Carbon Capture Technology and How It Can Mitigate Climate Change

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The demands for carbon offsets are growing worldwide as companies try to achieve a net-zero status for their businesses. Most of the time, reducing their emissions won’t be enough to earn a net-zero level.

They have to pay offset companies to do it for them. Most of the time, these offset companies are conducting their offsets overseas.

Microsoft, for example, has purchased offsets from 15 vendors around the world. According to the Economist, these voluntary offset markets are growing from about $282 million a year to about $50 billion by 2030 (Scriven, 2021).

However, offset companies face controversies of corruptions and ineffectiveness. A task-force co-founded by Mark Carney from the Bank of England was organised to improve carbon-credit performance, making the process more transparent, improving its oversight, and having more apparent prices for exchanges of carbon credits.

There is also an ongoing debate on which type of offset should be used. There are two types of carbon offset – carbon reduction and carbon removal. The former involves reducing GHG emissions to reach the atmosphere by, for instance, financing a wind farm to replace a coal-fired power plant.  

The latter, carbon removal, is sucking carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere using carbon capture technology.

Carbon capture technology has been around for decades and is being used to strip carbon emissions directly from factory emissions.  

ExxonMobil and researchers at the University of California have developed a new carbon capture technique called metal-organic framework (MOF) that can capture carbon dioxide more efficiently from the natural gas power plant’s flue emissions.

The new technique uses a highly porous material called a metal-organic framework, or MOF, modified with nitrogen-containing amine molecules to capture the CO2 and low temperature steam to flush out the CO2 for other uses or to sequester it underground. In experiments, the technique showed a six times greater capacity for removing CO2 from flue gas than current amine-based technology, and it was highly selective, capturing more than 90% of the CO2 emitted. The process uses low temperature steam to regenerate the MOF for repeated use, meaning less energy is required for carbon capture” (Sanders, 2020).

Researchers also believe that this new technique can capture carbon dioxide from both coal plant and natural gas plants and the technology can be built at scale.

Click the link to know more about the MOF technology for carbon capture: New technique to capture CO2 could reduce power plant greenhouse gases.

Elon Musk, manufacturer of electric vehicle Tesla, the word’s wealthiest man, and a vocal climate advocate is giving $US100 million prize to a group or team that can come with carbon capture technology. In a statement, Musk said that “This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence.”

According to XPRIZE, a non-profit that will run the contest around the world, the technology should remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year from the atmosphere or ocean and storing at an “environmentally benign” way. The contest will officially open on 22 April, the same day as the Earth day (Manskar, 2021).

A popular reaction to Musk’s 100-million announcement is why not use the money to plant trees instead?

An international initiative 1t.org which aims to plant and restore 1 trillion trees by 2030 to prevent climate change, admitted that planting trees alone will not solve climate change. On their website, they have stated that “To address climate change, we must first rapidly and significantly decarbonise across all sectors of industry and economic activity” (Clifford, 2021).

Tom Crowther, a professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology at ETC Zurich and the chief scientific advisor to the UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign says that “addressing climate change will require investment in technologies that help to limit future emissions, such as electric vehicles, and the drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere. Nature-based solutions can help with both of these, but we will need thousands of solutions in combination.” He adds that “There is huge potential for direct carbon capture technology as part of a diverse climate plan” (Clifford, 2021).

An article from CNBC explains why carbon capture haven’t taken off since it began decades ago, here are some snippets from the article.

According to the article, there are 21 large-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) commercial projects worldwide where CO2 is removed from factory emission. The first one started in 1972, according to the International Energy Agency. It is not until 1980 that carbon capture technology was studied for climate mitigation. But even then carbon capture is done directly from factory emissions and not capturing carbon from the air which is a costly activity because carbon dioxide accounts for 0.04% in the atmosphere according to Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the MIT and author of the book “Carbon Capture.”  

According to the IEA, there are 15 direct carbon capture technology plants in Europe, the US, and Canada.

Klaus Lackner, director of Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and professor at Arizona State University, sees that CO2 is a waste problem. For centuries, factories and business have just simply dumped this waste into the atmosphere. Herzog thinks this is because it is cheaper to do so and not until the world realised that this is not acceptable when consequences the of climate change begins showing up.

For carbon capture technology to work, there should be economic costs of releasing carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere and a price for capturing and storing carbon.

Read the entire article by clicking the link below:

Source Citation:

Sanders, R. (2020, July 23). New technique to capture CO2 could reduce power plant greenhouse gases. Berkeley News. Retrieved from https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/07/23/new-technique-to-capture-co2-could-reduce-power-plant-greenhouse-gases/

Manskar, N. (2021, February 9). Elon Musk funds $100 million competition to find new technology to capture carbon. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/technology/elon-musk-funds-100-million-competition-to-find-new-technology-to-capture-carbon/news-story/ac9bb8f2dd3463a9a46012082f830605

Clifford, C. (2021, February 1). Carbon capture technology has been around for decades – here’s why it hasn’t taken off. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/31/carbon-capture-technology.html

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