Climate change is an urgent global issue that affects our planet. To address this, various strategies have been developed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with carbon capture technology being an essential tool in the fight against global warming. This article will explore carbon capture, its mechanisms, and its potential as a solution for climate change, along with interesting facts and references.
What is Carbon Capture?
Carbon capture, or carbon capture and storage (CCS), is a process that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources like power plants and industrial facilities and transports them to a storage site, typically underground in geological formations (1). By preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere, carbon capture helps reduce greenhouse gas concentrations and mitigate climate change impacts.
How Does Carbon Capture Work?
Carbon capture primarily uses three methods: pre-combustion capture, post-combustion capture, and oxy-fuel combustion (2).
Pre-combustion Capture: Fossil fuels are partially oxidised, producing CO2 and hydrogen gas. The CO2 is then separated from the hydrogen, which serves as fuel for electricity generation or other uses.
Post-combustion Capture: CO2 is captured after fossil fuels are burned. Exhaust gases pass through a solvent, such as amine-based compounds, which absorb the CO2. The solvent is then heated to release the CO2, allowing it to be compressed and transported for storage.
Oxy-fuel Combustion: Fossil fuels are burned in a mixture of pure oxygen and recycled flue gases, resulting in a high concentration of CO2 in the exhaust gas. This CO2 is easily separated from other components and compressed and transported for storage.
Interesting Facts and References
The Sleipner Project in Norway, which began in 1996, was the world's first large-scale CCS project (3). Equinor operates this project, capturing CO2 from natural gas production and storing it in a deep saline aquifer beneath the North Sea.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that CCS could contribute about 13% of the cumulative mitigation effort needed to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100 (4).
As of September 2021, 26 large-scale CCS facilities were in operation, capturing around 40 million tonnes of CO2 annually (5).
The Gorgon Project in Australia was the world's largest CCS facility in 2021, with a capture capacity of up to 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year (6).
Carbon capture technology offers a promising solution to climate change by limiting CO2 emissions and reducing their environmental impacts. As governments and industries continue investing in this technology, it is crucial to improve its efficiency and affordability, making it a more widespread and accessible solution to the global climate crisis.
Global CCS Institute. (2021). What is CCS? Retrieved from https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/understanding-ccs/what-is-ccs/
U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). Carbon Capture R&D. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/fe/science-innovation/carbon-capture-and-storage-research/carbon-capture-rd
Equinor. (n.d.). Sleipner. Retrieved from https://www.equinor.com/en/what-we-do/sleipner.html
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Global CCS Institute. (2021). Global Status of CCS 2021. Retrieved from https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/resources/global-status-report/
Chevron Australia. (n.d.). Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project. Retrieved from https://www.chevronaustralia.com/our-businesses/gorgon/carbon-dioxide-injection-project