As you may know, carbon is our planet’s building block for life. In many ways, carbon is life – and carbon capture, carbon removal and carbon storage solutions aim to keep life on earth in working order. Carbon is found in each of the three forms on earth: liquid, solid, and gas.
What many know carbon from is when it’s combined with oxygen into the air, though, giving us the well-known and familiar carbon dioxide (CO2). Likewise, carbon is in durable materials, too, like diamond and graphite.
And while the element is found and produced in nature, it’s primarily created from human activities. A warming, heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide is, in part, responsible for the climate change the planet has experienced.
While CO2 is produced naturally through examples like organic matter decomposition, biologically (through oceans) and forest fires, it’s produced far more abundantly by our man-made tasks. Power generation, the burning of fossil fuels and utilizing both for transportation are just some of the many CO2-producing activities humanity currently uses.
What is the process of carbon capture and storage (CCS)? Many companies are seeking new ways to achieve decarbonization, reduce carbon footprint and gain advantage on their competitors. Going green and having proof behind it has even improved customer loyalty for many businesses.
Overall, the process of capturing carbon is referred to as carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS, also referred to as carbon capture utilization and sequestration. The process captures the carbon dioxide emissions dispersed from fossil fuels and coal-fired power plants, then either stores it or reuses it. Either way, the process prevents carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.
CCS, or CCUS, plays an important role in reducing and mitigating the greenhouse gases emitted from mine factories, manufacturing facilities and power plants worldwide. Using a variety of methods, digital solutions, decarbonization technology and software for sustainability, companies can capture carbon emissions before they ever hit the atmosphere. Then, carbon storage is the next step, unless the carbon is reused for a different purpose. For example, instead of simply being put in storage, CO2 can be used to enhance oil recovery. Alternatively, it may be stored underground in an appropriately-sized geological formation.
These smart manufacturing technologies have been a proven part of the industrial digital transformation and in use for decades now across multiple industrial applications. Since then, the widespread adoption of CCS for power plants has been hindered, largely due to challenges associated with integrating sustainability manufacturing into existing infrastructure, as well as the high costs revolving around doing so. Regardless, carbon capture is a key component to carbon offsetting and a brighter sustainability future. Significant investments are underway and adding up to provide long-term value for those enterprises.
Let’s look at the process of this emissions control strategy in action. Large-scale carbon capture projects are demonstrated every day in commercial operations. These include, but aren’t limited to, natural gas processing, coal gasification, refinery hydrogen production, fertilizer production, ethanol production and the most recent addition, coal-fired power generation.
An example of one of these decarbonization strategies can be seen in various industrial operations where large-scale carbon capture processes occur. The result is the prevention of harmful greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. Typically, CO2 is then transported to a facility to be later stored safely underground.
There are also some more natural methods that can be used for carbon capture. For example, while deforestation has a negative impact on the environment, reforestation is an opposing process that regrows forests. Soil management, ocean fertilization, and land-use changes are other methods that we can use to naturally help mitigate climate change.
Essentially, there are three basic types of CO2 capture. These methods to capture include oxyfuel with post-combustion, post-combustion and pre-combustion. Because there are two types of post-combustion, some operations consider there to be only two main methods for carbon capture: pre-combustion and post-combustion.
Pre-combustion is what separates CO2 from any other gas so that fossil fuels can more safely be burned. In this method, CO2 is compressed and then stored underground.
Post-combustion, on the other hand, is the process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from power plant exhaust gases after they’ve already been burned. Just like pre-combustion, the element is then compressed and stored underground.
Does carbon capture, carbon removal and carbon storage actually work? Researchers believe that it will, but the technology is still evolving. Plenty of pilot projects around the world are using different methods to find what’s best at preventing the wrong gases from reaching the atmosphere. There are a handful of projects operating within the US right now. Once improved on a large scale, CCUS will be a game-changer in the fight against climate change.
As we mentioned above, there are natural ways to help carbon capture and storage. Just as enterprises and industries can implement reforestation, so can an individual on their personal property.
Building with wood, using low-carbon cement, planting trees and even eating pasture-raised or plant-based meat are ways one person can help reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases, as a whole. Wood products store carbon for many years, as well as trees. Low-carbon cement, like lime mortars, don’t require the burning of fossil fuels to be produced. Cattle raised in pastures can graze on grass instead of grains, which allows them to produce less methane gas. As you can see, there are always plenty of ways to give back to mother nature.
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