One of the main criticisms of carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) is that it’s only extending the lifespan of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal, and is therefore a false environmental solution. The truth is, if we are serious about lowering our carbon emissions and combatting climate change, then we need to get serious about carbon capture.
Today, the overwhelming majority of our energy consumption is based on fossil energy, with roughly one-third of that driven by the industrial and commercial sectors. CCUS is a technological solution available right now to address just that.
In fact, CCUS can capture more than 90% of CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities and is one of the few processes available that tackles emissions from heavy industries like fuel and chemical manufacturing and cement and steel production.
There’s no silver bullet to reaching net-zero emissions, but we can achieve 14% of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions needed by 2050 to slow global warming through CCUS technologies. We need to deploy every resource and technology available to us. That means renewable and nuclear energy, yes, but it also means leveraging carbon capture.
Ignoring the option of CCUS will not quicken our adoption of cleaner energy sources, but rather leave our industrial and commercial sectors – vital to keeping our economy running – more carbon intensive than necessary.
As Professor Michael Gerrard from Columbia Law School has stated, “Carbon sequestration is one essential component of addressing the climate crisis. While the ideal method is to reduce emissions, and everything possible must be done to achieve that, this still will not be enough…Industries, such as cement and steel production, emit carbon dioxide in massive amounts; [and] until technological
alternatives are developed and widely applied, it will be necessary to capture and then utilize or store the emissions from these industries as well.”
It’s also important that we consider carbon capture from a global perspective. Not all countries have enough renewable resources to effectively power their economies. For them, CCUS represents a clean, affordable energy supply.
This is crucial because, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global carbon capture industry will need to scale up to over 2,000 facilities capturing 2.8 gigatons of CO2 per year in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Or, as IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol has said, “CCUS is a necessary bridge between the reality of today’s energy system and the increasingly urgent need to reduce emissions. Not only can it avoid locking in emissions from existing power and industrial facilities, it also provides a critical foundation for carbon removal or negative emissions.”
Finally, CCUS technologies aren’t only used on fossil fuels. Hydrogen, for example, can leverage carbon capture to make it even cleaner, allowing for broader applications in industries across the economic spectrum. The deployment of carbon capture is a common-sense, tangible step towards reaching our environmental goals. That’s progress we should all be able to get behind.