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In the modern world, the stakes of climate change are higher than ever, and the need to address carbon emissions has never been clearer. Not only was 2023 the hottest year on record, but the top 10 warmest years in recorded history have all occurred within the last decade. One promising solution to address global warming is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This innovative technology is a beacon of hope in the pursuit for a sustainable future

What Is Carbon Capture and Storage?

CCS captures carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes or power generation and permanently stores them deep underground, preventing their release into the atmosphere. The benefits of CCS are significant, enabling energy-intensive industries to propel towards more sustainable operations while contributing to the global efforts to combat climate change.

Understanding the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Process

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is also occasionally called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). The distinction between applications is whether the captured carbon is permanently stored or reused in additional industrial processes. Captured carbon can be repurposed for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) or it can be further processed into different products. While the end goal of carbon capture is typically tailored to the specific emission source, the three-step process is very much the same.

Source: www.globalccsinstitute.com

Step 1. Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2)

The CO2 is separated from other gasses produced during an industrial process, such as fossil fuel-fired power plants or steel and cement factories. While most CCS systems are attached to a singular point of emissions, it’s also possible to capture CO2 directly from the open atmosphere using emerging technology. Advances in technology are also adapting CCS to renewable energy production, resulting in net-negative emissions in certain applications. 

Types of Carbon Capture Technology:

  • Post-Combustion: Primarily implemented by existing power plants, post-combustion CCS captures emissions from active energy generation by separating CO2 from exhaust gasses. This is the common methodology for CCS retrofits.
  • Pre-Combustion: Largely used by industrial facilities, pre-combustion CCS involves gasifying fuel and separating out the CO2. It’s less costly than the post-combustion method, but can only be applied to new facilities.
  • Oxy-Fuel Combustion: A newer innovation in CCS, oxy-fuel combustion burns fuel in a nearly-pure oxygen environment, rather than regular air. This method results in more concentrated carbon capture, creating a cheaper and more efficient process.
  • Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS): BECCS takes carbon capture to the next level, capturing carbon during the production of renewable biofuels. This groundbreaking technology achieves net negative emissions, removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits.
  • Direct Air Capture (DAC):  A separate but complementary carbon capture technology is direct air capture. DAC extracts CO2 from the atmosphere without being attached to a point of emissions. The remote nature of DAC enables closer proximity to storage sites, bolstering sustainability efforts by reducing transportation emissions.
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Step 2. Transporting stored CO2

The industrial point of emissions is typically not in the same location as storage sites or carbon repurposing facilities. After the capturing process, CO2 is then compressed and transported via pipelines, road transport, or ships to a dedicated site for utilization or storage. Keeping CO2 compressed during transportation is a difficult task, requiring specialized pipelines or pressurized and climate controlled vehicles.

Step 3. Utilization and/or Storage

Once compressed carbon reaches its final destination, it is either stored underground or repurposed for additional industrial production. Carbon is stored in large underground reservoirs, often repurposed from depleted oil or gas reserves. Carbon is often repurposed for enhanced oil recovery. This process injects carbon into nearly-depleted fossil fuel reservoirs to extract and produce the remaining resources. Other applications include the production of plastics, concrete, steel, or biofuels. 

How CCS Benefits Businesses

Early adoption of CCS technology creates an economic ripple effect. Not only does carbon capture implementation improve individual business operations, but it propels entire industries towards innovation and sustainability. Discover how carbon capture technology positions businesses at the forefront of innovation and sustainability efforts below: 

  • Future-proofing energy-intensive businesses and industries
    • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions in difficult-to-abate operations 
    • Aligning industries with global sustainability initiatives
    • Establishes a sustainable and eco-friendly reputation
  • Supports economic growth in the clean energy sector
    • Creating and sustaining high-value careers 
    • Facilitating the establishment of a low-carbon hydrogen market
    • Bolstering partnerships between the point of emissions and utilization facilities

The Environmental Advantages of CCS

The biggest environmental advantage of carbon capture is the reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change. Up to 90% of industrial carbon emissions could be captured through CCS technologies. It offers a substantial step forward for energy-intensive industries where renewable energy is unviable for production.

Not only does a smaller carbon footprint result in more sustainable operations, but it also contributes significantly to air quality and public health. During oxy-fuel CCS, facilities can also remove harmful air pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere. These efforts improve air quality and reduce instances of respiratory ailments like asthma, cultivating a healthier planet for future generations.

