Another climate geo-engineering pipe dream proves futile

Ocean pipes ‘not cool,’ would end up warming climate

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From the Carnegie Institution

Washington, D.C.–To combat global climate change caused by greenhouse gases, alternative energy sources and other types of environmental recourse actions are needed. There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits. A new study from a group of Carnegie scientists determines that these types of pipes could actually increase global warming quite drastically. It is published in Environmental Research Letters.

One proposed strategy–called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, or OTEC–involves using the temperature difference between deeper and shallower water to power a heat engine and produce clean electricity. A second proposal is to move carbon from the upper ocean down into the deep, where it wouldn’t interact with the atmosphere. Another idea, and the focus of this particular study, proposes that ocean pipes could facilitate direct physical cooling of the surface ocean by replacing warm surface ocean waters with colder, deeper waters.

“Our prediction going into the study was that vertical ocean pipes would effectively cool the Earth and remain effective for many centuries,” said Ken Caldeira, one of the three co-authors.

The team, which also included lead author Lester Kwiatkowski as well as Katharine Ricke, configured a model to test this idea and what they found surprised them. The model mimicked the ocean-water movement of ocean pipes if they were applied globally reaching to a depth of about a kilometer (just over half a mile). The model simulated the motion created by an idealized version of ocean pipes, not specific pipes. As such the model does not include real spacing of pipes, nor does it calculate how much energy they would require.

Their simulations showed that while global temperatures could be cooled by ocean pipe systems in the short term, warming would actually start to increase just 50 years after the pipes go into use. Their model showed that vertical movement of ocean water resulted in a decrease of clouds over the ocean and a loss of sea-ice.

Colder air is denser than warm air. Because of this, the air over the ocean surface that has been cooled by water from the depths has a higher atmospheric pressure than the air over land. The cool air over the ocean sinks downward reducing cloud formation over the ocean. Since more of the planet is covered with water than land, this would result in less cloud cover overall, which means that more of the Sun’s rays are absorbed by Earth, rather than being reflected back into space by clouds.

Water mixing caused by ocean pipes would also bring sea ice into contact with warmer waters, resulting in melting. What’s more, this would further decrease the reflection of the Sun’s radiation, which bounces off ice as well as clouds.

After 60 years, the pipes would cause an increase in global temperature of up to 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2degrees Fahrenheit). Over several centuries, the pipes put the Earth on a warming trend towards a temperature increase of 8.5 degrees Celsius (15.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

“I cannot envisage any scenario in which a large scale global implementation of ocean pipes would be advisable,” Kwiatkowski said. “In fact, our study shows it could exacerbate long-term warming and is therefore highly inadvisable at global scales.”

The authors do say, however, that ocean pipes might be useful on a small scale to help aerate ocean dead zones.

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A video abstract of the paper is available here:

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

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142 thoughts on “Another climate geo-engineering pipe dream proves futile

  1. Basically, it would cause a drought especially if these stupid things were planted offshore California. HAHAHA.

    • My thoughts exactly. To get electricity from the wind, it must give up some of its energy. Energy that was going somewhere else before you took with the wind turbine. On a large scale interesting things could happen.

      • Well let’s see now, if average wind circulation winds slow (from windmills) then there should be less ocean evaporation and fewer clouds, ergo more warming! The same could be concluded by modeling reduced ground evaporation because of solar power! Hey, where do I get my modeling grant funding check!

      • I had that very thought when I saw a photo earlier today of a long line of offshore wind turbines. Knowing how getting upwind of a racing sailor can really cause his boat to lose power (and having been roundly cursed for doing so) I’m wondering how much wind the last turbine in a row of twenty turbines actually gets.
        [Very little. 40% to 60% of the front row of turbines, depending on spacing at that wind direction. .mod]

      • I do remember seeing that ground temperatures under the wind farms was several degrees higher that open areas.

      • There was s story on the BBC a few years back that some Indian farmers were complaining there was a local change climate caused by the erection of a wind farm ( their village was in the lee of this ) which was causing their crops to fail. This was ridiculed by the Indian Government and in therefore they did not receive any compensation.
        Then there is the famous photo of the windfarm in the ocean producing huge “con” trails behind each turbine…..

    • Well they will certainly damage local fauna .. From what I have read many raptors fall prey to the spinning turbines. This could result with a raise in animal populations which will affect the entire food chain.

    • If cooler water suppresses cloud development.
      Then doesn’t it follow that warmer water would enhance cloud development.
      Is there any model that assumes more clouds from a warmer ocean?

  2. Oh boy. They are fighting a computer model with another computer model, and lost.
    It is time to turn off the lights?

  3. Groan. Now cooling the surface causes warming. I suppose we had to expect this because these last two winters, we have learned that warming causes cooling. QOTD: “I understand this perfectly well, but it may be to nuanced for others”.
    Anyway, OTEC has been around forever and always does a crash and burn because of its’ horrible thermodynamic efficiency.

    • Basically everything causes warming. The good news is that this makes climate modeling very easy – you just write a program: printf(“It causes warming\n”); printf(“We’re all going to die horrible deaths\n”);

      • Keith Willshaw
        You assert

        If all you want is the cold deep water for cooling that can be recovered much more cheaply with a simple pump.

        Yes. That is what I said the OTEC system does.
        How can it do what it does with a simple pump “more cheaply with a simple pump”?
        Richard

    • TonyL
      You say

      Anyway, OTEC has been around forever and always does a crash and burn because of its’ horrible thermodynamic efficiency.

