as pressure and temperature swing absorption, gas separation membranes, and cryogenics.
In coal-fired power stations, the main alternatives to retrofitting amine-based absorbers to existing power stations are two new technologies: coal gasification combined-cycle and oxyfuel combustion. Gasification first produces a “syngas” primarily of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is burned, with carbon dioxide filtered from the flue gas. Oxyfuel combustion burns the coal in oxygen instead of air, producing only carbon dioxide and water vapour, which are relatively easily separated. Oxyfuel combustion, however, produces very high temperatures, and the materials to withstand its temperatures are still being developed.
Another long-term option is carbon capture directly from the air using hydroxides. The air would literally be scrubbed of its CO2 content. This idea offers an alternative to non-carbon-based fuels for the transportation sector.
Another proposed form of carbon sequestration in the ocean is direct injection. In this method, carbon dioxide is pumped directly into the water at depth, and expected to form “lakes” of liquid CO2 at the bottom. Experiments carried out in moderate to deep waters (350 – 3600 meters) indicate that the liquid CO2 reacts to form solid CO2 clathrate hydrates, which gradually dissolve in the surrounding waters.
This method, too, has potentially dangerous environmental consequences. The carbon dioxide does react with the water to form carbonic acid, H2CO3; however, most (as much as 99%) remains as dissolved molecular CO2. The equilibrium would no doubt be quite different under the high pressure conditions in the deep ocean. The resulting environmental effects on benthic life forms of the bathypelagic, abyssopelagic and hadopelagic zones are unknown. Even though life appears to be rather sparse in the deep ocean basins, energy and chemical effects in these deep basins could have far-reaching implications. Much more work is needed here to define the extent of the potential problems.
Carbon storage in or under oceans may not compatible with the London Convention (Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter) .
An additional method of long-term ocean-based sequestration is to gather crop residue such as corn stalks or excess hay into large weighted bales of biomass and deposit it in the alluvial fan areas of the deep ocean basin. Dropping these residues in alluvial fans would cause the residues to be quickly buried in silt on the sea floor, sequestering the biomass for very long time spans. Alluvial fans exist in all of the world’s oceans and seas where river deltas fall off the edge of the continental shelf such as the Mississippi alluvial fan in the gulf of Mexico and the Nile alluvial fan in the Mediterranean Sea.
Also known as geo-sequestration or geological storage, this method involves injecting carbon dioxide directly into underground geological formations. Declining oil fields, saline aquifers, and unminable coal seams have been suggested as storage sites. Caverns and old mines that are commonly used to store natural gas are not considered, because of a lack of storage safety.
CO2 has been injected into declining oil fields for more than 30 years, to increase oil recovery. This option is attractive because the storage costs are offset by the sale of additional oil that is recovered. Further benefits are the existing infrastructure and the geophysical and geological information about the oil field that is available from the oil exploration. All oil fields have a geological barrier preventing upward migration of oil. It is supposed that these geological barriers will also be sufficient as long-term barrier to contain the injected CO2. Identified possible problems are the many ‘leak’ opportunities provided by old oil wells, the need for very high pressures (about 80 times environment pressure) and low temperatures (below about 20 degrees Celsius) to keep the CO2 liquified (only practical very deep underneath the sea) and the conversion of CO2 into acids which can damage the geological barrier. Other disadvantages of old oil fields are their geographic distribution and their limited capacity.
Unminable coal seams can be used to store CO2, because CO2 adsorbs to the coal surface, ensuring safe long-term storage. In the process it releases methane that was previously adsorbed to the coal surface and that may be recovered. Again the sale of the methane can be used to offset the cost of the CO2 storage, although release or burning of methane would of course at least partially offset the obtained sequestration result.
Saline aquifers contain highly mineralized brines and have so far been considered of no benefit to humans except in a few cases where they have been used for the storage of chemical waste. Their advantages include a large potential storage volume and relatively common occurrence reducing the distance over which CO2 has to be transported. The major disadvantage of saline aquifers is that relatively little is known about them compared to oil fields. To keep the cost of storage acceptable the geophysical exploration may be limited, resulting in larger uncertainty about the structure of a given acquifer. Unlike storage in oil fields or coal beds, no side product will offset the storage cost. Leakage of CO2 back into the atmosphere may be a problem in saline-aquifer storage. However, current research shows that several trapping mechanisms immobilize the CO2 underground, reducing the risk of leakage.
A major research project examining the geological sequestration of carbon dioxide is currently being performed at an oil field at Weyburn in southeastern Saskatchewan. In the North Sea, Norway’s Statoil natural-gas platform Sleipner strips carbon dioxide out of the natural gas with amine solvents and disposes of this carbon dioxide by geological sequestration. Sleipner reduces emissions of carbon dioxide by approximately one million tonnes a year. The cost of geological sequestration is minor relative to the overall running costs. As of April 2005, BP is considering a trial of large-scale sequestration of carbon dioxide stripped from power plant emissions in the Miller oilfield as its reserves are depleted.
