Carbon Capture and Storage – CSS – is a technology that stores and captures CO2. For example, it can catch and store emissions from industries. CSS is considered a way to fight climate change as it can reduce emissions of CO2 that contribute to global warming. The technology is also known as carbon storage and geological storage.
Carbon Capture and Storage is a three-step process:
- The CO2 from any human activity, such as an emitting industry, gets captured.
- The CO2 gets transported.
- The gas gets stored deep underground.
However, this process is still under development today. At present, it is an expensive and complicated technology. Still, IPCC reports count on CSS to mitigate climate change. Many of the IPCC future scenarios rely on this technology.
Carbon Capture and Storage
As mentioned, CCS is a three-step process. The first step is catching the gas. To do this, CO2 must be separated from other gases that the same industry emits. Then, the CO2 gets compressed for transportation. The latter is by pipelines, but also via roads or ships. Finally, the CO2 gets stored underground by injecting CO2 into rock formations. For example, in used natural gas or oil reservoirs.
The first CCS facility opened in the US, Texas, in 1972. There, the CO2 got stored in natural gas plants. So far, it has held more than 200 million tons of CO2.
Critique of CCS technology
The Carbon Capture and Storage technology gets criticized for different reasons. Such as being an expensive technology and for being complicated to manage. Furthermore, it gets portrayed as a solution that does not deal with the root cause of the problem. Meaning that it still allows industries to emit GHGs. Rather than working to lower the emissions. Overall, there is a conflict between policymakers and environmental activists about CSS, as policymakers tend to rely on this technology while the latter warns the world about them. For example, a report from Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness states that CSS is not working as planned. They claim it is a dangerous distraction when working to achieve real change. Also, according to the report, Carbon Capture and Storage are not meeting expectations.
CSS also gets criticized as it has been used to extract more fossil fuels from the ground. Another report from CIEL calls CCS “ineffective, uneconomic and unsafe”. Furthermore, it states that it prolongs the use of fossil fuels while distracting from the real change that needs to happen. Again, this refers to lowering the emissions rather than emitting GHGs. Overall, CCS keeps being discussed and evaluated.
The future of CCS
CSS is essential to achieving the Paris Agreement of keeping global warming under 2°C. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2050, around 6000 million tonnes of CO2 will need to be stored yearly. This number is the same as about 12 % of the total climate action required to meet the two-degree target.
Examples of sources: National Grid, Friends of the Earth Scotland & Global Witness, CIEL