Challenges and Limitations of Carbon Capture and Ocean Geoengineering Explored in Recent Lecture

Sami Khan, a professor at Simon Fraser University and MIT engineering PhD, recently organized a guest lecture on carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) for his students. The lecture aimed to explore the subject of ocean geoengineering and its limitations. Khan, a faculty member of Simon Fraser University’s Sustainable Engineering Program, focuses on innovative engineering solutions to address environmental challenges.

During the lecture, the speaker emphasized the importance of making informed choices in engineering careers and avoiding projects that may not have a significant impact. The scale of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was illustrated using a Venn diagram, highlighting the challenges of capturing a material amount of CO2. Mechanical direct air capture (DAC) was discussed, revealing the immense volume of air that needs to be processed to capture a ton of CO2.

Various carbon capture solutions were examined, including a DAC solution that required a wall of fans two kilometers long to capture a million tons of CO2 annually. The limitations of this approach, including the high cost and large number of moving parts, were highlighted. Another solution involving mineral weathering using olivine was explored, but concerns were raised regarding sourcing, logistics, efficiency, environmental impact, and cost.

The lecture also touched upon the challenges of oceanic geoengineering and carbon sequestration. Ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of CO2 by seawater, was discussed, emphasizing its negative impact on marine ecosystems. The use of magnesium hydroxide to stabilize ocean alkalinity and prevent the decline of carbonate ions crucial for shellfish was mentioned, but it was noted that this technique does not directly remove atmospheric CO2.

The lecture concluded by highlighting the limitations and challenges of current carbon capture and ocean geoengineering methods. The need for scalable and impactful solutions was emphasized, urging engineers to focus on projects that can make a significant difference in addressing climate change.

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