Submitted by New Energy News Blog

From the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” file: A prominent ocean scientist wants environmentalists to withdraw their opposition to the release of CO2 gases directly into the “benthic world” (the lowest levels of the ocean) so science can find out how bad it affects deep sea life.

Wallace Broecker, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University: “I am in full sympathy with those who claim that the benthic world is likely a fragile one. Hence, before we poke it with CO2, we should do our homework. Therefore, I challenge Greenpeace to relax its stand and allow pilot CO2 injections to proceed.”

Unlike the current Norwegian Sleipner project that is injecting CO2 gases into theoretically airtight geologic structures deep under the seabed, the concept to which Broecker is referring is that of pumping the gases directly into the ocean at a great enough depth that pressures would turn the CO2 into a neutralized slurry and keep it on the seabed there.

Broeckner admits there would be harm to small organisms but wants to see how much damage there would be to fish and the surrounding ecological system. Broecker calculates the deep Pacific could contain 16 years worth of CO2. (Which means the world could go on burning coal and proceed to destroy the ecology of the deep Pacific until, say, 2025 – and THEN stop generating greenhouse gases. Sorry, editorializing.)

Bill Hare, Greenpeace, speaking for opponents of this cockamamie concept (sorry, editorializing): “The urgency of reducing emissions of CO2 has never been greater. But just as with an emergency in a heavy passenger jet, the crew should never rush in to hasty actions that will ultimately make a very bad situation a lot worse. Ocean disposal of CO2 is one such option.”

Mr. Hare is quite a bit more restrained than NewEnergyNews.

Footnote for the “chicken/egg” file: Deep storage in the Pacific was conceptualized because storage in sub-seabed geologic structures there was deemed unsafe. Why? Because earthquakes could dislodge the gases from those geologic structures, releasing them to the deep ocean and that, scientists believe, would be dangerous to the deep ocean ecology. (But releasing the gases directly into the ocean would be OK!?! Not editorializing, just asking…)

Put it down there any way except by burying it in the seabed and letting is emerge through seismic cracks. (click to enlarge)

Deep-sea carbon storage must be tested, says leading scientist
David Adam, June 18, 2008 (UK Guardian)

Wallace Broecker, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University; Advocates of releasing captured CO2 gases into the deep sea; Greenpeace (Bill Hare, spokesman) and other opponents of the concept

Professor Broecker wants Greenpeace and other opponents to the release of CO2 into the deepest ocean to allow testing to go forward despite potential harm.

click to enlarge

A pilot project off Hawaii in the late 1990s was halted by protests from Greenpeace and other environmentalists.

– Small scale tests have been done off the California coast. They turned out badly enough to sustain the opposition.
– Pressures at depths greater than 3,500 meters are thought to be great enough to turn CO2 gases into a potentially harmless slurry.

Science knows deep ocean storage would be bad for these benthoids but it needs to know how much MORE life and habitat it would destroy. Why? (click to enlarge)

– The plan calls for injections of CO2 gases deep under the ocean by deep sea drilling ships.
– Testing would be monitored to document the dispersion of the gases and the harm done to sea life.
– There is no conclusive evidence CO2 gases can be securely and permanently stored in geologic structures and no reason to believe deep ocean storage is safe for the marine environment.

– Broecker: “While we know enough to say with confidence that deep ocean disposal of CO2 is certainly feasible, unless small-scale pilot experiments are conducted, information necessary to assess the impact [on sea life] will remain obscure. It is my view that a series of experiments involving one-tonne quantities of CO2 should be conducted.”
– Hare, Greenpeace: “The position of Greenpeace and of other groups opposed to this option was based on research into the effects of ocean disposal of CO2.”

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