What is carbon capture and storage?

What is carbon capture and storage

What is carbon capture and storage?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has emerged as a beacon of hope in our efforts to combat the escalating threats of climate change. This revolutionary process involves trapping carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing them from entering the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is an essential component of the Earth’s atmosphere, playing a crucial role in maintaining the planet’s balance. However, its concentrations have significantly increased over the past two centuries due to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. This rise in carbon dioxide levels, along with other greenhouse gases, has created a concerning situation as they trap solar energy and prevent it from escaping into space, leading to global warming. Unfortunately, we have made limited progress in curbing these emissions.

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What exactly is carbon capture and storage?

Forests, plants, oceans, and soils naturally remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. However, activities like deforestation, pesticide overuse, and pollution are rapidly diminishing their ability to do so.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as sequestration, is a method that prevents excess CO2 from entering the atmosphere in the first place. Although it was first introduced in the 1970s, there are still some concerns about its safety and health implications, which makes it a controversial topic.

These concerns include the possibility of leaking pipes that could lead to asphyxiation in humans or animals, contamination of drinking water due to leached metals and other pollutants, and the potential for seismic activity caused by the compressed CO2. It’s important to note that CCS is currently banned in Germany.

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How does carbon capture and storage work?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) works by separating carbon dioxide from other gases emitted during the burning of fossil fuels or industrial processes. Point-source capture can artificially separate CO2 from the gases released by coal or natural gas burning, steel mills, refineries, cement, and fertilizer plants. Alternatively, newer facilities can use different technology to remove carbon dioxide from fuel before combustion.

After capturing CO2, compress it into a liquid form and transport it to a suitable storage site, typically deep underground. These storage sites can include former oil and gas reservoirs, abandoned coal mines, or porous rock formations filled with salty water.

Direct Air Capture with Carbon Storage (DACCS) involves pulling carbon dioxide directly from the air using filters and chemicals. However, these facilities are energy-intensive and currently quite expensive.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is another option, which involves burning biomass such as wood, energy crops, or agricultural and municipal waste containing captured carbon to generate energy. The resulting emissions are then captured and stored underground.

Additionally, planting and managing forests and crops can help sequester more carbon. However, there is a potential concern that these crops may compete with food crops for land and water resources.

It is important to note that these carbon capture and storage technologies are still limited and mostly untested on a larger scale. However, they hold promise in mitigating carbon emissions and combating climate change.
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Why is important?

Even if we make significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the near future, there will still be a need to remove a substantial amount of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2100. According to a report from January 2023, this could range between 450 billion and 1.1 trillion metric tons.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that the use of CO2 removal technologies is necessary if we want to achieve our net-zero emissions goals. The panel considers it “unavoidable.”

However, experts emphasize that the sector needs significant development in the next decade. Currently, such technology captures only a small fraction, approximately 0.1%, of global emissions.

In November 2023, the International Energy Agency cautioned against relying solely on carbon capture, stating that it is not a comprehensive solution. Critics argue that CCS technology may give fossil fuel producers the opportunity to continue exploiting oil, gas, and coal. According to these critics, a better approach would be to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and gradually phase them out as soon as possible.

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