      Sorry, but that is a misunderstanding.
      Firstly, OTEC can only be used in the few coastal places where the land plunges to the ocean deeps (e.g. Hawaii and parts of India): in most coastal places the land is attached to continental shelf.
      Secondly, OTEC does have poor thermodynamic efficiency for the electricity generation mentioned in the above article, but the system developed and demonstrated in Hawaii in the 1990s is not for that. The Hawaiian OTEC system only provides sufficient electricity to operate the pumps which lift cold water to the surface height. This cold water can then be used as coolant for air conditioning (A/C) systems. Using this ocean water coolant is much more efficient and much cheaper than using a power system to operate conventional A/C.
      Thirdly, the Hawaiian OTEC system is community cooling similar in principle to the community heating provided by cogeneration, and some societies have cultural resistance to such provisions.
      I visited and studied the Hawaiian OTEC cooling system and I was impressed by its potential for use in its few niche markets.
      Richard

      • The Hawaii OTEC plant was a bust. It produced 50kW of electricity for a capital cost that ran into millions of dollars and a running cost that would have bankrupted any commercial provider. If all you want is the cold deep water for cooling that can be recovered much more cheaply with a simple pump.

      • Simple pump = Simple pump
        OTEC = Lots of infrastructure, planning, maintenance, financing, maintenance, coordination, maintenance.
        Of course with the community OTEC system there is also necessary management. This provides income/job opportunities for those that are good at managing. And then there are also jobs for those that manage the managers. And don’t forget the coordinators & organizers ….. The benefits of the shared community systems are too many to list.

      • DonM
        I wrote

        Thirdly, the Hawaiian OTEC system is community cooling similar in principle to the community heating provided by cogeneration, and some societies have cultural resistance to such provisions.

        You have replied

        Of course with the community OTEC system there is also necessary management. This provides income/job opportunities for those that are good at managing. And then there are also jobs for those that manage the managers. And don’t forget the coordinators & organizers ….. The benefits of the shared community systems are too many to list.

        QED
        Richard

  4. If cooling the ocean surface results in fewer clouds and subsequent warming, then warming the ocean surface results in more clouds and subsequent … cooling.
    Hmmm…. That sounds like some sort of regulator mechanism. I wonder where I saw that recently…?

  5. OTEC was a phase within stage one of the “eight easy steps” to saving the planet and colonizing the universe as outlined in this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Millennial-Project-Colonizing-Galaxy/dp/0316771635 (summarized here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millennial_Project:_Colonizing_the_Galaxy_in_Eight_Easy_Steps#The_steps_of_the_project)
    The idea is not only getting energy, but the minerals from the lower ocean, are transported up the pipe, and used as feedstock to build atolls supporting other industries…
    Pity this proves it won’t work, the universe is doomed, and we’re all gonna die, instead.
    Oh well. ‘nother beer?

  6. Mega-genius idea ahead!
    We can use the generator to drive the pumps. (Max old boy, you’re brilliant.)
    If that doesn’t work (how could it not), can’t we all just get on one side of the earth and push it a little farther from the sun?

      • ongoing perpetual logical fallacy production:
        Mark and two Cats
        March 19, 2015 at 10:56
        pm
        We had the same idea:
        perpetual motion from
        the ocean – cold fusion
        (well, wet fusion).
        ____
        not at all. That’d be consumption of accumulated energie with the oceans as accumulators.
        ____
        don’t fall at any chance. But ….
        correct me if you’re /sarc
        Hans

    • “If that doesn’t work (how could it not), can’t we all just get on one side of the earth and push it a little farther from the sun?”
      No, no, everyone [on] one side would have to jump up and down at the same time (resonance).

      • mod: “one one” should be “on one”
        [yes, but you would need a “rolling jump” as the earth turns on its axis to ensure all of the impulse from one side of the earth jumping up (pushing down) is reinforced by the next kilometer of people (all on the same longitude of course) all jumping simultaneously. That would create the resonance needed by the time the first longitude got back to its reference point 24 hours later. At 1000 km/hr (at the equator), and an average jump of 1/2 meter per person …
        Now, are you needing the earth to move ahead in its orbit, behind in its orbit, “out” more, or “in” more? .mod]

      • Just build very tall pedestals – one centered on the north pole and the other on the south pole – with very large turbines at the top of each pedestal, turning in sync with the earth’s rotation and opposing each other in the direction to straighten up the axial tilt of this spinning top! Now go calculate the height of the towers and the required horsepower to accomplish this within – say 1000 years. We wouldn’t want to make the change over too short a time, as there might be some serious quakes, slopping of oceans in their basins, etc. What would the computer models predict for global temp. under this scenario?

      • I like that, similar to satellite reaction wheels, only REALLY big. Only problem I see is that it would seriously screw up continental drift.
        Talk about your unforeseen consequences!

    • Max Photon said: “If that doesn’t work (how could it not), can’t we all just get on one side of the earth and push it a little farther from the sun?”
      Maybe if everyone, at exactly solar noon every day, jumped up and down for a minute, the earth would move away from the sun. If it gets too cold, we jump at midnight. Heck, the Chinese could move the earth all by themselves.

  7. Where are the calculations about energy retrieved compared to energy expended to drive the pump? This looks like just another free energy machine – I get spam eMails all the time wanting me to build or invest in such wonderful devices. To me it just looks like another scam where the cats eat the rats and the rats eat the cats.
    If you program a computer to tell you that the laws of physics no longer apply that is what it will tell you. How difficult is this to understand?

