Carbon Capture Technology will Save Earth. Here’s how
Our Earth has been experiencing a great deal recently and we as a whole realize who is at fault. Melting glaciers, eroding soil, rising temperatures, polluted air, severe droughts, and storms are one of the few things which have stirred the need for some grave steps towards Earth conservation or else the fate of our forthcoming generations is not going to be that glorious as we all have hoped for. Emissions Gap Report 2019 has stated that ‘Fossil CO2 emissions from energy use and industry, which dominate total GHG emissions, grew 2.0 percent in 2018, reaching a record of 37.5 GtCO2 per year.’
According to the state of India’s Environment Report 2019, ‘There has been a 22 percent increase in India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 2010 and 2014. This has been fuelled by the energy sector, which is responsible for 73 percent of the total GHG emissions’.
Better late than never we have realized that it’s not easy to sustain with oxygen masks on the face or with a fatal lung disease or without seeing daylight. It’s better to start today to save what is left. And one such prominent step in this direction is the rise of Carbon Capture technology. Although this technology has not become widespread at present but given the advantages it offers it may soon become the big game in the natural environment protection scenario.
NEED OF CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY
Carbon Capture is a technology that can seize up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) eruptions produced from the use of fossil fuels and barring the carbon dioxide from entering the environment. Firstly let’s talk about the concept of fossil fuels and how it became the ground for the rise of carbon capture technology. Fossil fuels are fuels formed over a long period from death remains of plants & animals that were buried and decomposed beneath the earth’s surface. The three most valuable fossil fuels are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are found underground, confined in deposits surrounded by rock beds. Fossil fuels have high carbon content because of their origins. They are found in 96% of the things we utilize every day. They are used as fuel, gasoline for cars, jet fuel, heating oil, natural gas used to generate electricity, providing heat for industrial applications and much more. No doubt it is something of prominent significance for humankind but as the saying goes everything comes with a price; fossil fuels are not far from different. The price of using fossil fuels was considerably high.
The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at the highest levels ever recorded. The Burning of fossil fuels has even elevated Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. These gases in return absorb solar energy and trap them near the earth’s surface by preventing the escaping of heat resulting in the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases have several environmental and health effects. Global warming is the term that has coined due to the tremendous impact of greenhouse gases on the environment. Earth’s increasing global temperatures, acidifying oceans, causing sea levels to rise due to melting glaciers, drought and extinction of species are some effects of co2 emissions on our environment.
If we look for the direct impact of the extraction of these fossil fuels, it has caused health and safety hazards to the close workers of mining and drilling processes of fossil fuels at the same time negatively impacting the environment. Some of the issues are crumbling or slow receding of mines affecting surface and subsurface water flows. Also mine fires, acid drainage are major issues that are dangerous to the human, plant, and animal life. Mudslides, landslides, contamination of drinking water with harmful chemicals, soil erosion, land degradation and much more is the cost our environment had to pay to use these fossil fuels. Along with this, it has also affected human health with lung, cardiovascular, and kidney diseases like diabetes and hypertension besides low birth rate and preterm births.
WHAT IS CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY
Carbon Capture Technology is also known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or Carbon Capture and Sequestration or Carbon Control and Sequestration. It is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from large sources and depositing them in places where it can’t enter the environment again. It mainly comprises of three steps:
1. Capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) usually emitted from industrial and energy-related sources
2. Transporting it to a storage site
3. Injecting it deep underground in secure geological formations, and ensuring it remains stored there indefinitely.
Carbon dioxide can be captured directly from the air or from point sources, such as large fossil fuel or biomass energy facilities and industries with major CO2emissions (for example, cement factory or biomass power plant) and other sources through diverse processes which include absorption, adsorption, chemical looping, or membrane fuel separation technologies. Absorption, or carbon scrubbing, with amines, is the most often used capture technology. These technologies facilitate the separation of carbon dioxide from gases produced in large fossil fuel or biomass energy facilities or industries through three distinct methods namely post-combustion capture, pre-combustion capture, and oxyfuel combustion.
After capture, several systems are used to transport CO2to a storage site. Pipelines are the most popular technique used to transport compressed gaseous CO2 as it is a relatively easier and less costly method. However, contamination in CO2streams, like sulfurs and water, may have a vast impact on their phase behavior and can pose a sizable chance of elevated corrosion of pipelines. In situations wherein CO2impurities exist, specifically with air capture, a scrubbing separation system is required to filter the flue gas. Another technique is the transportation of CO2in liquid form through ships, rails or road tankers in insulated tanks at low temperatures and pressure. This is a preferred method if the CO2has to be moved over large distances or overseas.
Permanent storage of captured CO2 is the final step of Carbon Capture and Storage technology. Various methods have been used for the permanent storage of CO2.
