Explainer-Why carbon capture is no easy solution to climate change

By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) – Applied sciences that seize carbon dioxide emissions to maintain them from the ambiance are central to the local weather methods of many world governments as they search to comply with by means of on worldwide commitments to decarbonize by mid-century.

They’re additionally costly, unproven at scale, and will be arduous to promote to a nervous public.

As nations collect for the twenty eighth United Nations local weather change convention within the United Arab Emirates on the finish of November, the query of carbon seize’s future function in a climate-friendly world might be in focus. Listed here are some particulars in regards to the state of the {industry} now, and the obstacles in the way in which of widespread deployment:


The most typical type of carbon seize know-how includes capturing the fuel from some extent supply like an industrial smokestack. From there, the carbon can both be moved on to everlasting underground storage or it may be utilized in one other industrial goal first, variations which might be respectively known as carbon seize and storage (CCS) and carbon seize, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

There are at present 42 operational industrial CCS and CCUS initiatives the world over with the capability to retailer 49 million metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly, in line with the International CCS Institute, which tracks the {industry}. That’s about 0.13% of the world’s roughly 37 billion metric tons of annual vitality and industry-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Some 30 of these initiatives, accounting for 78% of all captured carbon from the group, use the carbon for enhanced oil restoration (EOR), during which carbon is injected into oil wells to free trapped oil. Drillers say EOR could make petroleum extra climate-friendly, however environmentalists say the observe is counter-productive.

The opposite 12 initiatives, which completely retailer carbon in underground formations with out utilizing them to spice up oil output, are within the U.S., Norway, Iceland, China, Canada, Qatar, and Australia, in line with the International CCS Institute.

One other type of carbon seize is direct air seize (DAC), during which carbon emissions are captured from the air.

About 130 DAC services are being deliberate all over the world, in line with the Worldwide Vitality Company (IEA), although simply 27 have been commissioned and so they seize simply 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly.

The U.S. in August introduced $1.2 billion in grants for 2 DAC hubs in Texas and Louisiana that promise to seize 2 million metric tons of carbon per 12 months, although a ultimate funding choice on the initiatives has not been made.


One stumbling block to speedy deployment of carbon seize know-how is price.

CCS prices vary from $15 to $120 per metric ton of captured carbon relying on the emissions supply, and DAC initiatives are much more costly, between $600 and $1,000 per metric ton, due to the quantity of vitality wanted to seize carbon from the ambiance, in line with the IEA.

Some CCS initiatives in nations like Norway and Canada have been paused for monetary causes.

Nations together with the U.S. have rolled out public subsidies for carbon seize initiatives. The Inflation Discount Act, handed in 2022, gives a $50 tax credit score per metric ton of carbon captured for CCUS and $85 per metric ton captured for CCS, and $180 per metric ton captured by means of DAC.

Although these are significant incentives, corporations should still have to tackle some added prices to maneuver CCS and DAC initiatives forward, stated Benjamin Longstreth, international director of carbon seize on the Clear Air Activity Power.

Some CCS initiatives have additionally didn’t show out the know-how’s readiness. A $1 billion venture to harness carbon dioxide emissions from a Texas coal plant, for instance, had persistent mechanical issues and routinely missed its targets earlier than it was shut down in 2020, in line with a report submitted by the venture’s homeowners to the U.S. Division of Vitality.

The Petra Nova venture restarted in September.


The place captured carbon will be saved is proscribed by geology, a actuality that might change into extra pronounced if and when carbon seize is deployed on the type of large scale that might be wanted to make a distinction to the local weather. The very best storage websites for carbon are in parts of North America, East Africa, and the North Sea, in line with the International CCS Institute.

Meaning getting captured carbon to storage websites might require in depth pipeline networks and even transport fleets – posing potential new obstacles.

In October, for instance, a $3 billion CCS pipeline venture proposed by Navigator CO2 Ventures within the U.S. Midwest – meant to maneuver carbon from heartland ethanol vegetation to good storage websites – was canceled amid considerations from residents about potential leaks and building injury.

Firms investing in carbon removing have to take significantly group considerations about new infrastructure initiatives, stated Simone Stewart, industrial coverage specialist on the Nationwide Wildlife Federation.

“Not all applied sciences are going to be doable in all places,” Stewart stated.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Modifying by Marguerita Choy)

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