There is global agreement to reduce emissions and limit increases in temperatures to two degrees celsius by 2100, with the need to stem the peak in emissions as soon as possible.
Emissions reduction will require a full suite of responses: increased use of renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, fuel switching, and the use of carbon capture and storage as the major technology to curb industrial emissions.
What is carbon capture and storage?
Global energy demand will rapidly grow into the foreseeable future. Even with significant reductions in fossil fuel reliance, commitments to a two degree emissions limit cannot be met unless the fossil fuels we continue to use are properly abated.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) uses a group of known technologies to capture, transport and store carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants and energy intensive industries like cement, steel and chemical production.
Emissions are separated from industrial processes through solvent or membrane technologies that capture the carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is then cooled and compressed to where it can be efficiently transported, either by pipeline or other means.
The CO2 is then injected deep underground into a specifically mapped geological formation, where the carbon will settle and remain for 1000 a years or longer. Read more on this process here. To provide ongoing assurance to the community that the CO2 remains where it is expected, it is monitored as part of the storage program.
The technologies involved in CCS are not inherently new having been applied in various forms for decades in the oil and gas industry, however their application to emissions reduction is relatively recent.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that CCS could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 13%, and that fighting climate change could cost 70% more without CCS.
A simplified overview of the carbon capture and storage process.
Why is carbon capture and storage needed?
The IEA state that the level of fossil fuel energy in the global energy mix in 2013 was 81%. To keep global temperature rise below 2oC this will need to decrease to 40% of primary energy use by 2050. This will require 95% of coal fired power plants and 40% of gas fired power plants to be equipped with CCS.
A mix of carbon reduction technologies is required to reduce global emissions.
CCS is not just limited to power generation, but can be applied to other industrial sources, such as natural gas processing, fertiliser production, hydrogen production, and iron, steel and cement making. The carbon emissions of industrial processes are around a quarter of global carbon emissions. There is also the potential to apply CCS to bio-fuel generation to achieve negative emissions.
CO2CRC works through three main research programs to reduce emissions: