Will Capturing Carbon Emissions Save Our Planet?

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, climate change is becoming a more pressing worldwide issue. By the end of this century, the carbon dioxide (COtwo) concentration is predicted to double. Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) is widely accepted as a viable means of reducing carbon emissions and keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5–2 °C by 2050.

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What is Carbon Capture and Storage?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is designed to prevent COtwo from being released into the atmosphere from traditional power plants and industrial activities.

CCS isolates COtwo emissions from the manufacturing process and then transports and injects the compressed COtwo into a suitable geological storage place.

Advantages of Carbon Capture Technology

Among CCS’ many advantages is the capability to permanently store COtwo captured during energy production in underground deposits.

International Energy Agency believes that CCS can remove carbon dioxide emissions up to 20% from energy production and industrial facilities.

Read More: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Carbon Capture

The social cost of carbon is an estimate of how much climate change will be affected by the production of one metric ton of COtwo released into the atmosphere each year. By removing COtwo directly from its source, the social cost of carbon and net social harms could be decreased.

The captured carbon dioxide can be used to produce plastics and chemicals such as polyurethanes on a commercial scale.

Disadvantages of Carbon Capture Technology

Capture processes are expensive due to the need for additional energy. When this technology is implemented in an industry, the cost of the product will be increased if no subsidies are provided by the regulatory authorities.

There is no solid evidence that underground carbon dioxide storage is completely safe. Several scientists recommend continuously monitoring storage locations until complete decontamination of the area is achievable. Large-scale leaks at these locations would render the air unfit for human consumption due to the gas’s extreme toxicity.

How Can Carbon Capture Help in Achieving Net Zero?

CCS can aid in achieving cost-effective net-zero emissions in the following ways:

Use of CCS in Hard to Decarbonize Industrial Sectors

It is difficult to decarbonize industrial sectors such as the production of iron, cement, and steel.

According to the Energy Transition Commission and the International Energy Commission Agency, net-zero emissions in these industries may be unachievable due to the high expenses of green technology.

CCS technologies are a cost-effective approach that can be easily used to decarbonize these industries by storing the COtwo released during iron and steel production.

The captured carbon dioxide can then be used to produce methanol on a commercial scale for use as fuel.

Large-Scale Production of Low-Carbon Hydrogen (Green Fuel)

CCS technologies can be used with coal gasification to cost-effectively produce low-carbon hydrogen. It will be the most cost-effective method in locations where renewable energy is scarce and fossil fuels are inexpensive.

Hydrogen production must expand dramatically for net-zero emissions, from 70 million tons per annum (Mtpa) to 650 tons per annum by mid-century.

Hard-to-reach sectors are expected to benefit from hydrogen’s involvement in decarbonization. Flexible power generation and residential heating can also benefit from this type of energy.

Production of Low Carbon Dispatchable Electricity

Electricity generation must be decarbonized to reach net-zero emissions. Carbon capture and storage-equipped power plants provide grid stabilizing services such as frequency management, standby power, voltage control, and dispatchable and low-carbon electricity.

The low-carbon grid of the future will be more reliable and sustainable if CCS is used in conjunction with renewable energy.

Recent Developments in Carbon Capture

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage in the UK

The UK government relies on CCS technologies used by bioenergy power plants to accomplish its climate change targets. The current Drax power station has already had a coal-to-bio conversion.

CCS will significantly lower the company’s COtwo footprint. Drax hopes to capture 4 million tons of COtwo annually from its power plants.

Air Products’ Steam Methane Reformer

Steam methane reformer of Air Products, a US company, is used to capture COtwo from the Port Arthur oil refinery in Texas. It is capable of producing 500 shades of pure hydrogen every day. According to the US Department of Energy, approximately six megatons of carbon dioxide were caught and stored by the facility in April 2020.

The Quest CCS Unit

The Scotford Upgrader plant in Alberta, Canada, uses three steam methane reformers to absorb COtwo emissions. In July 2020, the facility had safely and permanently deposited five megatons of COtwo in the geological repository.

Moomba CCS Project

Santos and Beach Energy, Australian energy production and exploration companies, have achieved a final investment decision (FID) on a $165 million CCS project at the Moomba gas facility. The project will trap and store 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year in a neighboring repository.

Future Outlooks of Carbon Capture and Storage

Despite the fact that carbon capture and storage technology has been available for a long time, it has struggled to gain widespread use.

One of the most common reasons against CCS implementation is that it could increase the use of fossil fuels rather than stimulating investment in renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that CCS will be required to keep global warming below 1.5 OC, and this goal cannot be achieved without the use of these technologies.

The Future of Global Carbon Capture and Storage

References and Further Readings

Iyer, G., Clarke, L., Edmonds, J., Fawcett, A., Fuhrman, J., McJeon, H., & Waldhoff, S. (2021). The role of carbon dioxide removal in net-zero emissions pledges. Energy and Climate Change2, 100043. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egycc.2021.100043

Page, B., Turan, G., Zapantis, A., Burrows, J., Consoli, C., Erikson, J., … & Zhang, T. (2020). The Global Status of CCS 2020: Vital to Achieve Net Zero. Available at: https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Global-Status-of-CCS-Report-2020_FINAL.pdf

Regufe, MJ, Pereira, A., Ferreira, AF, Ribeiro, AM, & Rodrigues, AE (2021). Current developments of carbon capture storage and/or utilization–looking for net-zero emissions defined in the Paris agreement. energies14(9), 2406. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14092406

Zhongming, Z., Linong, L., Xiaona, Y., Wangqiang, Z., & Wei, L. (2021). AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Full_Report.pdf

Zhongming, Z., Linong, L., Xiaona, Y., Wangqiang, Z., & Wei, L. (2020). The role of CCUS in low-carbon power systems. Available from: https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/ccdcb6b3-f6dd-4f9a-98c3-8366f4671427/The_role_of_CCUS_in_low-carbon_power_systems.pdf

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