Countries are gathering for the 28th United Nations climate change conference in the United Arab Emirates at the end of November. Many will pay special attention to carbon capture to meet international commitments to decarbonize by mid-century.
Here are some details about the carbon capture industry as well as some of the issues facing its future.
Different kinds of carbon capture
There are two main kinds of carbon capture technology: carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).
CCS, the most common form of carbon capture technology, involves capturing the gas from a source like an industrial smokestack. From there, the carbon can be moved directly to underground storage.
CCUS involves capturing the gas and using it in another industrial activity before storage.
There are currently 42 CCS and CCUS projects across the world. The Global CCS Institute says these projects can store 49 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. That amount is about 0.13 percent of the world’s roughly 37 billion metric tons of yearly energy and industry-related carbon dioxide emissions.
Another form of carbon capture is direct air capture (DAC), in which carbon emissions are captured from the air.
About 130 DAC facilities are being planned around the world, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In August, the United States announced $1.2 billion in financing for two DAC projects in the states of Texas and Louisiana that promise to capture 2 million metric tons of carbon per year. However, a final investment decision on the projects has not been made.
Cost is one issue facing carbon capture technology.
CCS costs can go from $15 to $120 per metric ton of captured carbon depending on the emissions source. DAC projects are even more costly, between $600 and $1,000 per metric ton.
Developers say they need a carbon price, either in the form of a carbon tax, trading system or tax break, that makes it profitable to capture and store the carbon. Without that, only carbon capture projects that increase money in a different way - like through increased oil output - are profitable.
Countries including the U.S. have announced public subsidies for carbon capture projects. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, offers a $50 tax credit per metric ton of carbon captured for CCUS and $85 per metric ton captured for CCS. The law also offers $180 per metric ton captured through DAC.
Although those are meaningful offers, companies may still need to take on some added costs to move CCS and DAC projects ahead, said Benjamin Longstreth, worldwide director of carbon capture at the Clean Air Task Force.
Where captured carbon can be stored is limited by geology – the land and processes of land formation in an area. The best storage places for carbon are in parts of North America, East Africa, and the North Sea, the Global CCS Institute says.
That means getting captured carbon to storage areas could require large pipeline networks or even shipping fleets. Developing such networks can create new difficulties.
In October, for example, a $3 billion CCS pipeline project proposed by Navigator CO2 Ventures in the U.S. was canceled amid community concerns about possible leaks and damage during the building process.
Companies investing in carbon removal need to take seriously community concerns about new infrastructure projects, said Simone Stewart of the National Wildlife Federation.
"Not all technologies are going to be possible in all locations," Stewart said.
I’m John Russell.
Leah Douglas reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
smokestack – n. a tall chimney on a factory, ship, etc., for carrying smoke away
carbon dioxide – n. gas that is produced when certain fuels are burned
emission – n. something sent out or given off
subsidy – n. money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low
fleet – n. a group of ships or vehicles that move or work together
infrastructure -- n. the basic equipment (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country to function