  8. This reminds me of something I’ve pondered – Could the combined effect of the heat exchange of all the air conditioning systems on the planet be having a similar impact on surface temperatures, at least on a localized level?

    • Russell

      This reminds me of something I’ve pondered – Could the combined effect of the heat exchange of all the air conditioning systems on the planet be having a similar impact on surface temperatures, at least on a localized level?

      No. And yes.
      Confused you yet? 8<)
      yes. The "local effect" of ALL power consumption in and around a local city or town IS an effect – and is part of the Urban Heat Island measurement of local temperatures rising as you approach, drive through, and leave any developed area. The air conditioning "load" starts with the electric power consumed by the compressor and fans of the HVAC units in every house and office and store, then adds to the lights and local resistance heaters and computers and modems and TV's and microwaves and the rest of "life as we know it" .. That electric load is ADDED to the "heat load" caused by asphalt and concrete (parking lots, streets, building walls, sidewalks, highways, bridges, etc.) and to the local "removal of trees and grasslands" … (And, in truth, most liberal "urbanites" who live inside large cities really are ignorant of just how LITTLE an area their " concrete playground" of multi-story buildings and solid streets actually covers!) Asphalt and heat reflections from buildings usually are larger than direct (electric) and indirect (HVAC and heat) loads in UHI measurements.
      So, UHI is a very real influence on today's measured land-based temperature record. HVAC and lights and heating is a part – but only a part! – that UHI effect.

      • Checking some data for New York City, due to having their own power supply it may be higher than your idea.
        I could never understand how UHI was minimized. If you look at New York City as an example.
        Area, including water 468.9 sq mi ( 2,590,000 sq m)
        Power used (2008) 54,869 GW-hr
        (http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/downloads/pdf/progress_2008_energy.pdf)
        Watts/sq m = 2,416 total. The Mayor says 80 percent is used by buildings and therefore 100 percent ends up as heat loss. So the forcing is 1,933 W/Sq M
        The file also remarks that the city has seen a 23 percent increase in the last 10 years, which is close to the increase showing up in the charts.
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/26/a-new-paper-comparing-ncdc-rural-and-urban-us-surface-temperature-data/#comment-329553
        Well it should be updated a little. Clarifying the 80 percent used by buildings was for lighting and heat, so by next day at the same temperature it was all turned to waste heat. I heard later that Reliability concerns require that 80% of the City’s peak load be met with in-City resources under a mandate from the New York State Reliability Council and the New York Independent System Operator.
        The original calculation would now be 54,869 GW-hr / year * 1.0 x 1.00E+09 W/GW x 8760 hr/yr = 6,263,600,000 W-hr / hr. that divided by 2,590,000 m^2 = 2418 W / m^2 each hour. But if you take at least 60 percent of power generated in the city generates 40 percent excess waste heat to convert to electrical power = 2418 x (1+ .24) = 3000 W / m^2 of extra energy being dumped in the air of New York City. And that is from electrical power alone, doesn’t include all the vehicle waste heat.
        So does 3,000 w / m^2 raise the temperature more than 100 ppm CO2?

    • Not much other that the small amount of heat pickup from the compressor and outdoor fan motor the majority of your heat is just being moved from indoors to out … it was already present

    • Heat released to atmosphere from energy use by mankind is increasing all of the time and like you this is something I have oft pondered upon.
      As a layman, albeit with a sound science background from school (a long time ago) it seems logical to me that:
      1. this must have some effect on global temperature – even if the effect is only measureable as localised UHI within any connurbation; (Having said that I suspect that the earth’s complex natural thermostat controls that, returning excess heat in one form of energy or another to space)
      2. it makes no real difference how that heat energy released to atmosphere is generated be it fossil fuel, nuclear or renewable – it is the only anthropogenic influence on temperature or the global energy balance;
      If, as seems the case from empirical evidence, that CO2 has very limited or no real effect on global temperatures then the only conceivable area that might be of concern is the level of energy use and release by mankind; although again empirical evidence suggests that has no measurable effect other than localised UHI.
      Do renewable energy sources avoid an increase to earth’s energy balance ? I suspect not for a variety of reasons.

  9. “Since more of the planet is covered with water than land, this would result in less cloud cover overall, which means that more of the Sun’s rays are absorbed by Earth, rather than being reflected back into space by clouds.” Wait a minute – that is a negative feedback. What sort of a climate model is this?
    “Over several centuries, the pipes put the Earth on a warming trend towards a temperature increase of 8.5 degrees Celsius”. OK, now my BS detector is clanging.
    This article should provide a link to the paper, or at least a reference.

  10. Ha Ha ha ha ha ha….
    Sure, just order up some pumps with a 1/2 mile vertical head capacity (how high a pump can pump), yeah the catalogs are just chock full of those babies, NOT.
    There is a limit to how high a pump can pump, it’s the physics, turns out a 1/2 mile high column of water weighs just a wee bit.
    Not a problem, we’ll just add pumps as necessary, say about one every 200 vertical feet ought to do it, so 1/2 mile = 5280 feet / divided by 2 (carry the three…), divided by 200…. I get about 13 pumps distributed along the height of the pipe, yeah that should work.
    Of course they will have some of the super duper polished pipe with no drag induced against the flow of the water, and 100 percent efficient pumps so the pumps do not give off any heat, and of course some superconducting underwater cables so there are no resistance losses….
    And of course it’s all under seawater, no corrosion problems likely there….. Last 50 years, ha ha, probably more like 50 days….
    Ha ha ha….
    Rube Goldberg is probably sorry he didn’t come up with stuff as wacky as these “Climate Engineers”….
    Cheers, KevinK.

