Which industries is carbon capture and storage helping?
Carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS) is currently being used to abate emissions across a whole host of industries around the world. But the world needs to deploy a lot more of it to achieve significant decarbonisation and limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Reducing emissions from the construction industry
Construction is responsible for more than one tenth of total carbon emissions around the world.
CCUS can help reduce the carbon involved in the manufacture of materials used in construction, such as steel and cement.
Low-carbon steel manufacturing?
Steelmaking alone — predominantly fuelled by coal — accounts for approximately 7% of total carbon emissions around the world.
A new project is already capturing around 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year from one Emirates Steel manufacturing plant and is deployed in enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
Reducing emissions from cement manufacturing
Manufacturing cement produces 8% of greenhouse gases around the world. So it’s encouraging that CCUS projects are working in this industry too.
In Brevik, Norway, Norcem Cement has established that 400,000 tonnes of CO2 could be captured and stored beneath the North Sea every year through CCUS. Operations could start as early as 2023.
CCUS-friendly cement production
But what if we could make cement without producing emissions? A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is investigating just that.
They’re using an electrochemical process to pre-treat the limestone that’s so important in cement manufacturing. As a result, the CO2 emitted can be more easily captured and stored through CCUS.
Cutting emissions from agriculture
Producing fertiliser for agriculture represents approximately 2% of total CO2 emissions worldwide.
CCUS can reduce those emissions, while still enabling farmers to produce reliable harvests.
Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s (OGCI) Climate Investments aim to capture and store an annual 1.3–1.6 million tonnes of CO2 from a fertiliser plant in Wabash Valley, Indiana.
Nature also offers ways to abate carbon emissions from farming. For instance, soil captures carbon from the organisms that die and then decay into it.
Reducing intensive ploughing, or changing how crops and grazing animals are rotated, could even help create carbon negative farms.
Hydrogen is already the driving force for many cars, trains and buses around the world.
Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas — but this emits CO2. CCUS can capture and store those emissions before they reach the atmosphere. Then all vehicles that are powered by this ‘blue hydrogen’ will only emit water and heat.
Capturing carbon from factories and industrial plants
New Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology developed by a company called Global Thermostat can be retrofitted to any factory or plant whose processes produce heat. That waste heat is used to power a DAC unit which captures emissions — either from a specific source or the atmosphere. Technologies like this — and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) — could rapidly help us achieve negative carbon emissions at scale.
One way to achieve this is at a regional scale — for example in Humber region of the UK. This is what is termed an ‘industrial cluster’, containing many industrial sites that emit a great deal of carbon. Rather than developing small-scale CCUS projects on a site-by-site basis, it’ll be easier and more effective to install large-scale shared BECCS, CCUS and hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure.
Whilst CCUS technology is already helping to remove and store CO2 from a number of high-carbon industries, it has the potential as a net zero technology to do much, much more.
A new report from Accenture and the World Economic Forum argues the most efficient way for industry to decarbonise is through large-scale net zero industrial clusters.