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Carbon Capture: Important Things You Need to Know

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Sustainability




Rapid industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels on a level never seen before have rapidly changed the landscape of our planet. Climate change is a big problem now, from land clearing and intensive farming to the burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal, all produce greenhouse gases.

We all know that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the byproduct of most of our activities and it is the main contributor to our planet’s warming. The rate we have been spewing pollutants into our atmosphere has only risen since the industrial revolution. Our CO2 emissions have risen from 1600 million metric tonnes to 3600 million metric tonnes since 1865.

And despite our best efforts, that number is not declining. Human population and development are continuing to outpace our efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Today, all human activities collectively put an estimated 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. And we’ve reached a point now where we need to reverse global warming.

In a 2018 report, the IPCC said that lowering carbon emissions is no longer enough. If we want to keep our planet habitable, all respectable climatologists agree that we need to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And to avoid the effects of climate change, we need to remove between 100 and 1000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the 21st century.

The UN is also calling for drastic cuts to emissions and nations have pledged to make that happen. Climate change is a real thing and it’s going to take all of human ingenuity to get us through this moment. However, when it comes to fighting climate change in today’s modern world, some of our biggest weapons are wind and solar technology and also electric transportation.

But what if we can shovel the CO2 that already exists out of our atmosphere. Carbon capture also called direct air capture can be the solution. Many environmentalists, big companies, and governments are investing billions and passing bills to go toward this technology.

There are roughly two different categories of carbon removal strategies. One is a biological category like planting trees. And the other is a more technological strategy called direct air capture. Carbon capture and removal are getting a lot of attention. From big companies to tech visionaries, all are investing millions in carbon removal technology.

Elon Musk offers a $100 million prize for the best carbon capture technology. Government support for the industry is also growing as the US congress authorized nearly $450 million to be used in the research and development of large scales carbon removal over the next five years.

Carbon removal is a process that sucks CO2 straight out of the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage means capturing the CO2 emitted and compressing it into a liquid which is transported to a storage site. Then storing it safely and permanently deep underground. So what exactly is carbon capture?

What is carbon capture?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method of preventing carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere or going to a smokestack. The process typically involves absorbing CO2-containing air or solvent and later is separated. It is a process that removes excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by capturing it from sources.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG), which traps heat by absorbing infrared rays from Earth’s surface. As a result, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased considerably since the industrial revolution. The main advantages of carbon capture are that CO2 can be permanently stored underground. It is also used to produce carbon-containing products.

The process involves capturing CO2 emissions from sources and transporting them to an appropriate underground storage facility. The process is monitored to ensure safety. Typically, carbon dioxide is injected into permeable rock formations, such as saline aquifers, which are below ground. Fractures in the rock allow a small amount of CO2 to escape.

white smoke coming out of an extractor from a carbon capture plant
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak: pexels.com

Although it is not an ideal solution, it is an excellent option in many cases. It is a more expensive option than other methods of reducing emissions but has the potential to reduce emissions dramatically. Some projects have even been successful in capturing up to 75% of the CO2 produced by fossil-burning power plants. So it should be implemented wherever possible to curb emissions.

A carbon storage facility can be built in almost any place with an injection well. However, certain characteristics must be present to make the location suitable for storing CO2. This characterization process requires careful study of potential storage risks and ensuring compliance with regulations.

Why carbon capture is important?

The impact of global warming on ecosystems is already being felt. Many species are migrating earlier, arriving at their summer feeding and nesting grounds much earlier than in the past. For example, migratory birds are moving farther south and wintering in cooler climates. And many arid regions are already experiencing a water crisis and drought.

Furthermore, low-income countries are less prepared to deal with extreme weather events due to limited technological development and resources. Another impact of global warming is a rise in the number of chronic illnesses and mosquito-borne diseases. Because of climate change, the mosquito population will increase as temperatures rise.

Additionally, longer, hotter summers will spread tick-borne diseases as well as affect the food supply. The polar regions are particularly vulnerable to the impact of global warming. The Arctic region’s average temperatures are rising twice as fast as elsewhere on Earth. The melting of the world’s ice sheets has devastating effects on people in the Arctic and the wildlife and plants that inhabit the region.

Moreover, rising sea levels pose a threat to coastal systems and the biggest cities in the world. These effects are expected to continue in the future. Research indicated that a one-megawatt coal-fired power plant produces about six million tons of carbon dioxide each year. There is no place to store this carbon, which is an enormous burden on our planet.

heavy dark smoke coming out of three chimney at a coal factory
Image by jwvein from Pixabay

Thus climate activist around the world has set goals to help curb the effects of global warming. Hence, carbon capture and storage processes are crucial in meeting these climate change goals. We must develop methods to store CO2 safely and efficiently and direct air capture can be a critical tool in addressing global warming.

It is a major tool for capturing and storing carbon dioxide, which can also be used for other purposes. The goal is to reduce the amount of emissions by humans through this technology. By harnessing its benefits, it will be possible to create sustainable energy systems that are low-impact and will not require any additional energy.