    • Funny, isn’t it? They can calculate the climate a hundred years out, but not how to pump water a kilometer.
      The devil is in the details.*
      * (Devil not included.)

    • Don’t forget the critters that live in the oceans, even at the proposed depths.
      How does one clean a Kraken out of a pump?

      • Posiden might get a bit irritated if you go sucking his pets into a giant vacuum cleaner.
        And he IS god of the sea and earthquakes..

      • One should clean a Kraken out of a pump with apologies.
        For the other sea critters, baleen filters them out very efficiently. Getting the baleen trade up and running would create a demand for harpoons, and therein lies an investment opportunity.

    • Yep – you can tell no engineers were consulted about this idea or they would have known it wouldn’t work, let alone for 50 years!

      • xyzzy11
        It does work, and the pumping is around a cycle (as much water goes down as up) so the water is circulated and not lifted. Most energy loss is turbulence and friction in the pipes.
        It is useless for electricity generation but useful for A/C in the very few places where it can be used.
        Please see my above post that is here.
        Richard

      • There is also the density difference to add to the pump work load. From this chart, it looks like about 3 grams per liter from a thousand meters up to the surface, not negligible, but still doable. Running the cooling pipe back down as suggested (but not illustrated in the diagram) would help, and the heat exchanger won’t be 100% efficient, so we wouldn’t warm the coolant water to the full 3 grams difference.

    • I read their statement that they didn’t bother to calculate the energy required to move the water and wondered why they wouldn’t start there and realize that doing this on any sort of scale is more or less impossible. Preventing the pumped fluid from changing temperature quickly to the outside-of-the-pipe temperature by itself would be a mind-boggling endeavor. I don’t think there’s a material that will both survive the salt in the ocean and will be thermally isolated enough to keep the in-pipe “cold” water from heating up while not getting split pipe segments because of the pressure differences between different water temperatures. Pretty much every joint in that pipe column is going to start blowing higher-density cold water into the warmer waters above their source depth.
      Perhaps a double-wall column with an air pocket?….No. That would get crushed at depth. Hm. Quite an interesting engineering issue.
      Though, there are good submersible water supply pumps that can function down to 2,000 feet if you have a small enough pipe diameter….but I think that makes the thermal isolation issues harder and would reduce the amount of energy this could muster.

      • Jacketed stainless steel piping with insulating vacuum (or Aerogel at $500/cubic centimetre – heh) in the annular space with a varying external pipe wall thickness to resist higher pressure down below.
        There, I’ve solved everything! Where’s my cheque?

      • I like where you’re going! But using a thicker wall requires either casting the steel with an increasing thickness over a span (e.g. crossing all joints), which I do not believe has ever been done to this scale. Assuming that you would simply increase the thickness in each joint, you would need to change your connection style as you’d create a structural weakness by having a cleft in each thread joint as the pipe column descended. I think that any manufacturer would recommend moving to a welded joint, which has a lot of issues by itself.
        On the other hand, while a vacuum would solve the heat transfer issue I’m not certain how to deploy a joint-by-joint vacuum without having an outer and inner structure joined within each joint. Since it’s stainless steel, the temperature would easily become uniform throughout the steel and transfer to the contained fluid. I would think that enough steel to both counteract the crushing force from both outside and inside would easily transfer temperature changes through the body without having to worry about the vacuum.

    • KevinK,
      If I pull a bucket of water out of the sea, the hole in the sea fills itself in. If I pulled that bucket of water out of a 2′ diameter standing pipe inserted ten feet deep with an opening at the bottom, water would flow into the bottom end of that pipe and up the pipe to fill the bucket hole at the surface. The power to move water up the pipe would come from static pressure at the 10 foot depth. My work load to pull up the bucket filled with water remains the same. That is merely a matter of the weight of the bucket and its water, and the height I wish to lift it.
      While not weighing in on the advisability of building an OTEC system, I just want to point out the pumping energy involved would be that of lifting water only 10-20 feet if the system was built on a seashore. If the system was mounted on a barge or within the hull of a ship, the pumped height would be even less.
      No matter how the system was built, energy required to pump the cold water sourced at depth would not exceed the energy required to pump the warm surface water.
      SR

    • Ha Ha ha ha ha ha….
      Sure, just order up some pumps with a 1/2 mile vertical head capacity (how high a pump can pump), yeah the catalogs are just chock full of those babies, NOT.

      Stevan Reddish just answered this, but you might not have read his response in sufficient detail. Here’s a shorter one that says about the same thing.
      It’s essentially a closed, all water loop. The pressure needed for the pump is just that to overcome friction and the slightly different density of the water. They’re not pumping water to half a mile uphill.
      If you ever hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, be sure to note the water pipe that’s carrying water from the north rim to the south rim. No pump involved, but there’s some pretty high pressure in that pipe.

