What is Carbon Capture? Why it Matters to Climate Change

What is Carbon Capture? Why it Matters to Climate Change

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Carbon capture refers to the trapping of carbon dioxide (CO2) to reduce the amount of gas in the atmosphere. It is a process that involves capturing CO2 when it is produced at major factories and power plants before it can escape into the atmosphere and increase global warming. 

The captured carbon dioxide is then transported to a storage location where it is stored. An ideal storage location is a deep underground, which is where fossil fuel gas comes from but some of excess CO2 can be used to make plastics or grow greenhouse plants or even carbonate fizzy drinks. Either way, carbon capture is an effective way to tackle global warming. 

How does carbon capture work?

As the average global temperature continues to rise at a faster rate than ever before, scientists are hopeful that technologies can be created to help stop global warming. Global warming is caused by the concentration of carbon dioxide, a natural gas that allows sunlight to reach the earth but also prevents some of the sun’s heat from escaping back into space. As a result, the atmosphere traps heat, making the planet hotter. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect are bad as they help support life on earth. For instance, if there’s no greenhouse effect, our planet would have an average temperature of -18°C (or near 0°F) and be completely covered in ice. Sure, the skiing would be great but no one will be able to do that since we’d all be dead. That shows that carbon dioxide and the greenhouse are good things since they are necessary for life on earth. 

However, like all good things, too much carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect are a huge problem. Human activities such as burning of fossil fuels and cutting down trees have fueled the concentration of heat-trapping pollution such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that has caused temperatures to rise, leading to a growing climate crisis

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What are the types of carbon capture?

To prevent carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere, the gas must be captured from power stations and other industrial sites while it’s being emitted. Generally, there are three ways to do this: pre-combustion, post-combustion and oxyfuel. 

1. Post-combustion 

In this method, fuel is burned in a usual in an unmodified power plant, and the carbon dioxide is separated from the flue gas by bubbling the gas through an absorber column packed with liquid solvents (such as ammonia). Once the chemicals in the absorber column become saturated, a stream of superheated steam is passed through it and this releases the trapped CO2.

Post-combustion is a great method of carbon capture because it can be applied to already constructed plants, which means that the components can be installed, replaced and upgraded without fundamental impacts on the power plants. 

2. Pre-combustion 

This method is particularly suitable for coal-gasification combined-cycle power plants, and it involves the gasification and partial oxidization of the fuel to produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which is separated using physical absorption processes. 

This method is great because multiple fuels can be used, and hydrogen byproduct can be used as a fuel for cars. It can also be used to produce electricity when transported to a turbine. But the drawback is that it cannot be fitted to an operational power plant. 

3. Oxyfuel

This is perhaps the most complex method of carbon capture because it involves burning coal, oil or natural gas in normal air, of which carbon dioxide is just around 3-15 percent of the waste gas. It is energy-intensive, and separating the gas from others is difficult.  

Potential benefits of carbon capture

In addition to the fact that carbon capture can help reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, carbon capture can be beneficial in several other ways. Here are a few:

  • Carbon capture may generate additional power to help turbines run more efficiently. 
  • Although it is currently cost-intensive, carbon capture can help fuel production when CO2 is converted.
  • The excess CO2, when captured, can be used to create soft foams like those used in mattresses.
  • If more carbon capture and storage operations are implemented, it can help create more positions for skilled technicians, thus reducing the rate of unemployment.

Conclusion 

Carbon capture is an effective way to stop global warming and save our planet. Even more, it could prove to be helpful in many ways in that we can use some of the excess gas to generate electricity and even bolster manufacturing operations. 

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