Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This Much Carbon Dioxide

There may be those of you who are wondering where I got a couple of numbers I've been using. There also may be many of you who trust me and don't really care to check my math. For those of you who are math averse, you may want to read a different entry.

For those of you who wouldn't mind helping me by checking my math, read on.


LS Power has informed us that they intend to burn 7 million tons of coal a year in the White Pine Energy Associates plant.

Sierra Pacific has informed that they intend to burn 8 million tons of coal a year in the Ely Energy Center plant.


7,000,000 tons/year + 8,000,000 tons/year = 15,000,000 tons/year

The plants are expected to operate between 40 and 60 years (although they could operate up to 75 years). I will assume a conservative 50 years.

15,000,000 tons/year x 50 years = 750,000,000 tons of coal burned

Conclusion A:

In the next 50 years, these two coal plants will burn 750 MILLION TONS of coal.


carbon atomic weight is 12

oxygen atomic weight is 16


CO2 molecular weight = 12 + 16 + 16 = 44

the ratio atomic weights of carbon and CO2 = 44/12 = 3.66

since coal is primarily carbon, but not purely carbon, I will round down the ratio to: 3 to 3.5

750,000,000 tons of C x 3 tons CO2/tons of C = 2,000,000,000 tons of CO2

750,000,000 tons of C x 3.5 tons of CO2/tons of C = 2,600,000,000 tons of CO2

Conclusion B:

In the next 50 years, these two coal-burners will emit over TWO BILLION TONS of Carbon Dioxide.


The density of carbon dioxide is 1.977 grams/liter

and conversion factors:

there are 454 grams/pound

there are 0.0353 cubic feet/liter


the volume of CO2 is 1/1.977 grams/liter = 0.506 liters/gram

0.506 liters/gram x 454 grams/pound = 229.7 liters/pound

229.7 liters/lb x 0.0353 cubic feet/liter = 8.109 cubic feet/pound

8.109 cubic feet/pound x 2000 pounds/ton = 16,218 cubic feet/ton

16,218 cubic feet/ton x 2,000,000,000 tons =

3.244 x 1013 cubic feet

the cube root of 3.244 x 1013 cubic feet is 31,891 feet

31,891 feet / 5280 feet/mile = 6 miles

Conclusion C:

If the total Carbon Dioxide emissions from the two coal-fired power plants planned for White Pine County, Nevada were evenly distributed at one atmospheric pressure, it would fill a square box 6 miles a side!

(And if a higher proportion of carbon in the coal is estimated – along with a 75 year operating life; the box would be over 11 miles a side.)


kat said...

Where do we go to find out local protests?

Rick Spilsbury said...

You're assuming there are local protests. The only option might be to organize one yourself. Ha Ha!

You can check with PLAN, the Nevada Conservation League, Sierra Club, or the Bristlecone Alliance.

I'll check into this further and leave more information on a later blog post. Thanks

dortiz said...

Here is a group that are also good with organizing such activities that you might be interested in and they can possibly give you information that will be helpful in any location. I thought I e-mailed you on this however I would not know if you did indeed receive it. Many smiles.

Rick Spilsbury said...