What is carbon capture and storage?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a suite of technologies that can be used to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from an industrial system and safely sequester it in underground geological formations, preventing it from entering the atmosphere as harmful emissions. A complete CCS system consists of three main components: carbon capture, carbon transportation, and carbon storage. It is currently the only solution that exists for directly mitigating large-scale industrial emissions from the use of fossil fuels.

What are the applications of CCS?

The most obvious application of CCS is in power generation, where it can capture and prevent a large percentage of the emissions from fossil fuel-burning generating stations. Its applications do not end there, however. CCS can also be used to reduce emissions in industries such as cement manufacturing, iron and steel, petrochemical, natural gas processing, and more.

Why do we need CCS?

Greenhouse gas emissions are a major, if not the major, issue facing the world in the coming decades. If we, as a country and as a planet, are going to meet our emission targets, there is a pressing need for solutions that can be implemented immediately in concert with the longer and more complicated rollout of other technologies. “In this move towards decarbonizing the energy system, CCS is an option that allows us to prevent carbon from entering the atmosphere right now,” explains Dr. Rick Chalaturnyk of the University of Alberta. “That buys us time for other things like fuel efficiency, switching and renewables to move towards the scale that they are needed at.”

How effective is CCS?

Depending on the specifics of the facility it is applied to, CCS has been shown to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent. The International Energy Association (IEA) predicts that CCS alone could meet 13 percent of the cumulative emissions reductions to meet worldwide targets for the year 2050. Without CCS, the IEA projects that the cost of reaching these targets could increase by up to 40 percent.

If CCS is so powerful, why isn’t it everywhere?

The use of CCS technologies is dependent on there being appropriate geological formations in the region. Canada is fortunate in that these formations are abundant in our regions of pronounced fossil fuel activity, namely Alberta and Saskatchewan. More vitally, though, the implementation of CCS requires continued policy and investment support from our governments in order to make it a reality. “Ultimately, you can develop all this technology, but it has to make sense economically,” says Dr. Chalaturnyk.

With 15 CCS projects up and running globally, including two in Canada, the technology is ready.