Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Reaching a Critical Point?


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Carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically over the last several years. Photo by Mark Rogers

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a promising technique to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere. Despite this, however, its implementation is progressing very slowly. A review published in Nature Climate Change summarizes the status of the art and tries to explain the reason(s) for this stalling.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Problems

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions, due to energy production from fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas, have increased remarkably in the latest years.

Although energy from renewable sources is becoming more and more important, fossil fuels are still the main energy source. Moreover, the same trend is expected to continue in the future; in fact, the International Energy Agency predicted that in 2035, the majority of electricity will still be produced from fossil fuels.

Consequently, there will be continued CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Higher CO2 atmospheric concentrations could cause environmental problems, as it is a greenhouse gas and it has acid behavior.

Environment Improvement: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Carbon Capture and Storage, normally referred to as CCS, is a possible solution to this problem. With CCS, CO2 is selectively captured and then isolated and stored geologically to keep the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Possible CCS techniques have been investigated for some time, at academic and industrial level, and for both coal and gas power plants.

A review, published in Nature Climate Change in December 2012, summarizes the current status of CCS development, and examines the futures of CCS technologies. This study was performed by Dr. Vivian Scott and his coworkers, from the School of Geoscience of the University of Edinburgh.

CCS Steps: Capture, Transport and Storage

The whole CCS process includes three main steps: the capture of the CO2, its transport to a storage site, and its long term storage.

After fuel combustion at either coal or gas plants, capture storage equipment captures the carbon dioxide emitted during the combustion process. The CCS process allows the retrofitting of existing facilities, that is the addition of capture storage equipment to power plants already existing and running. Although much progress has been made in this field, according to Dr. Scott “there are still considerable opportunities to increase the capture efficiency and reduce costs.

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