By now, scientists and engineers have invented technologies that could help us mitigate climate change. One that you may have read about before is “Carbon Capture and Storage” (CCS)—an innovation that captures existing carbon and stores it underground. Today, scientists are adapting CCS into a more profitable system named “Carbon Capture and Utilization” (CCU). What exactly is CCS?
Carbon Capture and Storage catches CO2 waste from significant point sources (cement factories, fossil fuel centers). Then, it deposits the carbon into underground geological formations, trapping the CO2 from entering the atmosphere and dampening temperature rise.
The technologies used in the CCS process include absorption, adsorption, chemical looping, membrane gas separation, and gas hydrate. By storing carbon emissions, the CCS system would be tackling both global warming and ocean acidification. The main issue with this system is its unprofitability combined with highly expensive machinery. Due to this economic issue, CCS is barely in use—currently, there are only 17 operating CCS systems around the world.
On the other hand, scientists and engineers came together and created the CCU system (Carbon Capturing Utilization). The difference with this system is that instead of carbon being stored underground the carbon is upcycled into chemicals, diamonds, and fuels. Through this profitable system, carbon can become a renewable source that supplies a demand in a less polluting manner.
Yet, this innovation is not as sustainable as it sounds. Its carbon-capturing technology requires as many joules of energy as those produced by the burning of fossil fuels, which were the ones that produced the carbon dioxide in the first place…
Check out the academic research below to understand the profound differences between CCS and CCU. The paper outlines the economic and environmental implications of both systems.
Check out this article for more in-depth research.
Fun fact: Did you know that earlier this year Microsoft pledged to become carbon negative: ie to capture all the carbon it has ever emitted.