Every year, the world emits over 36 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air.1 As carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere, it causes global temperatures to rise, leading to climate change. So, what if factories stopped contributing to global warming by capturing and storing carbon beforehand?
That is the question many scientists, researchers and organisations are asking. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology could potentially help us to stop climate change. But one of the challenges scientists are now facing is how to store the carbon after it is captured.2
What is carbon storing?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions before they are released. By storing the carbon dioxide underground, we remove it permanently from the atmosphere. The US Department for Energy is looking into storing carbon underground in five different areas. This includes saline formations, oil and natural gas reservoirs, unmineable coal seams, organic-rich shales and basalt formations.3
How can carbon storing change the air we breathe?
Carbon capture and storage technology works more effectively in factories and industries with high levels of pollution. This would include steel factories, and power generation and ethanol production facilities. Removing and storing carbon captured from the atmosphere has the potential to reduce global warming drastically. It could also reduce the concentration of harmful gases in the air we breathe. But the storage of carbon must be safe, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective.4
What are the different technologies used for carbon storing?
The global threat from climate change requires us not only to eliminate more carbon emissions, but also to reduce the level of CO2 in the air. There are, broadly, three ways to store carbon dioxide in the air: biological, geological and using technology.5
- Afforestation and reforestation (biological)
- Improving the soil (biological)
- Planting more vegetation (biological)
- Fertilising the oceans (biological)
- Processing rocks to absorb more CO2 (geological)
- Capturing carbon at power plants and factories (technological)
- Direct air capture of CO2 (technological)
Carbon dioxide capture and storage at factories is still a relatively costly technology. Capturing CO2 directly from the air is even more costly.6 Also, it is not yet clear who would pay for capturing and storing the carbon, given its high cost. So far, it is being used in fewer than 20 facilities worldwide.7 Scientists say biological methods may be the cheapest and most proven solutions we have to remove carbon from the air.8
Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2019). CO2 emissions. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions.