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The Future of Carbon Capture Technology #carboncapture #chemicaltechnology #ipumusings

The Future of Carbon Capture Technology 

The Future of Carbon Capture Technology  #carboncapture #chemicaltechnology #ipumusings

Author: Harsh Pandey


Just as alcohol-producing yeast eventually creates an environment too toxic for itself to survive, Humans too, in the same way, are pumping greenhouse gases into the world's atmosphere that we eventually are creating a situation questionable enough for the human survival itself, if something is not done. Many ideas have been discussed to mitigate climate change by planting trees in the Sahara or by using aerosols to block out the sun radiations but both of these are pretty extreme ways and come with big risks that could lead to some unforeseen consequences. So, what if we could just suck out the carbon dioxide from the air helping to undo some of the damage that has been done?

The future of carbon capture Technology

Several capture technologies like pre and post-combustion carbon capture can prevent up to 80 to 90% of a power plants carbon emission from entering the atmosphere which is quite a big number but other question arises about the storage of the carbon.

Bunkering away of gases like CO2 is taking place in the sea beds of the North Sea by the oil company Equinor at its Sleipner site and the oil giant is planning to sequester even more carbon dioxide into the sea beds. Research suggests that the storage potential in the seas like the North Sea is large enough to handle a substantial part if not everything that comes out of Europe.

The other method of storing carbon has been observed by storing it as a supercritical fluid (a fluid having a property of both gas and liquid) under the cap rocks, but a problem with this storage is linked with the leakage of the carbon if it takes place in a large quantity in the environment. If exposed to it, it has been observed that it leads to large-scale plant mortalities and decreased growth of plants nearby that area. And for this storage to be feasible and secure the carbon dioxide needs to be stored for at least more than a hundred years beneath the surface.

So ultimately the question arises that are these technologies and ideas really feasible or we are just buying time?

Feasibility of the modern technologies

While 80 to 90% of the power plant’s carbon emission can in theory, be captured from the source itself, the carbon emitted by the power plants accounts for only 25% of the total emission. The rest of the emission takes place by the transportation and agricultural activities there is a need to find out other feasible methods.

Direct air capture in which the carbon dioxide is removed directly from the atmosphere is still a questionable technology because removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large scale is extremely expensive. Data suggests that around $600 per metric ton of CO2 is estimated cost. Recently a team of scientist and a Bill Gates funded company Carbon Engineering announced that they have built a DAC technology which is comparably cheap and the costs to be estimated around 94 to 232 dollar per metric ton of CO2 and this carbon could be stored properly and also reused to form carbon-based fuels.

What targets to set?

Estimates suggest that around 330 billion tons of CO2 is the limit we can emit to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius whereas the current amount of release is estimated to be around 420+ billion tons, steps like closing CO2 power plants, expanding the use of renewable energies, switching to electric vehicles and various other methods will cause emissions to come down. Our ambitions decide the quantity of CO2 that will go down, but the keeping of co2 below 330 billion tons seems to be a hopeless cause because there will be more than that of co2 that needs to be removed from the air. We also need traditional methods like reforestation, new planting techniques because even if we cut our CO2 emissions to half every decade, we still have to remove extra CO2, which is in several hundred million tons from the atmosphere by the end of the century and other question arises about what to do from that captured CO2 where to store, use it in a feasible way?

The cost effectiveness of the Carbon Capture

After the carbon is captured through the direct air capture technology this carbon can be used with hydrogen to form hydrocarbons which can be used as artificial fuels. The process of converting carbon monoxide and hydrogen to hydrocarbons is called the Fischer tropsch process this means that the direct air capture technology companies can produce carbon-neutral hydrocarbons which means if you are burning this fuel and again and emitting carbon, this carbon has been already captured from the atmosphere hence we head towards carbon-neutral production and most importantly it helps the companies to get motivation through these profits which come by selling these artificial fuels. The Carbon Engineering company. Targets to produce around 200 barrels of synthetic fuels per day by 2021. But again the question of cost arises, the data show the world emitted about 32.5 gigatons of CO2 in the year 2017 and if we consider the cost as estimated by the company the overall cost of this capture would be around 3 trillion to 7.5 trillion dollars which seems like a lot but many industries are having worth even more than that like Apple or various other airline industries. so, definitely a difficult idea but not impossible.

Large scale adaptation of this technology could definitely help in reducing the cost as is the case with other renewable technologies like the solar power plants but however, to keep the target of limiting the global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius we actually need a negative carbon emission not neutral carbon emission where what the technology of DAC (direct-air-capture) promises is a carbon-neutral fuel. we need carbon to be taken out of the atmosphere and stored permanently, but the reality with the storage of carbon is that if the carbon is extracted from the atmosphere and store directly there is no market for the technology. The only possible way to implement this technology is through government subsidies and it totally relies on the government funds.


Considering today's market situation, the cost of renewable technologies, and the carbon capture technologies the data prove that it is cheap not to emit carbon rather than capturing it from the atmosphere although these technologies will definitely play a major role In climate change. These are not the ones to totally rely on and these technologies will not become a panacea to all of the climate problems but still, these technologies are the ones at present to be invested in as a tool in the toolbox to help solve the problem.

Also, in theory, as the direct air capturing technology itself produces its fuel every country investing in this technology may possibly have its own fuel in the near future. But the biggest problem is human behavior which needs to be changed on an urgent basis.  The rising global population, with hundreds of startups using machinery producing huge amounts of environmentally damaging substances and human activities recklessly allowing pollutants into the atmosphere, are the first matters to be looked upon.


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About the Author:

Harsh Pandey is pursuing his Chemical Engineering at the University School of Chemical Technology(USCT), GGSIP University, Dwarka, Delhi. His main interests are in Carbon Footprinting, Environmental Chemistry and Industrial chemistry. 

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