The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air

At-a-Glance 

While renewable energy is now widely accepted as the cheapest form of electricity generation, energy demand growth, government growth requirements and the need for a responsible transition mean fossil fuels will still have a role. But for that to work with climate goals, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology must be mainstreamed. In Iceland, Climeworks is showing how direct air capture/storage (DAC) could change the game. To learn more, read “The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • Climeworks new plant, named Orca, will combine Swiss-based Climeworks’ direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Iceland’s Carbfix and the plant should be online in spring 2021. 
  • What makes Climeworks use of DAC so interesting is that it doesn’t just work in removing emissions associated specifically with power generation, but can capture emissions directly from the air. This is the company’s largest plant so far, intended to capture around 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.
  • There has been significant movement in the CCS market recently. In the UK, as part of its recently announced green infrastructure plans, the government has promised £1 billion to set up four industrial clusters for CCS. 
  • The Norwegian government is working with Equinor, Shell and Total on a project intended to standardize and scale carbon capture, transportation and storage in Europe. The Northern Lights Project is expected to capture CO2 from industry in the Oslo-fjord region, following which the carbon will be liquefied and shipped to an onshore terminal on the Norwegian west coast and then taken out to the North Sea for long term subsea storage.
  • In Canada, Carbon Engineering says its technology can be scaled up to remove up to 1 million tons of CO2 from the air annually, with a large-scale plant in development with Occidental Petroleum with a completion date reported to be 2026. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Capturing carbon dioxide from the air, utilizing synthesis to combine these into hydrocarbons suitable for synthetic renewable fuels offers substantial opportunities to take valuable steps towards carbon neutral communities. These renewable fuels could be used in transportation, energy storage and energy distribution which improves power system sustainability, reliability and flexibility.

 

Photo by Thomas Kolbeck on Unsplash

Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra

At-a-Glance:

Becoming carbon neutral — also known as climate-neutral or net zero — is now a legal requirement in some countries, while European authorities are adopting legislation to become the first net zero continent. Even oil companies are getting in on the act. Buildings, airlines and events have also made the pledge, while investments groups managing almost $5 trillion of assets have committed to having carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050.To learn more, read Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is carbon neutral? It means cutting emissions to the very limit and compensating for what can’t be eliminated.
  • What are carbon offset credits? Developed by the United Nations and non-profit groups, these let the buyers emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas, which is offset by using the money raised to fund carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation.
  • Who’s trying to be carbon neutral? Dozens of countries have committed to go net zero, or at least outperform carbon-reduction targets set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • What’s driving this? CO2 pollution is still rising — 2019 was another record — and is unlikely to peak before 2040, driven by growing use of fossil fuels, says the International Energy Agency.
  • How will the goals be reached? To get anywhere close to net zero by 2050, the world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much will ride on technologies that on the grand scale required are as yet unproven, including carbon capture, using hydrogen as fuel and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Understanding the evolving terminology is useful, but embracing a plan that is possible, practical and affordable will combine knowledge with measurable results. As organizations add renewable energy to their net zero goals, it is important to develop a power system with flexibility, reliability and sustainability in mind. Renewable energy can actually generate renewable fuels that can be used to create a sustainable grid with a path to faster decarbonization.

 

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg