To understand carbon capture technologies, you must know the terms such as “carbon footprint”, “greenhouse gas (GHG)”, “carbon dioxide” and “methane”. All those were frequently mentioned in our analysis of ways technology helps save the environment. We also touch on them when studying popular alternatives to carbon-producing fuels. Extracting carbon can make a big difference in ridding the future world of the negative consequences of our actions as mankind. It can make up for a slower transition to better fuels. The process will also reduce the effects of the already released one, reverting some mistakes we made. Let’s get into carbon capture technology, its definition, application, and examples.
What is carbon capture technology?
Carbon capture technology is an emerging technology that aims to decrease the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from well-known producers. The primary emitters are industrial facilities, power plants, and machines. Those include vehicles on and under the ground, in the air, in bodies of water, and so forth. These are all tied to the erosion of the Ozone layer, production of other greenhouse gasses, and the year-on-year increase of global temperatures, also known as global climate change or climate warming. The technology primarily focuses on separating CO2 from other gases, then extracting and injecting it into storage safely.
It is also known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and sequestration. Also in use is CCUS (carbon capture, use, and storage/sequestration) technology. That’s because containing captured carbon dioxide in a convenient, safe, and cost-effective location is one of the main goals. Although not included, transport via shipping or pipelines is integral in getting the CO2 to adequate geological storage. The branches of technology and most common objects of R&D (research & development) are three capture processes of CO2. Those are pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxi-combustion.
Examples of carbon capture technology
Before we begin, it is notable to know that his technology also aims to optimize the compression of CO2 to make transport cheaper and easier. Now, let’s list some representatives of carbon capture and storage technology:
Facilities and machines that utilize chemical treatments to extract CO2 from the flue gas after fossil fuel combusts are post-combustion capture technologies. These chemical treatments are usually called solvents. Moreover, the plants that employ this method are called natural gas combined cycle plants (NGCC) and pulverized coal (PC) plants, based on fossil fuels.
Pre-combustion capturing technology uses chemicals too, but to remove CO2 from the gas produced during the IGCC (integrated coal gasification combined cycle), before fossil fuel, biomass, or natural gas is combusted in power plants. Plants that utilize this process inject steam and oxygen or air to convert the gas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, a mix called “syngas”. That mixture goes through a shift reaction and converts to carbon dioxide.
Oxy-combustion capture systems involve technologies that can produce a flue gas with a high concentration of carbon dioxide that can be captured without post-combustion chemicals. In other words, instead of separating CO2 from the nitrogen flue gas, the bulk nitrogen gas is separated from air before combustion occurs. In simple terms, these technologies let us get nearly pure CO2 by burning fossil fuels in pure oxygen (“oxygen-enriched gas”).
CO2 pipelines are an example of technology that transports captured carbon from the source to the eventual storage facility. They already exist around the world, about 5150 miles (ca. 8,288 km) in the United States alone, but are still researched, regularized, and standardized. They operate at high pressure, and if not strengthened at regular lengths, can create ruptures that stretch for miles. Since the ideal concentration is 90% or more of CO2 molecules, a gas leak can create dry ice and suffocate everything nearby.
Tankers for carbon transfer
Tankers that specialize in carrying carbon dioxide-filled containers are another representative of CCS technologies. Due to the familiarity, popularity, cost-efficiency, and existing infrastructure of transportation technology, these are usually the go-to for national or international shipping.
Carbon storage typically represents gas reservoirs stored in safe places, away from the population. Some examples are deep saline aquifers—underground formations of sedimentary rock, which can permanently store carbon dioxide after injection. Depleted oil or gas fields, where CO2 is injected to push them to the surface, can be used as permanent storage after the resource disappears. Similarly, deep ocean and coal seams that can’t be mined can be used. CO2 can also be mineralized.
Application of carbon capture technology
We will move on to some modern carbon capture technology applications:
We talked about a fuel cell and its main power source—hydrogen. It requires batteries and their production is not yet a clean process. Also, finding renewable hydrogen sources is an obstacle to a green future. Luckily, there are several methods of converting carbon dioxide into hydrogen nowadays, named “blue hydrogen” afterward.
Huge environmental benefits
We tried to convey the important causes and consequences of global warming and climate change in our analysis of how technology changed the world. In short, the increased carbon production has upset the ecological balance of the Earth. It made glaciers melt, species relocate or die, and plants die out. It also upped the need for cooling and contributed to air pollution. Removing carbon from the atmosphere is significant for our ecology, air safety, optimal climate, and much more. It’s a key green technology that greatly contributes to its positive effects. Some predictions state that carbon capturing and storage can shrink greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 14% of what’s required by 2050.
Improvements in the traditional power plants or industrial processes
When we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of coal, we mentioned two things. We rely on them for meeting our energy needs, but they are exhaustible. While predictions vary, coal will deplete one day. Carbon capture technology can optimize that process by offering standardized solutions that fit each industry. That would decrease the damaging effects of fossil fuels. That makes more locations suitable for industries and power plants. It also saves money, boosts the economy, and more.
Further, industries can eventually reuse the captured CO2 efficiently. Some companies are already working on building materials and algae biofuels. Fizzy or sparkling drinks are a common example of reused carbon dioxide. Also, it was employed as EOR (enhanced oil recovery) to help oil extraction yields for decades. Finally, current estimates indicate that technologies can capture over 90% of the CO2 that industrial facilities and power plants emit.