Both the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency state clearly that the world’s 2050 climate targets will not be reached without carbon capture. Technology to suck CO2 directly from the air or from a power plant exists, and like other strategies within the climate solutions bucket, its costs are falling steadily.
But although carbon capture has become an important piece of the climate change dialogue, what is the current state of carbon capture globally, what are they key differences between its many different branches, and who are the innovators, the leading engineers and scientists pioneering this fascinating technology?
Moreover, what is the “coal conundrum” that carbon capture has been unfavourably associated with in the environmental community? For many believe the world should be focused only on building renewable energy capacity, and not the carbon capture strategy, that leads to a “moral hazard” of allowing fossil fuel companies to operate business as usual- just with lower emissions.
The IPCC and the International Energy Agency outline a Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) that shows explicitly the following: the below-2 degrees scenario will not be reached by 2050 without carbon capture. Within the SDS, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) provides 9% of total cumulative emissions reductions by 2050.
Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a newer area than CCUS, with technology still developing. However, DAC will also be necessary to achieve the below-2 degrees scenario; thus, investment in both DAC and CCUS is needed today.
Many other CCUS projects offer co-benefits to climate change and these will be exciting to keep an eye on. A good example of CCUS projects that provide co-benefits is CCUS applied to hydrogen production. Hydrogen will play an increasing and potentially game-changing role in decarbonization, and CCUS can allow for the production of “clean” hydrogen that is affordable and scalable. Another example of CCUS with co-benefits is carbon utilization (the “U” in CCUS). Many smaller-scale but highly innovative companies are finding “value added” use for captured carbon, instead of storing it or using for enhanced oil recovery.
Snapshot of project analyzing Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) and Direct Air Capture
Snapshot of Leading Companies and Innovative Carbon Capture Projects in North America and Globally: