- Technology that can keep carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere and stoking global heating will be essential to tackle the growing climate crisis.
What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS)?
- This refers to a chain of different technologies that can keep the carbon dioxide produced by major factories and power plants from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to global heating.
- The first step is to fit factory chimneys with solvent filters, which trap carbon emissions before they escape.
- The gas can then be piped to locations where it can be used or stored.
- Most carbon dioxide will be injected deep underground – where fossil fuel gas comes from in the first place – to be stored where it cannot contribute to the climate crisis.
- But some could be used to help make plastics, grow greenhouse plants, or even carbonate fizzy drinks.
Where is carbon capture technology being used?
- There are about 20 CCUS projects operating commercially, nowhere near enough to clean up the world’s carbon emissions.
- The early forerunners are in the US, Canada, Norway and China.
- Although CCUS has had a slow start, 30 new projects have been agreed in the past three years, the International Energy Agency says.
- The watchdog says there must be many more to keep carbon emissions from heating the world to more than 1.5C above pre-industrialised levels.
Why do we need carbon capture?
- According to the IEA, CCUS projects could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by almost a fifth and reduce the cost of tackling the climate crisis by 70%.
- One of the key reasons CCUS is necessary is because heavy industry – fertiliser producers, steel mills and cement makers – would be difficult and expensive to adapt to run on cleaner energy.
- Another key reason for developing CCUS is to unlock the potential of hydrogen.
- Hydrogen is a clean-burning gas that could be used to replace fossil fuels in planes, trains, trucks, factories and even in home heating.
- But without carbon capture being used to produce hydrogen from fossil fuel gas, carbon emissions would be released into the atmosphere.
- Hydrogen could still be made by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases using a renewable energy powered electrolyser machine, but this would be far more expensive.