Mineral sequestration aims to trap carbon by placing it in its thermodynamics groundstate where it will be nonreactive. This occurs naturally and is responsible for much of the surface limestone. Acids are used to convert mineral silicates to mineral carbonates. Ongoing research aims to speed up the kinetics of the reactions.
One proposed reaction is that of the rock dunite, or serpentinite with carbon dioxide to form the carbonate mineral magnesite, plus some silica and magnetite. This is proposed by ZECA Corporation, a consortium aiming to produce a low-emission coal-fired power source.
Serpentinite sequestration is favored because of the non-toxic and predictable nature of magnesium carbonate. However, the ideal reaction (reaction 1) takes place only with extremely magnesium rich olivine or serpentine minerals. The presence of iron in the olivine or serpentine will reduce the efficiency of the circuit and reactions 2 and 3 must take place, producing a slag of silica and iron oxide (magnetite).
Mg-Olivine + Water + Carbon dioxide → Serpentine + Magnesite + Silica
(Mg)_2SiO_4 + nH_2O + CO_2 \rarr Mg_3[Si_2O_5(OH)_4] + MgCO_3 + SiO_2 + H_2O
Fe-Olivine + Water + Carbonic acid → Serpentine + Magnetite + Magnesite + Silica
4(Fe,Mg)_2SiO_4 + nH_2O + H_2CO_3 \rarr 2Mg_3[Si_2O_5(OH)_4] + 2Fe_3O_4 + 2MgCO_3 + SiO_2 + H_2O
Serpentine + carbon dioxide → Magnesite + silica + water
Mg_3[Si_2O_5(OH)_4] + 3CO_2 \rarr 3MgCO_3 + 2SiO_2 + 2H_2O
Carbon sinks and the Kyoto Protocol
Because growing vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide, the Kyoto Protocol allows countries that have large areas of forest (or other vegetation) to deduct a certain amount from their emissions, thus making it easier for them to achieve the desired net emission levels.
Some countries want to be able to trade in emission rights in carbon emission markets, to make it possible for one country to buy the benefit of carbon dioxide sinks in another country. If overall limits on greenhouse gas emission are put into place, such a “cap-and-trade” market mechanism will tend to find cost-effective ways to reduce emissions. There is as yet no carbon audit regime for all such markets globally, and none is specified in the Kyoto Protocol. Each nation is on its own to verify actual carbon emission reductions, and to account for carbon sequestration using some less formal method.
In the Clean Development Mechanism, only afforestation and reforestation are eligible to produce CERs in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008–2012). Forest conservation activities or activities avoiding deforestation, which would result in emission reduction through the conservation of existing carbon stocks, are not eligible at this time . Also agricultural carbon sequestration is not possible yet .
- ^ Raven, J. A., P. G. Falkowski (1999). “Oceanic sinks for atmospheric CO2”. Plant Cell & Environment 22: 741-755.
- ^ Takahashi, T., S. C. Sutherland, C. Sweeney, A. Poisson, N. Metzl, B. Tilbrook, N. Bates, R. Wanninkhof, R. A. Feely, C. Sabine, J. Olafsson and Y. C. Nojiri (2002). “Global sea-air CO2 flux based on climatological surface ocean pCO2, and seasonal biological and temperature effects”. Deep Sea Research II 49: 1601-1622.
- ^ Swift, Roger S., Soil Science, 166(11):858-871, November 2001.
- ^ Pimentel, David, et al, Bioscience: 55:7, July 2005
- ^ Lal, R, et al (April 2004). “Managing Soil Carbon”. Science 304: 393.
- ^ Scientific American, July 2005, p42
- ^ Manguiat, M. S. Z., Verheyen, R., Mackensen, J. & Scholz, G. (2005), Legal aspects in the implementation of CDM forestry projects, number 59 in ‘IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Papers’, IUCN. Available from: http://www.iucn.org/themes/law/pdfdocuments/EPLP59EN.pdf
- ^ Rosenbaum, K. L., Schoene, D. & Mekouar, A. (2004), Climate change and the forest sector. Possible national and subnational legislation, number 144 in ‘FAO Forestry Papers’, FAO. Available from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5647e/y5647e00.HTM
FAO (2004) Carbon sequestration in dryland soils
IEA Reports: Putting carbon back into the ground (pdf) and Ocean storage of CO2 (pdf)
Haszeldine (2005) Deep geological CO2 storage: principles, and prospecting for bio-energy disposal sites (pdf)
The Role of Carbon in Agricultural Soils in Carbon Sequestration – A Better Alternative for Climate Change? Chapter 1: Agricultural Sinks (1999) University of Maryland pdf format doc format
Schlesinger, W.H. 1991. Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change. Academic Press, San Diego.
Peat bogs may be soaking up 10 to 20% of the excess CO2 generated by human activity
DMS and Climate
Carbon Store in U.S. Forests
Collection of recent news articles on CO2 capture and storage
Britain entertains the idea
Seattle Times, 20 February 2004, Canada pumps CO2 underground (Weyburn oil field)
United States pumps CO2 underground
Observer 24 April 2005 Seabed supplies a cure for global warming crisis
Tyndall Centre – Assessing the potential for geological carbon sequestration in the UK