    • While I agree in part to your criticism, you forget the source water has that same column of water sitting on it. You are pumping from a highly pressurized source medium (100’s of atmospheres) to a destination that is at 1 atmosphere (maybe 3atm if you are down below at 20 meters) All you really have to do with such a pump is impart motion on the water and the pressure differential should counteract your head height. Now if you are trying to move it out of the water column to an altitude of 1000m, I agree that would be a rare pump indeed.
      I do wonder though, would the water get colder as it was depressurized? Could it freeze? 4C at 100 atm (3200 ft ~1000m) to ?C at 3 atm (64ft ~20m). I should be able to do this with an estimate of the partial derivative of temperature with respect to pressure for sea water. (Found it – the water would cool about 7C in transit of 1000m depth making it -3C when it reached the surface which is indeed below the freezing point of seawater.)
      I am more worried with the thermal efficiency, as it seems to be trying to get something for nothing and that never works. They always under estimate the losses and overestimate the gains.

    • ” just order up some pumps with a 1/2 mile vertical head capacity”
      It’s a closed system, so there would be no head pressure, just frictional losses to overcome. The same concept as a radiant heating circulator that can pump 8 GPM, up 2 stories, on ~40 Watts of power.

    • If you use an evaporative cooling tower, the water will be turned into gaseous form at a very low altitude, 10’s of meters, and being lighter than air it will rise to great altitudes without additional energy input; we just need to build more nuclear power plants to go with the cooling towers.

    • Kevin, If the pipes are in the sea from top to bottom as opposed to out of the sea 1/2mile above, the head is essentially just the friction of the pipe(?)

    • Kevin, if water is pumped from a one mile vertical pipe the head requirement is the friction loss within the piping plus the head to the heat exchanger. I designed an offshore thermal energy plant just for the hell of it, and it works. There’s a positive energy output, but the system requires a high voltage cable from a floating plant to the shore.
      An alternative would be to install the plant on the beach and lay a huge set of pipes on the sea floor. I suppose this would work if the slope was really steep? But I can’t recall such a steep drop.
      I have an additional comment about the article: the amount of fossil fuels we have is finite. Therefore anything which works for 50 years would be fine and dandy. By 2065 we won’t have that much oil to kick around. Furthermore, it seems the whole exercise is kind of stupid. I also disagree with the geo engineering putdown. I see a need to learn to understand how to solve problems such as warming, and ocean ph changes, and in the far future we will have to deal with an ice age.

    • @ KevinK.- We can tell…. you’re not an engineer, you know little about physics & nothing about fluid dynamics or seawater corrosion problems.
      You are emulating climate scientists, by giving us a string of meaningless maths.
      It could be done with low head pumps, as you only need to overcome the the friction of the pipe as you have a low static head…”it’s the physics”.
      Nb: there are deep well pumps that will pump a head of up to 12,000 feet (3.7 km), ‘ it’s the mechanical design’ !!

  11. To add a few more raindrops to this parade, was the roughness coefficient of the pipe based on a smooth pipe, or a fully-fouled pipe? If a smooth pipe, then marine fouling (barnacles, etc.) would cause enough friction loss to overcome any net energy production. I recall the fouling calculation when looking at first-generation OTEC proposal. The only solution was copper or similar toxic antifouling surface.

    • Neil, it depends on the water intake point. Water rising from a mile down may not have anything in it to worry about. And it’s fairly easy to pig it. They just need to design a huge pig launcher and pump a large pig down the pipe.

  12. Their simulations showed that while global temperatures could be cooled by ocean pipe systems in the short term, warming would actually start to increase just 50 years after the pipes go into use. Their model showed that vertical movement of ocean water resulted in a decrease of clouds over the ocean and a loss of sea-ice.
    Colder air is denser than warm air. Because of this, the air over the ocean surface that has been cooled by water from the depths has a higher atmospheric pressure than the air over land. The cool air over the ocean sinks downward reducing cloud formation over the ocean. Since more of the planet is covered with water than land, this would result in less cloud cover overall, which means that more of the Sun’s rays are absorbed by Earth, rather than being reflected back into space by clouds.

    OK. Yeah. Right. Sure. Uh-uh. (Do four positives make a negative, if three lefts make a right turn and two negatives make a positive?)
    They argue that “sea ice would be melted” if their scheme were implemented because “clouds would be affected ” in fifty years. ??? The total electric energy needed by ALL of humanity would not be created ANYWHERE near the limited areas of sea ice now – nor in fifty years.
    They argue that “clouds would be affected ” claiming they would be deceased since cold air is denser than warm air – which is true. And “sea breezes” and “land breezes” reverse every 12 hours as the land heats up (everywhere) faster than the sea in the day, and cools faster than the sea in the night skies of darkness. Their pipe dreams will not change that.
    They are assuming “cold deep water” are available near the shore – but the entire north American Atlantic coast, All of the Baltic coasts off of Europe, all of the Mediterranean coasts, most of the Asian coasts, and most of the African coastlines – where people need electricity – are shallow continental shelves NOT available with handy-California-type deep cold water offshore!
    So … They could develop these, and not find anyplace where they could work where electricity is needed.
    Except where a 200 – 300 mile underwater electric extension cable is available… That would further increase losses.

      • Piper Paul

        Let’s post it over at Eng-Tips in the process engineering forum.

