Carbon Capture

Although we’ve seen progress towards diversification from fossil fuels, the reality remains that most of the world’s energy demand comes from and is expected to continue to come from carbon-intensive sources such as coal, natural gas, and oils for the next several decades. To address this reality and try to reduce previous carbon emissions in the short-term, carbon capture technologies have started to be integrated into industrial facilities, power plants, and, with some creativity, even pull carbon dioxide directly from our atmosphere.

But first, let’s define what exactly is carbon capture?

Carbon capture is a technology aimed at mitigating climate change by capturing carbon dioxide either from source processes before they’re released into the atmosphere or directly from the atmosphere itself. In industrial applications, the process involves capturing CO2 from large point sources, separating it from other gases, and then storing the CO2 or using it for other purposes. Recently, there has been tremendous advancement in capturing and storing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, aka carbon sequestration. Many times, these terms are used interchangeably, but ultimately carbon capture in its truest form is preventing CO2 from reaching the atmosphere and sequestering is drawing the CO2 from the atmosphere after it has been emitted.

There are a multitude of benefits to integrating carbon capture technologies within industries and supporting sequestration innovation advancements. Carbon capture at the point source enables the continued use of fossil fuels while potentially minimizing their environmental impacts. This can benefit society if done correctly. Carbon capture can also significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a facility’s operations. This can benefit the company directly if they’re subject to carbon tax or external decarbonization pressures. Additionally, carbon capture technologies can play a crucial role in emission reductions, contributing to country-specific carbon reduction goals aligning with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 Celsius pathways. This benefits our global economy. Finally, there are certain times where the carbon being captured can be utilized in the production of the products being made at the facility or potentially elsewhere or even as a fuel source itself.

As with most innovations, challenges do exist around cost and technology barriers to entry, along with potential greenwashing with unproven solutions. There’s also concerns about the long-term safety and effectiveness of CO2 storage once it’s captured. Despite these challenges, carbon capture and sequestration remain promising concepts that integrate creative technologies for reducing emissions at the source or pulling emissions straight from our atmosphere. These processes are essential to not only accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, but undoing previous emissions.

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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