We have been discussing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies for quite some time now, and it has been especially so since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC declared the technique as one of the few immediate solutions to climate change. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) earlier this year showed that we are currently not using nearly enough CCS technologies, but experts are convinced that innovations and initiatives will soon pick up, although no one has the answer yet.
Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based company, is determined to change the current status quo. They are designing a carbon capture technology that is many times more efficient than natural vegetation. Because the technology is integrated into a large industrial facility, it allows for the captured CO2 to be purified on the spot, and exported directly to companies that convert it into fuel or other chemicals, or for storage underground.
A fully functioning facility of this kind is expected to have large number of fans, which will be directing air through membranes to the inside of the facility. The membranes would contain liquid that flows and captures CO2, and then transports it to the temporary storage location. Along this process, the liquid is regenerated, and ready to be used again.
The process would be highly energy efficient, as the captured carbon would be the one already present in the atmosphere, while the energy for running the mechanism would come from natural gas generators. This would mean that 33% of the CO2 output would come from the facility, while the remaining 66% that make up the total output would be captured from the atmosphere. Of course, in the plans, the guys from Carbon Engineering do not forget to mention the energy grid, and propose to aid balancing the energy overload coming from wind and solar.
The company is currently running a small pilot facility, which is used mainly to provide sufficient data. The test-run is about to end later on this year, and using the gathered information, Carbon Engineering plans to begin construction of a much bigger, fully functioning 50,000-metric-ton-per-year facility. While this is supposed to emerge in the coming five years, the company also plans to expand the capacity of future facilities to make them capture as much carbon as 250,000 cars would emit.
Only time will show whether this would work or not, but considering that CCS techniques are probably our best bet in the fight against climate change, we should not look at the technology lightly. Let’s hope we hear about improvements and developments sooner.
Image (c) Carbon Engineering