Carbon Capture : Deliverance or Distraction?

Inside Climate News

May 2, 2022

Many experts believe that investing to build renewable energy projects and relying on carbon capture processes that occur naturally in nature are a better bet

Carbon capture technology has emerged as the strongest pillar supporting the US climate agenda, with more than $12 billion government funding slotted to be infused into the scaling up of the new technology. It is widely believed that carbon capture technology will play a critical role in curbing carbon emissions globally. Technology giants and billionaire executives including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are funding many start-ups in the sector. ExxonMobil, Southern Company, Occidental Petroleum and other major US energy companies have begun actively pursuing carbon capture techniques. So how does carbon capture work? Direct-air carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology relies on the use of solvents that can separate CO₂ from the air, like iron filings to a magnet.

Once the gas is bound to the solvent, it needs to be heated to a high temperature to release the CO₂, which can be captured, compressed and buried deep underground in rock formations similar to those that hold oil and natural gas. Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) works in a similar fashion, except that the captured CO2 is converted to fuel or used to drive other industrial processes like oil extraction and growing plants. The truth is that not all carbon capture technologies are created equal. Some of the main challenges faced by carbon capture are: - Amine solvents used in the carbon capture process come at a high price point and are energy intensive in utilization. - Most of the carbon capture techniques end up emitting more carbon than they capture. - CCU technology has the added disadvantage that it doesn’t store CO₂ for long periods. - Climate groups argue that carbon capture will play a marginal role in limiting emissions. - Subsidies for carbon capture may prolong the demand for fossil fuels.

There are, however, still a few carbon capture technologies which appear to hold promise: A California based startup – Heirloom Carbon technologies Inc. claims it has found a way to use limestone — a cheap and widely available material for direct carbon capture, dispensing with the need for expensive solvents and potentially overcoming a major hurdle in scaling up the infrastructure to avoid catastrophic global warming. Belfast-based MOF Technologies utilizes an ‘ultra-efficient’ system driven by vacuum pressure swing adsorption (PSA) technology combined with a metal-organic framework (MOF)-based filter, diminishing energy costs by 80% and resulting in a cost of capture reduced to as low as £13 per ton of carbon dioxide. Overall, many experts believe that the funds spent on carbon capture technologies would be better invested in building new renewable energy projects and relying on carbon capture processes that occur naturally in nature. Cutting edge technology often comes with a financial constraint, and we at ENPOSS believe that the reduction of carbon emissions should never be a drain on your time or money.

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