Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from emission-producing processes and industries to be recycled for further use, such as conversion into commercial chemicals. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing CO2 and storing it, often in underground geological formations such as oil and gas reservoirs, in the attempt to prevent its release into the atmosphere. 12 13
Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) technologies aim to reduce the rates of CO2 emissions and the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to help limit impacts on the global climate.
Carbon capture systems are essentially filters attached to carbon emitting producers that capture excess carbon dioxide. Filters improve the quality of a product by removing undesired compounds, material and contaminants.. CCUS involves filtering the emissions of facilities that burn fossil fuels and removing carbon dioxide (CO2), opening up potential for clean energy 1 and industries 2 to operate at reduced emissions.
CCUS systems can be classified by their capacity, permanence of storage, environmental consequences, and implementation costs. Implementing CCUS technologies requires further investigation into creating integrated systems that involve co-generation of energy while capturing CO2, as well as consideration of the social costs of carbon across scientific, engineering, and policy-making communities and the general public.
Fossil fuels remain in high demand across the world. According to Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Energy Consumption Projections of the World to the Year 2040, 3, the world will continue to be heavily reliant on fossil fuels, with oil and other petroleum products providing the largest share of global energy consumption. Natural gas and coal will also remain a vital fuel for the world’s electricity markets, with the largest consumers being China, the United States, and India.
The byproducts of energy consumption are CO2 emissions, the most significant contributor to global warming. The deployment of CCUS technologies could represent an important step for achieving emissions reduction goals while ensuring that a reliable source of energy is available.
“Even though the International Energy Outlook 2017 expects non-fossil fuels (renewables and nuclear) to grow faster than fossil fuels, fossil fuels still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040. Natural gas, which has a lower carbon intensity than coal and petroleum, is the fastest-growing fossil fuel in the outlook, with global natural gas consumption increasing by 1.4% per year. The relatively high rate of natural gas consumption growth is attributed to abundant natural gas resources and rising production — including supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coal bed methane.” 3
The SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 CCS (BD3) facility in Saskatchewan, Canada, pioneered large-scale CO2 capture for power generation as the world’s first fully-integrated CCUS facility at a coal-fired power station. This full-chain facility includes CO2 capture, compression, and transport. CO2 captured at the BD3 operation is utilized for nearby enhanced oil recovery (EOR) 5 operations, while also providing CO2 for injection and permanent geological storage. BD3 has a design capacity to capture 1 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 per year. In November 2019, the facility celebrated a significant milestone – a cumulative total of three million tonnes 6 of CO2 was captured and injected since start-up, equivalent to taking 750,000 cars off the road.
BD3 is the only coal-fired power plant permitted to continue operations in Canada after 2030, provided it keeps an annual average emission intensity below 420 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt-hour (t/GWh). Carbon-capturing technology allows us to continue using carbon-emitting energy technologies throughout the clean energy transition.
When taking action towards lowering carbon emissions, it’s important to stay informed about technology development and how it intersects with policy, and its possible impacts on communities. As CCUS is a growing field, there are increasingly more opportunities to learn more about and work on CCUS through research, engineering, or other career paths. For example, Inspired Minds Career 2030 includes carbon capture technicians in their sneak peek into the future of Canada’s professional horizon through Careers 2030 11.
Recent blog posts about Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage
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- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre/Energy Mix (n.d.) https://ccsknowledge.com/what-is-ccs/energy-mix
- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre/Industry (n.d.) https://ccsknowledge.com/what-is-ccs/industry
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (2017). https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=32912
- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre. (n.d.) Lessons for the World https://ccsknowledge.com/bd3-ccs-facility/lessons-for-the-world
- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre (n.d.). Large-Scale Utilization and Storage https://ccsknowledge.com/pub/documents/factsheets/-EOR-STORAGE_FA-(Full-Brochure).pdf
- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre (n.d.) Corwyn Bruce Blog/3 Million Tonnes https://ccsknowledge.com/blog/3-million-tonnes-of-co2-captured-in-saskatchewan
- International Carbon Capture Knowledge Centre (n.d.). 2nd Generation (https://ccsknowledge.com/initiatives/2nd-generation-ccs—shand-study
- Great Plains Institute (2019). 45Q Tax Credit for Carbon Capture Projects. https://www.betterenergy.org/blog/primer-section-45q-tax-credit-for-carbon-capture-projects/
- Rachel Cohen (2019). The Environmental Left Is Softening On Carbon-capture Technology. Maybe That’s Ok. https://theintercept.com/2019/09/20/carbon-capture-technology-unions-labor/
- International Bortherhood of Boilermakers Canada (2018). CCS: Bridge to a Cleaner Energy Future. https://boilermaker.ca/en/ccs-bridge-to-a-cleaner-energy-future/
- CST Inspired Minds Careers 2030. https://careers2030.cst.org
- Energy.gov. Carbon Capture, Utilization & Storage. https://www.energy.gov/carbon-capture-utilization-storage
- Research Coordination Network on Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (n.d.). What is CCUS? https://www.aiche.org/ccusnetwork/what-ccus