Air Clean Up
How Do You Capture Carbon?
May 07 2021
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reaching our targets of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-Industrial Revolution levels will take more than simply curbing our carbon emissions. Sadly, so much CO2 has already been released into the atmosphere that we must now work to take some of that back out if we are to have any chance of avoiding the most damaging effects of climate change.
So how exactly can that carbon be captured? Well, there are a number of different methods by which the goal can be achieved – some which leverage the awesome power of Mother Nature in an attempt to redress the balance, others which employ advanced scientific technology to manipulate our atmosphere. Here’s a quick run-through three of the most popular and commonly practiced methods of capturing carbon at the present time.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
CCS operates on the principle that prevention is better than the cure, which is why it aims to remove carbon content from the gas streams of power plants, industrial factories and other large-scale facilities at the point of emission. It achieves this by installing a solvent filter to the chimney of the building in question which is capable of isolating and capturing the carbon as it is released. The CO2 is then transported away to a storage site, most commonly located at least 1km underground. This technology has incredible potential but is still in its infancy and faces a number of teething problems, such as gas purity analysis, the expensive costs associated with the practice and the possibility of leakages occurring.
Carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS)
CCUS operates upon very similar principles to CCS. However, instead of simply pumping the gas to an underground location where it can be safely stored without fear of contaminating the environment, this discipline seeks a valuable use for the carbon above ground. This could involve anything from manufacturing plastics to facilitating the rollout of environmentally friendly refrigeration to assisting in the cultivation of plants and crops to carbonating fizzy drinks. Again, the technology here is still very much at the drawing board stage, though the scientific community has high hopes for it going forwards.
Aside from new-fangled technologies such as CCS and CCUS, a more straightforward alternative course of action would be to rely on the natural process of photosynthesis. To generate energy, plant life must absorb carbon from the air, which is why forests are often regarded as the lungs of the planet. By scaling back deforestation activities and pouring more resources into restoring and expanding existing forested areas, we can take advantage of the Earth’s natural properties to mitigate carbon concentrations. Forestation is also significantly cheaper than either of the above options and has huge potential if employed on a mass scale.
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