Capturing the Future: How Carbon Capture and Storage Is Winning the Climate Battle

Discover how Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) is key to reducing global warming, how C-Capture's pioneering technology is leading the way. Learn how this industry is crucial to achieving our climate goals.

22 November 2023

The most pressing issue confronting humankind for the next 50 years will be the battle to limit the impact of anthropogenic climate change. Ninety-seven per cent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, and climate science now accepts that if global warming exceeds 2°C, extreme heat will cause devastating impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and human health across the globe. Ultimately, the World has accepted that it cannot take the risk that these predictions are wrong, and so action is being taken. Furthermore, it is widely accepted by scientists, governments, businesses and consumers that significantly more will need to be done, and very soon.

Chart showing carbon price forecast by region

Traditional decarbonising initiatives in transport and the shift to renewable electricity generation in all its forms, although vitally important, cannot alone reduce gross emissions to the required levels to avoid catastrophic warming. Other decarbonising initiatives and technologies must be deployed, especially in essential global industries whose emissions are hard to abate, and it is here that Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) has a crucial role to play.

The role of CCUS

The Energy Transitions Commission has outlined the three “vital but limited” roles CCUS must play in contributing to global climate initiatives, and they are:

  1. To decarbonise those sectors where alternatives are technically limited. These hard-to-abate sectors include the steel, chemical, lime, glass and cement industries.
  2. To deliver some of the carbon removals required in addition to rapid decarbonisation if global climate objectives are to be achieved.
  3. To provide a low-cost decarbonisation solution in some sectors and geographies where CCUS is economically advantaged relative to other potential options.

In essence, CCUS provides an essential bridge to a non-fossil fuel world, which is likely to take longer than the world has in order to reach these vital climate goals. The ETC has calculated that by 2050, the world will need to capture and then store or use 7-10 gigatonnes of CO₂ per year through engineered capture solutions. To put that in context, global crude oil production in 2022 amounted to 4.4 gigatonnes. Clearly, this is a vast undertaking that will require a new global industry to emerge on a vast scale and in a very short period.

The sheer scale of what is required from CCUS is hard to grasp, especially for an industry still in its infancy. In a relatively short period, by 2050, CCUS must scale 120 times from its current capacity. This is no small undertaking, and some may question why the industry has not grown more rapidly. The answer is that whilst the technology that can deliver this outcome has been uncertain, governments and businesses have been reluctant to commit the resources required, and the regulatory environment has been painfully slow to emerge. The good news is that this is now changing rapidly. Carbon prices are increasing and, in some major geographies, are at a level where CCUS is both economic and profitable. Almost everywhere, the rising demand dwarfs the supply of offsets, and this will force carbon prices higher still. Given the long lead times involved in CCUS projects, the world is now at a point where urgent investment decisions need to be taken in a very short period of time.

This level of increased urgency is reflected in the joint announcement from the US and Chinese delegations at the recent Biden/Xi summit in California, where specific commitments were given on a number of different climate policy initiatives, but foremost among them was a specific commitment from the two sides to advance at least five “large-scale” CCUS projects each by 2030.

Is CCUS technology fit for purpose?

Crucial to the delivery of these targets for CCUS is the emergence of technologies and designs capable of being effectively deployed at scale, and this is precisely what a UK solvent technology business called C-Capture has developed.

The chemical absorption of CO₂ is the dominant capture technology being deployed today in CCUS and is likely to dominate this sector for years to come.

The core solvent-based technology used in most CCS plants is based on amines, which were first discovered and used as far back as the late 19th century. Amine patents were filed as early as 1913, and amine-based solvents are used commercially in CO₂ capture in biogas processing and AD (Anaerobic Digestion) plants where CO₂ concentrations in flue gases are very high. Although amines have subsequently been improved (Advanced Amines), they have a number of significant limitations. Amine reaction products such as nitrosamines are carcinogenic to humans even at very low concentrations and are considered hazardous, especially because they cannot be entirely removed from flue gas. Environmental agencies are aware of this problem with amines and can restrict their use where air quality is a concern. Additionally, amines are oxygen scavengers, reacting with any compounds or gases with an oxygen molecule in their chemical composition (most flue gas contains these molecules). Through this process, the amines degrade. Consequently, in any amine-based CCS system, a pre-scrubber must be built in prior to the CO₂ extraction, adding cost and engineering complexity. The nature of amines also means that expensive corrosion-resistant materials must be used in the construction of CCS plants.

What C-Capture has developed is a novel solvent technology based on three major components, a salt of a readily available organic acid, an organic reactivity moderator, and water, that has inherent and significant advantages over amine-based technologies, including the latest so-called advanced amines, which include:

  1. It is biodegradable and environmentally benign.
  2. It is manufactured from readily available commodity chemicals.
  3. Because it releases CO₂ more readily than amine-based systems, it requires less heat in the de-absorber stage and so delivers a significantly lower parasitic energy demand.
  4. It is a robust solvent and exceptionally so in hostile flue gas environments containing sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides, making it especially suited to the flue gases of glass, cement, lime and steel plants.
  5. It is well suited to the low CO₂ concentrations of biomass and waste-to-energy plants.
  6. It is significantly less corrosive, meaning lower grade and cheaper materials can be used in the construction of the plant.
  7. The captured CO₂ can be released at higher pressures in the de-absorber phase, further reducing the energy demands required to compress the CO₂ for onward storage or use.

New CCUS technology – a key enabler

It is clear that a range of advanced solvent technologies will be deployed in different CCUS applications in different industries. C-Capture’s novel solvent technology is especially appropriate for the emissions of hard-to-abate industrial sectors whose flue gases present complex challenges for established amine-based solvents. Once the advantages of C-Capture’s technology are demonstrated in its soon-to-be-constructed first commercial-scale CCUS plant in the UK, we believe it will become a key enabler in the carbon capture, storage and utilisation of a number of huge, polluting, but essential industries across the globe.

In 2024, C-Capture will launch its Series B capital raise, which is intended, in part, to finance the construction of this first 200 tonnes per day CCUS commercial-scale demonstration plant.

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