        But I’m torn in choosing the proper forum and industry:
        Heat Transfer and Fluid Dynamics,
        Mechanical Engineering,
        Electric Power, Transmission, and Distribution,
        Electric Motors and Generators,
        Corrosion Engineering,
        Mechanical Engineering,
        Machines and Machining Engineering,
        Metal and Metallurgy,
        Structural Engineering,
        Ocean and Ocean Facilities,
        Pipelines, Piping and Fluid Mechanics,
        Pump engineering,
        Power and Controls,
        Energy Conversion,
        Engines and Turbines,

        Who would find the biggest problems, weakest link, and fastest failure modes?
        Or just put it in directly into “Engineering Failures and Disasters?”
        8<)

      • RACookPE1978
        March 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm
        For power production + quite a few.
        Maybe, as richardscourtney says, it’s useful in a few specific locales for air conditioning. Great.
        But running Gore-bull industry . . . . I think not, actually.
        Auto

  13. Are there any sane people left in institutions of learning? Then again to institutionalise someone was to send them to a jail or an asylum and it increasingly looks like most of the “in crowd” should be in one or the other.

  14. SO colder makes it warmer….
    Unintended consequences always abound when one tries to play “with a natural control.”

  15. What kills me about these geo-engineering is that nobody does the simple math up front.
    Area of earth is 510,000,000 km^2
    Call it 500,000,000,000,000 m^2
    To cool the earth by one quarter of one degree, you need approximately 1 w/m2.
    I really don’t care what it is, or how it works. Someone has to turn it on. That’s a lot of watts. Better pray that
    a) it does what they think it does when they turn it on
    b) that its really easy to turn off if it doesn’t
    c) that who ever is running it doesn’t get mad at their neighbour and do something stupid
    d) that their neighbour doesn’t decide to pre-empt stupid….

  16. Once upon a time, The Carnegie Science Institution of Washington D.C. established the Geophysical Laboratory and from there was established the American Geophysical Union for the promotion of Geophysics and publishing results of Geophysical research.
    Today, the ‘CEO’ McEntee and her ilk of the A”G” Earth and space science U have spoiled the well and ravaged the land.
    [trimmed. Keep it up and you will be banned. .mod]

  17. Yup, just another perpetual motion machine of sorts.
    All that cold water is at the bottom of the ocean for a reason… it’s more dense (i.e. heavier) than the water at the surface. If you run the numbers, I guarantee that it will take more energy to get that water up to the heat-exchanger system than you can ever gain from the temperature difference.
    Don’t they teach thermodynamics anymore?

  18. See this reference for a laundry list of OTEC problems (chemical effects for example):
    http://crrc.unh.edu/sites/crrc.unh.edu/files/media/docs/Workshops/otec_2/a_primer_v3.pdf
    Chemical Effects
    o As previously mentioned the discharge water will contain corrosional and erosional
    products, biocide from the heat exchangers, and possibly leaked working fluid. In
    addition the platform will release biocides from the antifouling paint and there is always
    the potential of a working fluid or biocide spill. These contaminants may act singularly
    or in combination on exposed biota.
    Direct toxicity to exposed organisms.
    Biomagnification of toxins with toxicity to higher trophic level organisms including humans.

  19. In the block diagram, the turbine is displayed backward. High pressure gas goes in the small end, and comes out the large end. As the turbine extracts power, the gas pressure drops and has to expand, so you need a bigger cross section as you work through each stage….

  20. If the design does not give a useful net gain, will it do so if the cycle is reversed?
    Geoff

  21. It has been mentioned in comments already, in different ways, but what this tells me is:
    If the oceans cool, there is a mechanism that starts warming them again (reduction in clouds). Ipso facto, if the oceans warm, there is a mechanism that cools them again (increase in clouds).
    My take on this is that our climate is protected by at least one, and probably more, strongly negative feedback mechanisms. The fact that the climate has neither frozen completely or boiled away yet is a testament to that theory. Until that theory is disproved by empirical evidence (not models), I refuse to believe the climate is in any danger whatsoever from less than one tenth of one percent additional CO2.

    • Houston to RobR,
      Sorry about that. The ENSOmeter is currently out of action awaiting recalibration once certain adjustments are made to its reality reference device.
      We are 97% confident that it will be back on line in due course making accurate forecasts that we can all take to the bank.
      Houston sarcing off

    • It’s been windy around home this week (New Hampshire). The ENSO meter shook itself
      off the wall peg I hang it on, if it doesn’t go back up next week, I’ll look for a replacement.

  22. At best all it is doing is transferring heat from the surface to the deep ocean. It is impossible for it to cool the planet in this way, it is merely shifting heat around. But taking all the losses into account it is pretty unlikey that it could do much of that either. He needs a good haircut as well.

    • Nothing wrong with transferring heat into deep water, other than it raises the water temperature a teensy bit and increases sea level. It seems to me the idea they proposed is silly, but I’m teased by the engineering challenge.

  23. They need hundreds of thousand ships with 1 km long pipe extended down plying the world’s oceans. Where will the ships get power for the pumps? Diesel? How much energy? 5 x 10^22 joules per year. Around 100 times greater than the world’s energy consumption.

  24. “Their model showed that vertical movement of ocean water resulted in a decrease of clouds over the ocean and a loss of sea-ice.”
    So conversely warmer SST causes more clouds and more sea-ice? Negative feedback anybody?

  25. ‘ “Our prediction going into the study was that vertical ocean pipes would effectively cool the Earth and remain effective for many centuries,” said Ken Caldeira. ‘
    This is how to top up Trenberth’s missing heat – or has this already happened? Much, much higher standard of proof required before any geoengineering is even trialled, let alone implemented – the well-intentioned never think things through. I believe that is axiomatic of the left.

