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Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage: Is It a Practical Solution to Climate Change?



The latest tremendously rapid expansion of the energy and industrial sector has led to a sharp increase in stationary sources of CO2. This has resulted in many concerns about the prevention of global warming and the achievement of climate mitigation strategies by 2050 with a low-carbon and sustainable future. Various aspects of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies have been developed to reduce CO2 emissions from industrial processes.


The CCUS system consists of three main components: CO2 capture, transportation, and storage. Each component presents unique challenges that must be overcome to raise many low TRL technologies and facilitate their implementation on a commercial scale.


CO2 Capture is one of the most critical components of CCUS technology. Several types of CO2 capture methods are available today, including post-combustion capture, pre-combustion capture, oxy-fuel combustion capture, and chemical looping combustion. Post-combustion capture is currently the most widely used method for capturing CO2 from flue gasses produced by power plants or other industrial processes. Pre-combustion capture involves converting fossil fuels into hydrogen gas before combustion occurs. Oxy-fuel combustion capture involves burning fossil fuels in pure oxygen instead of air, which produces a stream of pure CO2 that can be captured more easily. Chemical looping combustion involves using metal oxides to capture CO2 during combustion.


CO2 Transportation presents unique challenges due to its high pressure and corrosive nature. The most common method for transporting CO2 is through pipelines, which are similar to natural gas pipelines. However, the transportation of CO2 by pipeline requires significant investment in infrastructure and regulatory approval. CO2 can also be transported by ship or truck, but these methods are less common due to their higher costs and lower efficiency.


CO2 Storage is the final component of the CCUS system. CO2 can be stored underground in geological formations such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs, saline aquifers, or coal seams. The storage of CO2 in geological formations is considered to be the most viable option for long-term storage due to its large storage capacity and low risk of leakage. However, the storage of CO2 in geological formations presents unique challenges that must be overcome. One of the main challenges is ensuring that the stored CO2 remains trapped underground for thousands of years without leaking into the atmosphere. This requires careful site selection, monitoring, and verification to ensure that the stored CO2 remains secure.


CCUS technologies have been recognized as a critical component of global efforts to mitigate climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified CCUS as a key technology for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The Paris Agreement also recognizes the importance of CCUS in achieving its goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.


To support the development and deployment of CCUS technologies, many countries have implemented policies and incentives to encourage investment in these technologies. For example, the United States has implemented tax credits for carbon capture projects under Section 45Q of the Internal Revenue Code. The European Union has also established a funding program called Horizon Europe to support research and innovation in CCUS technologies.


According to a report by the Global CCS Institute, there are currently 26 large-scale CCUS facilities operating globally with a total capture capacity of approximately 40 million tonnes per year. These facilities are primarily located in North America, Europe, and Asia. However, this represents only a small fraction of global emissions from industrial processes, which are estimated to be around 15 billion tonnes per year.


Furthermore, there is a need for continuous research and development of CCUS technologies to improve their efficiency and reduce costs. The development of new materials and processes could significantly enhance the performance and viability of CCUS technologies. Moreover, research on the potential risks associated with CCUS technologies and the development of effective risk management strategies is critical to ensure the safe and secure implementation of these technologies.


In addition to technological development, policy and regulatory frameworks are also crucial in facilitating the deployment of CCUS technologies. Governments can play a significant role in creating a supportive regulatory environment that encourages investment in CCUS technologies. For instance, policies such as carbon pricing or tax incentives can provide financial support to CCUS projects and incentivize industries to adopt these technologies.


Public awareness and education about CCUS technologies can also play an essential role in fostering public acceptance of these technologies. Public perception and support are critical for the successful deployment of CCUS technologies, and therefore, it is essential to engage with communities and stakeholders to promote awareness and understanding of the benefits and risks associated with CCUS technologies.


Despite the challenges, there are several companies currently engaged in carbon capture technologies, including direct air capture (DAC). DAC is a type of CO2 capture that involves removing CO2 directly from the air using large fans and chemical processes. This technology has gained attention in recent years as a potential solution for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and addressing climate change.


One of the companies leading the way in DAC technology is Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based company that specializes in capturing CO2 directly from the air. Carbon Engineering's DAC plant in Squamish, British Columbia, has been in operation since 2015 and has the capacity to capture up to one tonne of CO2 per day. The company has also recently announced plans to build a commercial-scale plant in Texas with a capture capacity of up to one million tonnes of CO2 per year.


Another company involved in DAC technology is Climeworks, a Swiss-based company that specializes in capturing CO2 directly from the air using modular units. The company's DAC plant in Iceland has been in operation since 2017 and has the capacity to capture up to 50 tonnes of CO2 per year. The company has also recently announced plans to build a new DAC plant in Norway with a capacity of up to 8,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.


In conclusion, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies are essential components in mitigating climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from industrial processes. With the cooperation of governments, industry leaders, and researchers, we can accelerate development and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.


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