Most products have a carbon footprint, where harmful greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are released during the creation of items or generation of energy. Extracting fossil fuels is a major emitter but so are clean energy processes such as hydrogen. However, it is possible to cut carbon emissions through sophisticated carbon capture and storage technologies, helping to mitigate global warming.
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Carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as carbon sequestration, involves capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industry. The carbon is taken from where it was extracted, transported, and stored a great depth underground in geological structures. CCS can harness CO2 from varied industries, such as offshore oil and gas extraction, steel and cement production, or power generation.
Carbon Capture and Storage is Making Hydrogen Cleaner
CCS may also assist with the production of clean hydrogen, according to the National Hydrogen Roadmap report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
Hydrogen can be produced thermochemically using a fossil fuel feedstock. The process involves steam methane reforming which requires an input of natural gas and coal gasification which gives off CO2. However, when paired with CCS, hydrogen production is cleaner, reducing 95 percent of the atmospheric carbon emissions, helping to achieve a clean process.
The roadmap was published by CSIRO, an organization working to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage technologies and make these tools more efficient, commissioning operating pilot plants in Australia and overseas. Its main aim is to make the technology more cost-effective so it can be utilized commercially at a widespread scale in Australia.
CCS is a solution that could help power and industry organizations across the globe become climate neutral, with low-carbon hydrogen being a major contributing factor. CO2 can also be reused when creating concrete, steel, or biofuel, which is a process called carbon capture and utilization (CCU). If Europe is to become climate neutral by 2050, CCS and CCU will both be needed as part of plans to implement renewables, nuclear power, and energy efficiency in the industry.
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Sky-Rocketing Interest for Sustainability
Across the globe, CCS technology is receiving more investments to help countries reach sustainable goals and net-zero targets by 2050.
Following years of declining investment pipelines, plans for over 30 new integrated CCS facilities were announced in 2017. The majority are in the United States and Europe, but projects are also planned in Australia, China, Korea, the Middle East, and New Zealand.
Upon proceeding, the global CO2 capacity could triple to around 130 Mt per year. Major oil and gas giants such as Shell, Exxon, Chevron, and Technip are actively testing, trialing, and investing in this technology.
CCS an Essential Part of the North Sea Green Transition
CCS has the go-ahead in the UK North Sea basin, thanks to an agreement between Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) and the government called the North Sea Transition Deal. This major agreement was made to help the North Sea become net zero by 2050, generate thousands of green jobs, and importantly, invest in carbon storage technologies to offset the release of carbon dioxide during oil and gas operations.
OGUK represents the UK oil and gas industry and has been spreading the word about the North Sea Transition Deal since March 2021. Chief Executive Deirdre Michie said: “It is the first deal of its kind by any G7 country and a striking example of the UK showing global leadership on climate change ahead of COP26.”
The UK oil and gas industry is transforming as key energy companies are pledging to progressively shift to green energy solutions with the support of the government. Following mounting social pressure to tackle the climate crisis, policymakers and commercial industries are outlining their action plans for change.
The UK government has sought to make the technology more economic and therefore feasible so that it may help the country meet its net-zero goals. As stated on the UK Government website, the country is “continuing to be a global leader in CCUS investments through the UK’s £60 million international CCS programme which has been running since 2012, by investing a further £10 million in the programme. This will further strengthen international action on CCUS and draw on technical expertise.”
At the same time, it is important to understand the challenges ahead and the geology at depth. According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), regulations governing geological CO2 storage are being developed worldwide. An EC Directive in Europe states that issues of leakage and the long-term monitoring of storage sites need to be addressed.
Carbon capture and storage developments are regularly happening. In 2021 so far, investments business M&G plc announced investments in early-stage carbon capture and storage companies Storegga Geotechnologies and Summit Carbon Solutions, through the £143 billion Prudential With-Profits Fund.
Storegga Geotechnologies claims to pioneer the technology, stating on their website “Storegga works with organisations to support them towards reduced, net zero or even negative carbon emissions through carbon capture and carbon removal technology as well as the provision of low carbon hydrogen.”
Summit Carbon Solutions aims to become the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project when complete, enabling industries to store CO2 safely and permanently. The technology appears promising for the global reduction of greenhouse gases from industry.
References and Further Reading
UK Government. UK carbon capture and storage government funding and support [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-carbon-capture-and-storage-government-funding-and-support
Storegga Earth – homepage [Online]. Available at: https://www.storegga.earth/
Summit Carbon Solutions – homepage [Online]. Available at: https://www.summitcarbonsolutions.com/
British Geological Survey. Understanding carbon capture and storage [Online]. Available at: https://www.bgs.ac.uk/discovering-geology/climate-change/carbon-capture-and-storage/
CSIRO. National Hydrogen Roadmap [Online] Available at: https://www.csiro.au/en/work-with-us/services/consultancy-strategic-advice-services/csiro-futures/energy-and-resources/national-hydrogen-roadmap
CSIRO. Carbon Capture Technologies. Available at: https://www.csiro.au/
Zero Emissions Platform. Why CCS [Online] Available at: https://zeroemissionsplatform.eu/about-ccs-ccu/why-ccs/