Carbon dioxide can be reused in many ways. Currently, it is used in the manufacture of biofuels and solid aggregates in concrete. In addition, it can be recycled into a variety of manufacturing additives. The potential for reused CO2 is staggering and is expected to reach USD 1 trillion market cap.

This technology will reduce the effect of climate change. If implemented properly, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a third or more. This is especially important given the rising cost of energy and the cost of infrastructure. Given the slow transition to renewable energy, fossil fuels are expected to supply the majority of energy needs for several decades.

Additionally, the process of direct air capture and storage is also environmentally friendly. It uses a method of liquefying CO2 and storing it safely. In other words, it allows us to store it in our backyard and it helps us meet our climate goals. This technology can be a great tool for eliminating carbon from the atmosphere without harming the environment.

It can also be used in industrial processes, which could lower costs. The system also helps to save energy and money as it is expected to become cheaper than ever before. This is a revolutionary approach to the energy crisis as well. The technology that captures CO2 from the air is an emerging industry. It can be used to make renewable electricity. It can also be used as a carbon source in industries.

Consequently, CCS can help reduce emissions from industrial plants. In one recent study, more than half of the models studied required direct air capture. However, there are some roadblocks. A major challenge of CCS is the cost of transporting carbon. The process requires significant amounts of energy, particularly to chill the CO2 and maintain it at high temperatures.

This requires specialized pipelines and is not without risks. As such, it can be expensive and inefficient. It is therefore imperative that new technologies be developed to decrease CO2 emissions and make this process more practical.

However, as the global society becomes more aware of the dangers of climate change, it will become increasingly important to find ways to reduce its emissions. A future where carbon capture and storage technologies are economically viable will be achieved.

Future of carbon capture

Carbon dioxide is one of the most polluting substances in the atmosphere and is one of the main reasons why countries around the world are trying to develop solutions for it. But there are many pitfalls associated with it. In addition to increasing emissions, CO2 is also not in high supply.

Because of this, most carbon capture and storage technologies focus on sequestration, which involves pumping CO2 deep underground. Once this GHG is trapped, only a small amount of it will be able to return to the atmosphere and the rest will stay deep underground for thousands of years.

The future of carbon capture and storage lies in the advancement of technology. The technology for CCS has been around for decades and has been proven to be effective in storing CO2. It is important to note that natural rock formations are also excellent carbon dioxide storage facilities.

Researchers have also discovered the best rocks and reservoirs for storing CO2 and have begun to apply them to various industrial processes. Nevertheless, carbon storage is still in the early stages of development. CCS is a necessary and viable solution for reducing atmospheric carbon.

While nature-based solutions have become the primary solution for removing atmospheric carbon, the growing demand for fossil fuels is driving CCS projects to take advantage of the potential of direct air capture. The industry is expected to grow dramatically in the next decade, according to a report by GlobalData.

With the development of new technology and economies of scale, the process of separating CO2 from emissions will become cheaper. Technology has a number of advantages as it is an environmentally safe method of storing CO2 in a safe, underground location. This method can be used to store carbon dioxide in reservoirs.

The costs of storing CO2 are estimated to be about $100 billion per year and this figure will likely increase as technologies improve since our demand for energy keeps increasing. The costs of these projects are also on the rise and they aren’t guaranteed to be affordable for all countries.

Currently, there are several barriers to the use of carbon capture and storage technologies. The main difficulty is that they are expensive to install and maintain, and their efficiency reductions are around 35%. Fortunately, research and development are being conducted to overcome these problems and develop alternative methods.

Although these solutions may be expensive, they will reduce CO2 emissions and save our planet. Some researchers worry that direct air capture technology will make people complacent and ignore the risks associated with burning gasoline. But others say this technology will not be practical for many years, because it will be extremely expensive to implement.

For carbon capture to become a reality, government policies and incentives must be in place. Similarly, scientists need more funding to make their existing technologies more efficient. The key is to keep reinvesting in the technology. Direct air capture facilities also require a large amount of space. Because of this, it is not practical to install it at every power plant. And the process can reduce turbine efficiency.

Nevertheless, it is a proven technology that’s already available. In fact, the pipeline for carbon capture and storage has increased over the past three years. Today, there are 20 commercial large-scale CCS facilities in operation, capturing 40 million tonnes of CO2 each year. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be a need for more than 2000 large-scale CCS projects.

While the cost of the technology is quite high, there are potential benefits as part of a diverse climate plan. Its cost is the biggest obstacle. By the end of the day, if we can reduce our emissions without using fossil fuels, then we’ll be able to achieve both goals. So, while the challenges of carbon capture and storage will need to be addressed, we should not be complacent about the benefits it brings.

Direct air capture is important for decarbonizing companies to reach a net-zero but it has a lot of engineering challenges ahead of it. And many experts agree that while direct air capture and storage is an important tool for reaching our climate goals, we should not put all of our eggs in one basket. We should deploy different carbon removal opportunities to their maximum capacity to decarbonize the world. That is the only way that we will reach our overall societal climate targets.