What is Carbon Capture Technology?

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Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Right now, there is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere than there has been in human history. We know that CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) have a direct impact on climate change—and we also know that the reduction of GHGs is essential if we want to curb the negative impacts of climate change.

Carbon capture and storage, more commonly known as CCS, is a suite of technologies that captures over 90% of the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-based power plants and industrial sources before they ever reach the atmosphere, thereby mitigating the devastating effects of global warming. CCS technologies have been recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the leading international scientific body for the assessment of climate change – as essential components in climate mitigation technologies necessary to avoid the effects of climate change.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that CCS is the “only technology able to deliver significant emissions reductions from the use of fossil fuels.” Given the world’s current reliance on fossil fuels (81% in 2014), the ability of CCS to achieve deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions—especially carbon dioxide (CO2)—from power generation and other industrial sources makes it among the most essential strategies available in the fight against climate change. ION Engineering is leading the way toward a zero-carbon future.

How does Carbon Capture Work?

There are currently three principal technologies used to capture CO2: pre-combustion, post-combustion, and Oxyfuel combustion.

  • Pre-combustion – The removal of CO2 before burning the fuel source (Coal/Gas).
  • Post-combustion – Removal of CO2 from the flue gas after the fuel source is burned.
  • Oxyfuel combustion – This process burns the fuel source with nearly pure oxygen instead of air.

The post-combustion removal of CO2 is the preferred method because it is the most cost-effective option for retrofitting existing power plants. There are currently three viable options for post-combustion carbon capture:

  • Solvent Absorption: – This is the most common type of post-combustion capture technology. The solvent absorbs CO2 upon contact in an absorber column and is then separated using heat to recycle the solvent and to safely capture the carbon dioxide. ION has developed a highly efficient, cost-effective novel solvent technology that has been successfully demonstrated in large-scale applications.
  • Solid-sorbents: – In a similar way to solvent-based capture, most sorbents work via adsorption but, use solids instead of liquids.
  • Membranes: – Involves a type of stationary filter system that captures CO2 through large membrane filters.

What do We do with the Carbon After We Capture it?

Reusing captured CO2 makes carbon capture not only environmentally friendly, but also economically beneficial. There are almost unlimited uses for the CO2 that we capture from power plants and industrial facilities, but here are some of the most innovative that are actually being implemented today:

  • The craft brewing industry uses the CO2 from the fermentation process, capture it, and reuse it when canning or bottling
  • Captured CO2 can be used to grow micro-algae for processing to biofuel, fertilizer, and fish food, among others
  • Car manufacturers are using captured COto make a new foam for use in car seats and interiors
  • CO2 can be captured and converted to carbon-monoxide and used as a reagent for fuels like ethanol or diesel
  • Coffee roasters use CO2 to decaffeinate their coffees
  • Greenhouses can use CO2 to enhance plant growth
  • Captured CO2 can be converted to baking soda