Captured CO2 is stored in gaseous form in various deep geographical formations or in solid form by reaction of CO2 with metal oxides to produce stable carbonates. Another prominent method in this field is Geological Storage (also known as Geo-sequestration.) This method involves injecting carbon dioxide in supercritical form state, directly into underground geological formations. Oil & gas fields, Saline, and Saline-filled basalt formations are some of the storage sites for Geological Storage.
BENEFITS OF CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY
- The chief environmental gain of CCS is its ability to diminish atmospheric levels of CO2 while fossil fuels continue to be used to fuel the world’s energy consumption.
- CCS delivers climate change benefits as a result of reduced CO2 eruptions. These benefits significantly reduce climate-related harm to human well-being.
- It can significantly facilitate the mitigation of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions up to 50-85% by 2050 in India.
- It can limit the inflation in global average temperature from surpassing a threshold of 2 °C over pre-industrial times by 2100 in India.
- Captured Carbon dioxide could be used to strengthen concrete which in turn leads to increased infrastructure & durability.
- If more CCS operations were implemented, more skilled technicians would be needed to manage them benefitting the global economy.
- Protection of fish, wildlife habitat and human culture of indigenous, Native or First-Peoples in Arctic regions.
- Countries that develop CCS early will benefit from the export of skills and technology interna¬tionally.
RISKS OF CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY
- The major risk associated with Carbon capture and storage is the leakage of Carbon dioxide (CO2) from storage sites. It would be a danger if stored CO2 will leak back to the surface and into the atmosphere as CO2 at high levels of concentration is an asphyxiant that can cause unconsciousness or death by suffocation. It can also result in the decontamination of drinking water supplies and cause noted cardiorespiratory disease and mortality outcomes.
- CO2 could leak into the atmosphere during the transport, although the leakage losses from pipelines carrying it are very small.
- Carbon dioxide found in the general environment is odor-free and non-toxic. However, as it is thicker than air, if it gathers in low-lying areas in high concentrations then it can prove fatal to both humans and animals.
- Carbon sequestration is not a very profitable technique as it accumulates Rs. 75.62/kWh to the cost of energy. It does not offer much competitive advantage over renewable power.
- Due to its complexity, huge cost and intrinsic risks, it is dreary whether Carbon Capture Technology can be executed in time to contribute to the critical need for greenhouse gas mitigation.
STEPS REQUIRED TO MITIGATE ASSOCIATED RISKS
CCS can prove effective if its cons can be balanced with its pros. Various monitoring techniques can be employed to detect carbon dioxide leaks and the effectiveness of geological sequestration sites. It’s a very important step to ensure that the sequestered carbon is not leaked back into the environment causing more harm than the intended benefit. Subsurface monitoring, Seismic monitoring, Surface monitoring, and InSAR monitoring are some monitoring methods that can be done at both the surface and subsurface level to detect co2 leaks over a sequestration site.
A study has shown that the risks of leakage during pipeline transportation can be reduced if care is taken that the water content of the CO2 stream is kept low. This will help in avoiding the corrosion of the carbon- manganese steel which is used in most construction of pipes.
Rigorous site selection, diligent monitoring, and management of the injection site are all critical factors and these activities must be appropriately regulated.
CCS POSSIBILITY IN INDIA
At present, India is ranked sixth in CO2 emitters of the world and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it is going to be prime three emitters of the world by 2030 in terms of total CO2 released each year. The IEA has observed numerous GHG decrease situations and inferred that CCS is the most desirable latest technology for CO2 mitigation in electricity generation and industry. India has to find solutions to several problems before starting a full-fledged CCS project. Findings suggest that India’s CO2 geological capacity might be very limited so a further characterization of potential storage sites is required to store co2 after capture. The returns of CCS projects in India are going to be very low providing no acceptable return to its investors. The government will also require to educate the general public of this technology, it’s working, and potential benefits to oppose any civilian opposition.
India is not ready at present for any big CCS projects due to technical and economical infeasibility. Lack of public understanding, low funds, low ROI of the project, poor research and development, limited geographical capacity are some of the factors stopping India from investing in any CCS projects. However, India has already accepted the sustainable development strategy and relies on its low-cost renewable energy savings methods such as solar panels, windmills, biogas plants, hydel schemes, etc. According to IEA’s report on Global CO2 emissions in 2019, “CO2 Emissions growth rate in India was moderate in 2019, with CO2 emissions from the power sector declining slightly as electricity demand was mainly stable and elevated supply of renewables growth prompted coal-powered electricity generation to fall off for the first time since 1973. The steady growth in fossil-fuel demand in other sectors of the Indian economy, notably transport, offset the decline in the power sector.”But to get enhanced benefits at huge levels, it will need to have big projects to minimize the effects of co2 emissions and contributing its part in saving the environment.
Everyone wants cleaner Earth!
When we are facing a crisis of Global Warming & depleting Natural resources, Carbon Capture & Storage could be our solution.
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