Low-Carbon Technologies: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

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Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, involves the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions.  Carbon dioxide can be captured through post-combustion, pre-combustion or ox-fuel combustion.   Post-combustion, the most common method, involves the capture of emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants.  In pre-combustion capture, fossil fuel is partially oxidized in a gasifier, after which the syngas undergoes a water-gas reaction that shifts the syngas into CO2 & H2.  The carbon dioxide is stored and the hydrogen is used as a fuel source.   The less utilized oxy-fuel combustion requires fossil fuels to be burned in oxygen, which creates nearly pure CO2 for subsequent storage.  The most typical means of transporting carbon for post-capture storage are pipelines and ships.

The most recognized forms of carbon storage occur via forest uptake, deep ocean formations, geological formations (such as coal bed methane formations and depleted gas oil reserves), and mineral carbonates.  Such storage methods are assumed to prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, although leakage from some natural storage units has been documented.  Stored carbon may later be converted into hydrocarbons or used in algae synthesis for fuel.

Carbon capture and storage is an efficient means of mitigating carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-based industries.  However, industries have had to balance the costs of employing specific CCS technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Using carbon capture and sequestration requires greater energy input, as well as increases in associated costs such as fuel expenses, equipment and operations.  Industries also question the reliability and verifiability of the permanency of carbon storage.  However, carbon capture and storage‚Äôs major advantage is its ability to mitigate approximately 80-90% more of carbon dioxide emissions than non-CCS industries.