  26. I believe the results of this study because they have been so successful
    at modeling clouds and sea ice in the past. And there is no truth to the idea
    that pipes will get fouled or corrode in sea water.
    /sarc

  27. Looking at the graphic I note that there are no cables running to the pumps from the generator. One must then assume the pumps are powered by solar and wind arrays. The 25 watt bulb sticking up above the waterline puzzles me. Is this intended as a navigation aid? Apparently grant money doesn’t buy much these days.
    Put this in the same category as cast iron airplanes and tissue paper cars.

  28. “we really don’t understand the atmospheric consequences of vertical ocean pipes”
    There you have about as a succinct a synopsis of the true state of your actual Climate Science ( the real thing I mean not the 97% settled sort of ‘climate science’). By implication it also explains why the ‘models’ don’t seem to work any better than those 1:24 scale glue together plastic models of fighter planes actually took off and shot down ‘enemy’ models when I was a kid ( and I think that may still be the case). Damn that was frustrating!

  29. Let’s cut to the chase; we are sitting on Magma, you know…molten rock! Why waste effort on warmish water/coolish water when you have LAVA! How many millenia would it take to suck the heat out of the center of this rock if we used our internal heat as THE energy source for 9 billion people?

  30. The theory is the temperature difference between the upper ocean and the lower ocean provides a path for energy flow and generate electricity. This temperature difference provides “FREE” energy. The trouble in practice is the temperature difference is so small, it is not economical to use it to extract the energy. Free is one thing, but usable is quite another.
    The temperature difference exploited in a coal fired generating plant is on the order of 900 degrees F. Plus additional heat is put into the steam at intervals in the extraction process to prevent condensation of water inside the power turbine.
    I seem to remember a book I read about engineer’s dreams that had a story of this very process being tried around 1900 or so. A gentleman constructed a system that was tested off the coast of Cuba to test the idea. He lost all of his investment without producing any usable electricity.

  31. Ridiculous to waste time thinking about this. Most of us have flown for Sydney to LA. There is a mind boggling amount of water in between, and that is almost the narrowest diagonal across the Pacific. Pipe dream is what this. Everyone should try to evaluate pragmatic solutions, not stuff that can be discarded before doing a feasibility study. CAGW is affecting everyone in really worrying ways. This sort of article is folly for this blog Anthony.

  32. Forget the pipes, the CO2 sequestration or any other scheme that misses the obvious.
    Just move civilization underwater where it’s cooler. The energy to run all of these underwater cities would come from…uh wait a minute, let me consult my geo-engineering handbook.

  33. @DD More: “I could never understand how UHI was minimized. If you look at New York City as an example.
    Area, including water 468.9 sq mi ( 2,590,000 sq m)”
    I was never particularly good at math, so it is possible that I am missing something obvious, but here goes anyway: Exactly how does 468.9 sq. miles translate to 2,590,000 sq. meters? Can someone help me out here?

  34. But all the missing heat has been transferred to the bottom of the ocean, where the water is boiling hot, right? We need old Kev to weigh in on this…

  35. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to live at the bottom of the sea at a nice cosy 4degC……?

  36. This is not a serious proposal, the handling of seawater is already a trouble, corrosion and fouling. The cycle has a low temperature driving force appr. 15 oC, the exchangers a LMTD of 5 oC . I would like to see the calculation for the heat pump cycle and ecomomics. Maybe there is just enough power left over for the light bulb in the diagram

  37. The article might have another intention namely to prove the theory of the missing heat and that over 50 years from now Armageddon will happen.

  38. One cynical observation: when people tell you that a global warming mitigation scheme won’t work because their climate model says so, you should consider the possibility that they are really saying that we should just bend over and take the medicine, for the good of our environmental souls.
    And the medicine is: use less energy, consume less stuff, and, broadly, just be poorer.
    Fine for hippies in California, less good for people on benefit in Geordieland or starving in Somalia.

  39. “The newly cooled air over the ocean was denser, which created higher atmospheric pressure over the oceans relative to land….Because more than 70% of Earth is covered by ocean, the net impact of this effect in the model was to reduce global cloud cover, and hence reduce albedo (reflectivity).”
    So what happens when the ocean surfaces warm?

    • They forgot to model the full cycle effect. The cooler water absorbs CO2 from the air. This reduces the temperature, reduces drought in California, causes more ice and snow, glaciers start growing and polar bears will be fat and happy.

  40. My word. They think it is so bad we may have to shift to nukes? (Nah, nothing could be that bad.)

  41. By decreasing cloud cover, they would cause the earth to warm.
    So they are admitting that clouds dominate climate feedbacks?

  42. These things might screw up a small area surrounding them, but affect anything globally? Not a chance. It never ceases to amaze how all these great scientists have no sense of scale. It would be like the proverbial flea on an elephant.

    • Exactly. The myopia and the lack of basic statistical understanding (intended or unintended I do not know), these people suffer from is astounding.

  43. ” ….. lead author Lester Kwiatkowski as well as Katharine Ricke, configured a model to test this idea and what they found surprised them.”
    Why were the surprised? They configured the model. The model simply produced the output that is was configured to produce. The various outcomes were predictable, unless their model was faulty.

  44. “The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.”
    Funny they are located there.
    Things that make you go “hmmmm?”

  45. No engineer was disturbed in making this sciencey idealized contraption. Willis will smile at the results of their simulation although what they don’t know is it wont take 50 years before warming ensues, it will simply delay the afternoon clouds by half an hour and they will be net-heating up the ocean the following afternoon!

