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Carbon Capture and Storage – CSS – is a technology that stores and captures CO2. For example, it can capture and store emissions from industries. CSS is being developed as a way to fight climate change. As it can reduce the large 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. First, the CO2 from any human activity, such as an emitting industry, is captured. Then, the CO2 is transported. Finally, it is 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. First, the CO2 is captured. For this to happen, the gas needs to be separated from other gases that are emitted through the same industry. Then, the CO2 is compressed to be transported. Transportation can be via pipelines, but also via roads or ships. Finally, the CO2 is stored underground. This is done 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 is stored in natural gas plants. So far, it has stored more than 200 million tons of CO2.

Critique of CCS technology  

The Carbon Capture and Storage technology is criticized for different reasons. Generally, it is seen as an expensive technology. It is also critiqued for being complicated to manage. Furthermore, it is seen 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. More so, they claim it is a dangerous distraction in the work to achieve real change. Also, according to the report, Carbon Capture and Storage is not living up to expectations. 

CSS is also 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. Which again, refers to lowering the emissions rather than keep emitting GHGs. Overall, CCS keeps being discussed and evaluated. 

The future of CCS  

CSS is a very important part to achieve the Paris Agreement. Which is to keep 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 each year. This is the same as about 12 % of the total climate action needed to meet the 2°C target.  

 Example of sources: National Grid, Friends of the Earth Scotland & Global Witness, CIEL

 


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