Sunday February 18, 2018

Unique Indian geological feature to mitigate climate change

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Bengaluru: An exceptional geological feature will help India by providing a natural solution to the problem of climate change,  some geologists said.

Scientists have known for years that carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels has been warming the planet. The just-concluded meeting in Paris urged nations to cut their CO2 emissions to ensure that the global temperature does not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level while aiming for a 1.5-degree limit.

But some experts, like law professor Dan Farber of the University of California-Berkeley, doubt whether even the 2-degree goal can be achieved purely through emission cuts, suggesting other avenues must be explored.

India has indeed an additional option, some geologists believe. This consists of capturing the CO2 coming out of coal-fired power plants and injecting it below the Deccan Traps for permanent storage.

Deccan Traps – a thick pile of solidified lava from volcanic eruptions 65 million years ago – occupies about a third of peninsular India and is the world’s largest continental flood-basalt province outside Siberia. The trap cover varies in thickness from a few hundred to a few thousand metres and, below this, lie thick sedimentary rocks. The idea is to pump the CO2 through the porous sedimentary rocks and use the basalt layer above as a “cap” to stop the gas escaping.

“The Deccan volcanic province in India is promising and provides enough material for CO2 sequestration,” Delhi University geologist JP Shrivastava, told this.

He says his laboratory studies have confirmed that CO2 reacts with calcium, magnesium and iron-rich silicates in the lava, turning them into stable carbonate minerals such as calcite, dolomite, magnesite and siderite. Ramakrishna Sonde, formerly executive director of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) had estimated that Deccan Traps might be able to hold 300,000 million tonnes of CO2 – as much as humans produce in 20 years.

Realizing the potential of Deccan Traps as a long-term CO2 storage option, Indian government agencies, jointly with American scientists, proposed in 2007 a field study to investigate the feasibility of this. The motivation for the project came from research at the Battelle Pacific North-West National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington State. The US Pacific Northwest has basalt deposits similar to the Deccan Traps with an estimated holding capacity of more than 50,000 million tonnes of CO2.

The Indian study, proposed by NTPC, was to be carried out in partnership with Hyderabad’s National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and PNNL. It was one of the 17 initiatives endorsed by the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), a 23-member voluntary climate initiative of which India was a founding member. But, according to CSLF, the Indian study has remained “inactive”.

“Interest on the Indian side waned after it became clear in 2009 that no binding international emissions agreements were going to happen anytime soon,” Peter McGrail of PNNL told this correspondent in an e-mail. “I am not sure if the Paris agreement will change anything – too soon to tell,” he added. Officials at NTPC did not reply to a query on why the study failed to take off.

While the Indian study got stuck, McGrail said, “there has been some real progress” on small trials of CO2 injection into basalts in Iceland and another in Washington State. “We just finished closing our CO2 injection well here this August after 1,000 tonnes of CO2 was injected in 2013,” he said.

Shrivastava is disappointed that the government is giving “very little attention” to the vast Deccan basalt with huge potential for CO2 storage. “Our experiments suggest Deccan Traps stands better chances (of storing CO2) compared to the Columbia river continental basalt in the US and a basaltic glass of Iceland,” he said.

Not only the Deccan Traps but other basaltic rocks such as Rajmahal Traps, Sylhet Traps, Panjal Traps and many more have to be examined, he said, adding that India would benefit by reviving the stalled study in Deccan Traps.

Former NGRI director VP Dimri agreed.

“There is enough scope for further research in this direction,” Dimri told this correspondent.

“In addition, to Deccan Traps basalts, the underlying sediments and older volcanic (Gujarat and western Indian offshore) can also be studied for geological sequestration of CO2,” added Om Prakash Pandey, another NGRI scientist.

One possible way to revive the Deccan Traps study, said NGRI’s chief scientist G Parthasarathy, is to use the 1-km boreholes already drilled in Koyna for injecting CO2. The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has, however, ruled this out. “The boreholes were drilled for investigating reservoir-triggered seismicity in the region,” MoES secretary MN Rajeevan said. “They are unsuitable for CO2 injection studies.”(IANS)

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Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wines

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Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wine
Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wine. wikimedia commons

New York, Jan 3, 2018: Although winegrowers seem reluctant to try new grape varieties apparently to protect the taste of the wines, new research suggests that they will ultimately have to give up on their old habit as planting lesser-known grape varieties might help vineyards to counteract some of the effects of climate change.

vineyards. wikimedia commons

“It’s going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we’ve already committed to… for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they’ve grown in the past,” said study co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich, Assistant Professor at Harvard University.

“With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail — that’s my expectation,” she said.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that wine producers now face a choice — proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering the negative consequences of climate change.

“The Old World has a huge diversity of wine grapes — there are overplanted 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 per cent of the wine market in many countries,” Wolkovich said.

“We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change,” she added.

Unfortunately, Wolkovich said, convincing wine producers to try different grape varieties is difficult at best, and the reason often comes down to the current concept of terroir.

Terroir is the notion that a wine’s flavour is a reflection of where which and how the grapes were grown.

Thus, as currently understood, only certain traditional or existing varieties are part of each terroir, leaving little room for change.

The industry — both in the traditional winegrowing centres of Europe and around the world — faces hurdles when it comes to making changes, Wolkovich said.

In Europe, she said, growers have the advantage of tremendous diversity.

They have more than 1,000 grape varieties to choose from. Yet strict labelling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of this diversity.

For example, just three varieties of grapes can be labelled as Champagne or four for Burgundy.

Similar restrictions have been enacted in many European regions – all of which force growers to focus on a small handful of grape varieties.

“The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change,” Wolkovich said.

New World winegrowers, meanwhile, must grapple with the opposite problem — while there are few, if any, restrictions on which grape varieties may be grown in a given region, growers have little experience with the diverse — and potentially more climate change adaptable — varieties of grapes found in Europe, the study said.

Just 12 varieties account for more than 80 per cent of the grapes grown in Australian vineyards, Wolkovich said.

More than 75 per cent of all the grapes grown in China is Cabernet Sauvignon — and the chief reason why has to do with consumers.

“They have all the freedom in the world to import new varieties and think about how to make great wines from a grape variety you’ve never heard of, but they’re not doing it because the consumer hasn’t heard of it,” Wolkovich said. (IANS)