Carbon Capture Technologies Move to the Forefront

Author photo: Mark Sen Gupta
ByMark Sen Gupta
Technology Trends

The global culture and economy abound in pressures to address climate change and the cliché, “necessity is the mother of invention” proves itself true again.  As consumers, investors, and politicians clamor for change, capturing carbon from emissions, or reclaiming it from the atmosphere, has emerged as one of several climate change initiatives. Industry is responding.

What may surprise many is the diversity of methodologies and the maturity of many of them. The diversity of solutions available knows few bounds, though they can be described as fitting into one of three classes; natural, established, and emerging. Some solutions are millenia old, while others are barely more than experiments.  Regardless, manufacturers actively seek ways to improve their  environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores by reducing their holistic carbon footprint to attract/retain investors, customers, and employees.

Main Carbon Capture Technology Available Today

The most obvious natural solution is trees, but there are other nature-based solutions as well.  Other solutions include agriculture-based carbon farming that captures and stores carbon in the soil, or certain food production.  It also includes marine-based aquaculture.

The established technology-based solutions fall into three main categories: 

  • Post-combustion – removes CO2 after combustion of the fossil fuel. This scheme that applies to fossil-fuel powered processes. Post-combustion capture is most popular in research because fossil fuel powered plants can be retrofitted to include CCS technology.
  • Pre-combustion – oxidizes the fossil fuel, e.g., in a gasifier. The CO from the resulting syngas (CO and H2) reacts with added steam (H2O) and is shifted into CO2 and H2. The resulting CO2 can be captured and the H2 used as fuel.
  • Oxyfuel combustion - The fuel is burned in pure oxygen instead of air.

A quick search of technology publications reveals all kinds of interesting and even whacky new methodologies. These piloted technologies have yet to show themselves scalable, but some have significant private investment backing them. All solutions use a material or liquid to capture carbon that is then reclaimed and used for other purposes or stored underground.  These technologies include the development of special electrodes, metal-organic frameworks, nanosponges, hybrid membranes, and crystals that separate or capture CO2.

Carbon Capture Technologies

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