The name sounds great right? You’re capturing carbon from the atmosphere. So how does this miracle of a technology work and why does it attract investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk?

Let’s begin with the goal of Carbon Capture: We need a carbon deficit to stop us from reaching the 1.5-degree Celsius increase in average temperature limit. To achieve this, we will inevitably need to suck out some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere unless we drastically decrease our current practices. Now there are two ways of removing Carbon from the atmosphere, the first you might’ve guessed is planting trees, through photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide inhaled by plants is released as Oxygen. The second way is through Capture at Source (CAS) as well as Direct Air Capture (DAC). CAS is a practice that was developed decades ago when the oil companies needed to refine oil in a “cleaner” way by pulling CO2 out of the air, they realized it can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) by pumping CO2 into a depleted oil well to extract even more oil.

For the sustainability you don’t yet know.

The Carbon Capture Scene (Part 1)

Written by Andrew Kaprielian

2021-11-28

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The name sounds great right? You’re capturing carbon from the atmosphere. So how does this miracle of a technology work and why does it attract investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk?

Let’s begin with the goal of Carbon Capture: We need a carbon deficit to stop us from reaching the 1.5-degree Celsius increase in average temperature limit. To achieve this, we will inevitably need to suck out some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere unless we drastically decrease our current practices. Now there are two ways of removing Carbon from the atmosphere, the first you might’ve guessed is planting trees, through photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide inhaled by plants is released as Oxygen. The second way is through Capture at Source (CAS) as well as Direct Air Capture (DAC). CAS is a practice that was developed decades ago when the oil companies needed to refine oil in a “cleaner” way by pulling CO2 out of the air, they realized it can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) by pumping CO2 into a depleted oil well to extract even more oil.

Now the aim is to become Carbon negative, and DAC is a relatively new technology whereby a fan open from both ends moves air through a CO2 absorbing solution sending that solution to a pellet reactor reabsorbing the solution and separating into calcium carbonate pellets to then be heated so the CO2 would be trapped in a gas container. The process sounds complicated right? Well yes, and as you might imagine, very energy intensive so it’s vital that DACs are sustainably powered with green energy.

The problem with storing CO2 is the lack of revenue hence a problem with the business model. Storage creates more fixed costs, if the CO2 remains stored (assuming there are storage costs). The Carbon Capture firm will realise much more losses. This is the reason for selling the CO2 to oil companies for the use of EOR (for the time being). Perhaps a solution could be the reward of carbon credits directly from the government which can be sold on the carbon markets. 

So you might understand why Elon Musk has decided to offer $100 Million to the person who can figure out the best carbon capture solution.There are always new projects around the world with much more public and private money going towards them. The industry is still very new and can become very profitable if the economies of scale has been reached.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this article where we will be discussing more carbon disposal methods as well as the main players in the industry and the future of Carbon Capture.

For more information on this topic, check out this youtube video!

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