  46. so…in order to “fix” a supposed slight on the environment caused by man the solution was to DIRECTLY affect environment on a massive scale.
    yup…no issues there….

  47. Took a quick look at the paper. They assume that enough of these plants will be built to produce complete mixing of the upper 1000 meters of the entire ocean. Insane. Not only is the scale insane, there is also the fact that if the plants are anything more than a small perturbation on the T gradient, they will stop working.
    The model outputs reported look like nonsense. The authors seem to have the attitude: “It must be true since the computer says so”. They claim that the mixing will release CO2 from the ocean. That makes no sense. The oceans are a sink for CO2, so increased mixing should enhance ocean uptake. They claim an increase in radiative forcing of 32 W/m^2, mainly due to a reduction in net cloud cooling. That is a reduction of somewhere between 150 and 200%. Negative clouds. And it looks like the warming from the CO2 does not bring the clouds back. What nonsense.

  48. How about having a look at cloud distribution over the world’s oceans and seeing how it varies with temperature? Cold areas seem to have at least as much cloudiness as warm areas.

  49. My two biggest problems with their analysis are these;
    1) They seem to presume the cold water pumped to the surface…would stay at the surface. No…The cold water, even after the heat exchanger, would still be colder than the surrounding water and, being mode dense, would sink back down to where it would reach it’s equilibrium level at some point deeper so it’s cooling effect would not be realized at the surface.
    2) From the article:
    >Colder air is denser than warm air. Because of this, the air over the ocean surface that has been cooled >by water from the depths has a higher atmospheric pressure than the air over land. The cool air over the >ocean sinks downward reducing cloud formation over the ocean. Since more of the planet is covered with >water than land, this would result in less cloud cover overall, which means that more of the Sun’s rays are >absorbed by Earth, rather than being reflected back into space by clouds.
    They have no clue about meteorology either. Now, their first statement is correct. However, after that, it goes down hill. *If* the colder water were to stay at the surface, the warmer (and, presumably more moist) air would be blown over the cooler water…causing the air to cool and…create an advection inversion (cooler air at surface with warmer air above) and cause a layer of stratocumulous to form or, if the surface air is cooled enough, stratus or even sea fog. IOW – it creates a ‘marine layer’ and the fog/clouds which go along with it. This is the semi-persistent condition off the US West Coast.
    Jeff

  50. Around 1980, Illinois Power Co. built a coal gassification plant at Wood River Power Station (where I was an operator at the time). Despite promises of powering itself and producing valuable chemical byproducts, we were never able to get steady enough combustion in a gas/pulverized coal boiler to power the 50mw turbine-generator. The plant was scrapped after an attempt at using a modified gas turbine just a few years later and had mostly self-destructed from it’s own corrosive products.
    I can’t help but find the power company’s theory to have been more plausible than ocean pipes. From that experience, I would predict any such contraption would never become a marketable reality.

  51. OK. I’m late to the party, haven’t read all the comments (there are 120 of them, that’s a lot of reading).
    But— a couple of questions. Aren’t the ocean currents that already exist doing the very thing these mechanical devices are supposed to do? Probably doing it better to boot.
    Wouldn’t these machines require lots of energy? Last time I checked, the only place you could get energy on the level that these devices would require is either fossil fuels or nuclear-powered generation. It’s ludicrous to think that a device capable of moving enough ocean water to make a noticeable difference could run on solar or wind-power alone– unless it is on the global scale that the presently-operating ocean currents already employ.

  52. Why not drive a generator with a simple siphon from sea water over a dry dock and into a sewer system?
    (Grants gladly accepted.)

    • But since the sewer system drains to the sea the dry dock area fills up. But this is O.K. since we can pump it out with the huge energy obtained from the generator. And if we put it all together on a community scale there may even be enough energy left over for cooling the adjacent town.
      (Mebbe we can partner on the project … to make the grant aplication look more appealing we need to get a community partner as well … one that isn’t culturally resistant to stupidity).

      • I’m just an amateur throwing ideas around, but what if gravity flow can be maintained throughout the system?

        • Tim

          I’m just an amateur throwing ideas around, but what if gravity flow can be maintained throughout the system?

          Gravity flow can’t “pump” the cold, dense (high-saline) salt water from the deep waters up to the surface to go through the high=resistance of the heat exchanger near the surface.

    • If gravity could be maintained, or created, then you would have the efficiency of a standard hydropower system.

  53. You really have to wonder if these guys appreciate just how big the oceans are and such efforts would be amount to nothing.

  54. don’t fall AT ANY SOME chance.
    ____
    Long you live and high you fly
    And smiles you’ll give and tears
    you’ll cry
    And all you touch and all you see
    Is all your life will ever be
    ____
    pink floyd, the dark side of the moon.
    Sorry for pointing. Hans

  55. Hmmmm….first, Trenberth et. al. claim that the “missing heat” is lurking deep in the abyss, and now this scheme is based upon cold, deep ocean water?
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/10/06/the-heat-went-to-the-oceans-excuse-and-trenberths-missing-heat-is-awol-deep-ocean-has-not-warmed-since-2005/
    One unintended benefit of the scheme would be recycling of nutrients from the abyss to the surface waters, which would stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, bait fish and apex predators such as sharks and tuna.
    However, I wouldn’t touch the energetics of the thing with a dead tuna….pumping water from the abyss to the surface would probably be a net energy loser.

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