We rapidly need to stop emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to prevent the planet from overheating and sliding towards runaway climate change. We know that we can power our homes and run our cars using solar and wind power. Yet, what about industries such as steel and cement? They also emit vast amounts of CO2. This is where carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies might help.1
Many countries and companies worldwide have recently made commitments to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions in the coming years. Yet, not all of them can completely stop emitting carbon dioxide. In fact, capturing carbon before emitting it into the atmosphere may be the only solution in these cases, some industry experts say.2
CCS and CCU similarities
The main similarity between CCS and CCU is that they both require technology to capture carbon dioxide. Also, both methods need access to gas infrastructure to convert carbon dioxide. Furthermore, they also need transportation to carry the carbon after it is captured.
In Europe, CCS technology is more advanced than the projects that are able to utilise the captured carbon. Norway, for example, has had a CCS plant in operation at Sleipner since 1996.3
It is also worth noting that both CCS and CCU are relatively new technological processes. Surprisingly, there are only 21 facilities in the world, capturing around 40 million tonnes of carbon per year.4 Sadly, this is a drop in the ocean when the world emits over 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.5
CCS and CCU: Different usages and methods
After carbon dioxide is captured and converted into a more compressed state, CCS focuses on storing that carbon – usually underground. Currently, the US Department of Energy is exploring the best geologic storage approaches to store CO2 underground permanently.6 But, we can also store carbon through biological methods: trees, vegetation and the soil.7
CCU technology focuses on finding new and lucrative uses for that carbon. This includes everything from building products with it to burning it as fuel again. Companies are using carbon for concrete building materials, such as liquid fuels, chemicals and plastic materials.8
- Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment. (2018). What is carbon capture and storage and what role can it play in tackling climate change? [online] Available at: https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/explainers/what-is-carbon-capture-and-storage-and-what-role-can-it-play-in-tackling-climate-change/.
- Sullivan, C. (2021). Carbon capture eyes renewed backing despite past failures. [online] www.ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/5d2e52ff-638a-44fa-a49c-447c739fa6c6 [Accessed 19 May 2021]
- The potential for CCS and CCU in Europe REPORT TO THE THIRTY SECOND MEETING OF THE EUROPEAN GAS REGULATORY FORUM 5-6 JUNE 2019 COORDINATED BY IOGP. (2019). [online] . Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/iogp_-_report_-_ccs_ccu.pdf [Accessed 19 May 2021].
- IEA. (n.d.). Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – Fuels & Technologies. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/carbon-capture-utilisation-and-storage.
- Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2019). CO2 emissions. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions.
- Energy.gov. (n.d.). Storage Infrastructure. [online] Available at: https://www.energy.gov/fe/storage-infrastructure [Accessed 19 May 2021].
- Usgs.gov. (2017). What’s the difference between geologic and biologic carbon sequestration? [online] Available at: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-s-difference-between-geologic-and-biologic-carbon-sequestration [Accessed 7 Dec. 2019].
- Roberts, D. (2019). Climate change: 6 uses for CO2 that could cut emissions and make money. [online] Vox. Available at: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/11/13/20839531/climate-change-industry-co2-carbon-capture-utilization-storage-ccu.
- Climate change: Five cheap ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. (2018). BBC News. [online] 24 Oct. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45967215.