Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Capture and Storage Laser Talk

Question:  How does carbon capture and storage fit into a carbon fee policy?

Answer:  Carbon dioxide (CO2) that is removed from an emissions source and then ‘sequestered’ from the atmosphere doesn’t contribute to global warming or ocean acidification. [1] That’s why current carbon tax proposals [2] provide carbon fee refunds or credits for fossil-derived CO2 that is captured and sequestered. Operators of the sequestration sites must guarantee the safety and permanence of their CO2 storage.

This concept has been labeled in different ways – ‘carbon capture’ or ‘CO2 capture’ for the first step, and ‘storage’ or ‘sequestration’ for the second. They all mean the same thing, and in all cases may be shortened to ‘CCS’. The source of the CO2 could be a power plant, a refinery, a chemical plant, or any fossil-fueled source where CO2 would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere.

Scrubbing CO2 out of industrial gases is widely used for engineering purposes, [3] and limited amounts are currently pumped underground into oil wells for ‘enhanced oil recovery,’ [4] but CCS had not been deployed at commercial scale solely to keep it out of the atmosphere, because there was no financial incentive for doing so until a new tax credit called the ‘45Q’ credit was started in 2018. [5]

Potential destinations for large amounts of CO2 are in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or deep underground formations where it gradually combines with existing minerals. [6] Recent research has also shown that a common rock called basalt can react with CO2 more quickly than previously expected. [7]

Many studies of potential routes to decarbonization, including ones from Columbia University, [8] the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, [9] and the World Bank, [10] consider CCS as one of the technology options likely to be needed to play some role. If done safely and permanently, CCS can help cut emissions while facilitating an orderly transition away from fossil energy.

In a Nutshell: Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), if done safely and permanently, will need to be an essential piece of the climate puzzle. The electrical grid and distribution networks for oil and gas are complex and intimately tied to our economy, so it will take time to reinvent those networks – time we simply don’t have – with minimal disruption. CCS can help maintain stability in our energy flow and distribution while maximizing the rate of decarbonization in an orderly transition.

  1. “Carbon capture and storage.” Wikipedia (1 Jul 2018).
  2. Ye, J. “Carbon Pricing Proposals in the 117th Congress.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (Jun 2021).
  3. Kohl, A. and R. Nielsen. Gas Purification – 5th, Chap. 2, 3, 5, and 14. Gulf Publishing Co., Houston Texas (1997).
  4. “Enhanced oil recovery.” Wikipedia (22 Nov 2018).
  5. Bomgardner, M. “45Q, the tax credit that’s luring US companies to capture CO2.” Chemical & Engineering News 98:8 (23 Feb 2020).
  6. Benson, S.M. and D.R. Cole. “CO2Sequestration in Deep Sedimentary Formations.” Elements 4, 325-331 (Oct 2008).
  7. Xiong, W., et al. “CO2 Mineral Sequestration in Naturally Porous Basalt.” Technol. Lett. 5 (3), 142-147 (27 Feb 2018).
  8. Kaufman, N. et al. “An Assessment of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.” Columbia SIPA | Center on Global Energy Policy (6 Nov 2019).
  9. Williams, J.H. “The Path to Net-Zero for the United States.” IDDRI blog. (17 Feb 2021).
  10. Fay, M., et al. Decarbonizing Development: Three Steps to a Zero-Carbon Future. World Bank (2015).

This page was updated on 05/23/22 at 18:43 CDT.