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CCS Meaning: Understanding A Key Tool Against Global Warming

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CCS Meaning: What Is Captured Carbon & Storage?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method of mitigating the impacts of global warming by reducing carbon emissions. CCS is a process in which a nearly pure stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power generation and industrial sources is separated before it can reach the atmosphere, treated, and transported to a long-term storage location.

CCS involves three steps:

  • Step 1: Capturing the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal or natural gas in power generation or through industrial activity like steel or cement production.
  • Step 2: Compressing the CO2 and transporting it via ship, road transport, or pipeline.
  • Step 3: Storing the carbon deep underground by injecting it permanently into geological formations. The high temperatures and pressures that exist at these deep injection sites alter the CO2’s characteristics. This supercritical fluid allows for storage of much greater volumes of CO2 than at the surface.

How Can CCS Prevent or Reduce Global Warming?

CCS is one of many strategies and technologies that countries and organizations are using to address global warming and achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. CCS is a technology that can remove existing carbon from the earth’s atmosphere and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CCS is more of a transitional carbon reduction strategy. It allows industries to keep burning fossil fuels while preparing for a lower carbon future, by reducing the amount of CO2 currently emitted from their facilities.

What Is Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)?

CCUS stands for Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage. CCUS is closely related to CCS, except that it includes the process of capturing CO2 and recycling it for other uses. CCUS refers to a range of applications through which CO2 is captured and re-used by converting it either directly (i.e., not chemically altered) or indirectly (i.e., transformed) into various products like biofuel, plastics, or concrete.

Where Are Carbon Emissions Stored in CCS?

Storage can be challenging as it must be safe, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable. Storage locations that meet these conditions can be found both on and offshore, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently investigating five types of underground geological formations suitable for the carbon storage:

  1. Saline formations
  2. Oil and natural gas reservoirs
  3. Unmineable coal seams
  4. Organic-rich shales
  5. Basalt formations

Several large-scale CO2 tests [that inject at least 1 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2] are currently being conducted or have recently finished in the United States. The DOE has also recently invested $2.5 billion into developing large-scale carbon capture projects at coal or natural gas generation facilities and at industrial facilities.

In the United Kingdom, a saline aquifer in the southern North Sea named Endurance is the storage site for the proposed Zero Carbon Humber, and about one mile below the seabed. Endurance has the potential to store a large amount of carbon dioxide, and Zero Carbon Humber aims to build the world’s first net-zero industrial region.

Is Storing Carbon as Part of CCS Safe?

According to the Global CCS Institute, an international think tank with members from government, global corporations, and research bodies, “the injection and storage of CO2 is the final stage in the CCS process and has been working safely and effectively for over 50 years.” It adds that all components of CCS are proven technologies that have been used for decades on a commercial scale.

Other studies have pointed out the limited history of CCS, and that the long-term risk from carbon storage leakage is hard to predict. But a more recent study concluded that the natural trapping mechanisms involved in carbon storage ensure that the vast majority of the CO₂ (up to 98%) will remain safely trapped below ground for 10,000 years.

Where Was the First CCS Facility?

The first large-scale CCS project to inject CO2 into the ground was launched in the Sharon Ridge oilfield in Texas in 1972. That project has captured and stored more than 200 million tons of CO2 underground.

About 24 years later, Norway launched the world’s first integrated carbon capture and storage project, known as Sleipner, in the North Sea. Each year since 1996, about 1 million tons of CO2 from natural gas has been captured and stored at Sleipner.

Are There Carbon Capture Technology Companies?

Startups and companies dedicated to using CCS are part of a growing industry. There are now companies using various technologies to reduce emissions from steel production and cement production, decompose carbon in agriculture, and use microorganisms to fuel forest growth and remove carbon directly from the atmosphere. Companies such as these are partnering with major corporations and industry players to help them meet their sustainability goals.

What Does Today and Tomorrow Look Like for CCS?

According to the Global CCS Institute’s 2022 report, across the globe, there were 194 large-scale CCS facilities compared to 51 facilities in 2019. The CO2 capture capacity of all CCS facilities under development grew to 244 million tons per year in 2022—a significant increase of 44% over the year before. As it is a vital part of tackling climate change and delivering climate neutrality, a diverse international cohort of governments, corporations, private companies, research bodies and NGOs stay steadily committed to it. We have high hopes that it can help support a net-zero future.

By evee Life Contributor

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