Are there any risks or environmental concerns with CCUS technology?

While CCS aims to reduce harmful emissions and environmental impact, all emerging technologies come with some level of risk. The biggest concerns in regards to the CCUS process relate to the transportation and storage of CO2

  • Transportation Risks: Cooling and compressing CO2 takes a significant amount of energy. CCS pipelines require specialization and cannot be repurposed from prior oil or gas pipelines. Pipeline leaks and faulty transportation equipment present a risk for diminished air quality and explosions.
  • Underground Storage Risks: Similar to fracking concerns, faulty or over-pressurized storage sites could result in small seismic events or tremors. The risk is minimal, but public opinion has significant concerns.
  • Counterproductive Efforts in Oil Recovery: Whether or not carbon capture should be utilized for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is a heated topic of debate. Using captured carbon to harvest and process more fossil fuels is counterproductive to the purpose of CCS technology.

While these risks should not be taken lightly, technological advancements aim to mitigate some of these risks. Currently, there are efforts to address underground storage concerns by taking storage above ground. The process uses carbon mineralization, which solidifies captured carbon into minerals like calcite while eliminating the risk of seismic activity.

Financing and Implementing CCS

As a newer technology, carbon capture retrofits or new construction comes with a high price tag. Retrofits tend to be expensive, requiring more costly post-combustion CCS technology and a customized design tailored to the existing structure. New construction offers more flexibility, however all carbon capture systems are deeply complex and their price tag reflects it. While the current cost of CCS is high, it will decline as more investment drives innovation and learning. Fortunately, there are several federal funding options available to offset the high cost of installation.

Governmental Funding and Incentives for CCS Implementation

  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021: This federal policy has allocated more than $62 billion towards funding clean energy initiatives and job development, including CCS and DAC implementation. 
  • IRS Tax Credit Section 45Q: Section 45Q provides a performance-based tax credit for carbon management projects from eligible industries, power facilities, or DAC applications. It can be claimed once CO2 is securely stored or successfully repurposed.
  • State-level Incentives: While not yet widely adopted, five states offer unique incentives for CCS implementation, including California, Texas, Louisiana, Montana, and North Dakota. 
Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project (Source: EIA.gov)

Petra Nova Reuses Coal-Fired Carbon Captured at Commercial Scale

Fort Bend County, Texas features one of the world’s only carbon capture and storage retrofits at a commercial power plant. The Petra Nova project began in 2016 with the goal to capture 1.4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year and utilize it for enhanced oil recovery at West Ranch oilfield, 80 miles away. Within the first three years of operation, Petra Nova captured 3.8 million tons of CO2 and achieved POWER Magazine’s 2017 Power Plant of the Year. Unfortunately, oil prices plunged in 2020 due to the pandemic, causing the Petra Nova project to shut down due to decreased oil demand.

However, as of September 2023, Petra Nova restarted operations, reinvigorating Texas’ carbon capture efforts. New governmental incentives have boosted momentum for CCS substantially. These incentives highlight the importance of projects like Petra Nova in researching the efficacy of carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) technologies. Furthermore it encourages other power plants to adopt similar CCS systems.

Two Million Metric Tons of CO2 Captured in the Midwest

Between 2003-2021, the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) collaborated with 40 government, industry, and university partners to implement carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies across the Midwest. The MRCSP identified emission sources and deep geologic storage, assessed risk, and deployed large-scale CCS solutions.

Over 20 years, the MRCSP safely captured and stored over 2 million metric tons of CO2, also utilizing it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). This resulted in the storage of 1.6 million metric tons of carbon and the production of 1.1 million barrels of oil. The MRCSP’s success has led to the extension of its work to a 20-state region, including the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern states, through the Midwest Regional Carbon Initiative.

Capturing a Sustainable Future Through CCS Innovations

Ultimately, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology presents a promising solution for combating climate change in energy-intensive industries while fostering economic growth and innovation. With available policy support and financial incentives available, energy-intensive industries have a unique opportunity to take a step towards a more sustainable future by implementing carbon capture solutions. As your trusted resource in the energy industry, Integrity Energy is committed to keeping you informed about industry innovations and incentives. Take the first step towards energy management by requesting a free quote from our dedicated energy experts.