The last years have set many difficult tasks for global well-being, health, environment care. All of us are suffering from fear for our lives, numerous restrictions and inconveniences. At the same time problems of some regions are not limited to the pandemic catastrophe, but with multiple natural disasters too, such as wildfires in California, severe floods in China, hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in South Asia, in addition to general tiredness and spirit depression.
Quite recently, we were even glad that as a result of the worldwide quarantine, the air over large cities cleared up and the amount of carbon dioxide decreased significantly. However, in reality, the required emission reductions remain at the same level, the situation has not improved enough and the overall global temperature rises by more than 1.5 degrees, which is a more or less safe factor.
Wake-up call from the planet
The most huge emission sources for high CO₂ waste gases are:
- chemical plants (for the production of ammonia and ethanol),
- hydrogen production,
- fossil fuel power plants,
- ferrous metallurgy enterprises, cement plants, pulp and paper mills.
Growing demands for climate mitigation mean more and more companies are looking for flexible and cost-effective solutions to improve their carbon footprint. CO2 emitters such as power generation companies are striving to avoid CO2 emissions. Comparatively concentrated CO2 fluxes are inevitable in other industries as well. Reuse of CO2 improves carbon footprint.
More and more innovative developers are seeking to solve this challenge with groundbreaking technologies and approaches to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, capturing carbon and converting it into a source of long-term commercial value. For business leaders looking to prioritize value creation rather than reporting and pursue new business opportunities, clearing the atmosphere can be an important transformational lever.
Present approaches to the carbon-dioxide capture
There are a few perspective approaches to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which we will consider below. Renewable energy, electrification and energy efficiency are major initiatives on the way to global decarbonization. The good news is that technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere are able to not only avoid new emissions, but also use existing ones.
Production of carbon products for industrial and everyday use
Once captured, the CO2 gas can be purified and liquefied and then used for a wide variety of uses, from gardening and welding to cryogenic purification and carbonated beverage production. Recycling carbon dioxide not only helps protect the climate and the environment, it also has the added bonus of reduced supply costs and the continued availability of carbon dioxide. The value of the global market for products created using recycled carbon is estimated at $ 6 trillion. Building materials, plastics, textiles and carpet tiles are entering this market today, which capture more CO2 than they produce. There are great opportunities for companies to integrate carbon removal technology into their product strategies, supply chains and operations. Furthermore, in 2019 the price of carbon dioxide in the European Emissions Trading System was raised to € 25 per tonne, which creates additional economic incentives for Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) implementation.
An alternative would be CO2 sequestration, which means underground storage to mitigate the climate impact of industrial processes that burn fossil fuels. Using this approach the world’s largest plant for pumping carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere named “Orca” (“an energy” in Icelandic) began operating in Iceland. The factory consists of eight large containers, which are similar to those used to transport goods on merchant ships. The containers are equipped with filters and fans designed to pump air and extract carbon dioxide from it.
Once extracted, the CO2 is mixed with water and pumped deep into the ground. It is assumed that over time, the gas extracted from the atmosphere will turn into solid rock.
A similar solution was proposed by the Norwegian energy company Equinor. Right now, with the support of the government, as well as oil giants Shell and Total, it is implementing the Northern Lights project, which involves the disposal of carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere and industrial emissions at the bottom of the North Sea.
Green spaces push back a threat to the ozon layer
Environmental solutions for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as regenerative agriculture, reforestation and afforestation, are aimed at restoring nature’s ability to cleanse itself of emissions. Carbon dioxide absorbed by the soil and trees serves as the basis for determining the allowable carbon emission quotas. The proceeds from such allowances are used to support agricultural producers, and projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere provide additional environmental benefits (for example, protecting local watersheds) and long-term social benefits (for example, protecting traditional culture and welfare). By supporting such projects, companies can increase the resilience of many socially vulnerable communities within the geography of their presence.
World initiatives solving greenhouse gas problem
It is highly likely that carbon recovery initiatives will be funded through national climate change adaptation plans and sustainable recovery programs. According to the UN Environment’s 2020 Emissions Gap Report, 126 countries, which account for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have set targets or announced their intentions to achieve a zero carbon footprint. If the United States joins this list and starts implementing the Biden-Harris climate plan, according to which it is planned to invest $ 2 trillion in the transition to negative net emissions, the share of such countries will increase to 63%. Likewise, the Green Pact for Europe is planning to spend € 1 trillion on decarbonization, which will also contribute to the development of technologies for carbon removal.
And if the previous arguments did not convince you that the fight against carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is good for your business from any point of view, this January famous Founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX Elon Musk has promised a $ 100 million prize for inventing the best technology for capturing carbon dioxide.
“I am giving $ 100 million in prize money for the best carbon capture technology,” Musk tweeted, promising to reveal more details a bit later.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there are currently 20 commercial projects in the world for capturing, storing and using carbon dioxide. Since 2017, 30 new projects have been approved, but the IEA emphasizes that the number must grow significantly so that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, as we realized now. The agency estimates that projects to capture, store and use carbon can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost 20%, as well as reduce the cost of combating climate change by 70%. It is more difficult and more expensive for heavy industry to adapt to renewable energy sources than to install emission control systems in factories.
Despite all doubts and past bad preconceptions, carbon-dioxide capture technologies unhesitatingly gain world sympathy and become a ray of hope for healthy and stable development of ecological trends in the global economics and for its participants’ welfare.