The Ins and Outs of Carbon Capture Technology

See how carbon capture technology can change the world!

In the face of an unprecedented climate crisis fueled by carbon emissions, urgent action is imperative to mitigate its impact. One crucial avenue for addressing this challenge lies in carbon capture technology. These innovative solutions offer promising methods for reducing carbon emissions from diverse sources. 

By capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes or directly from the atmosphere and securely storing it, these technologies hold the potential to curb significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, thereby combating global warming. 

In this article, we will explore the world of carbon capture, exploring its essence and the diverse array of technologies aimed at tackling this pressing environmental issue.

What is Carbon Capture?

Carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS) involves using various technologies to lessen carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from major sources like power plants, refineries, and factories. It also includes removing CO2 from the air, which helps reduce overall emissions.

These methods and techniques are used to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by industrial processes, such as power generation, cement production, and refining before they are released into the atmosphere. There are different types of carbon capture technologies, including post-combustion capture, pre-combustion capture, and oxyfuel combustion.

Source: Elsevier

Implementing CCUS technologies is crucial for achieving global climate goals because they enable the reduction of CO2 emissions on a large scale. By capturing CO2 emissions before they enter the atmosphere, CCUS helps reduce the greenhouse effect and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Furthermore, CCUS provides opportunities for using captured CO2 in beneficial ways. Instead of merely storing it underground, captured CO2 can be repurposed for various industrial processes, such as enhancing oil recovery, producing synthetic fuels, or manufacturing certain consumer products. This utilization aspect adds value to the captured CO2 and contributes to the economic feasibility of CCUS projects.

Prominent international organizations, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), stress the urgent and extensive deployment of CCUS technologies to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as outlined in various long-term energy outlooks and climate reports. Thus, the development and deployment of CCUS technologies are essential components of the broader strategy to transition towards a low-carbon future and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

How do CCUs work?

CCUS works in three steps: capture, moving, and storing (or using) CO2. There are three main ways to capture CO2: post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxy-fuel combustion. Post-combustion separates CO2 from the flue gas after burning fuel. Pre-combustion changes fuel into a mix of hydrogen and CO2 before burning it. Oxy-fuel combustion burns fuel with pure oxygen, making CO2 easier to capture.

Post-combustion and oxy-fuel gear can be added to new plants or old ones. Pre-combustion needs bigger changes, so it’s better for new plants.

Plants with CCUS can capture about 90% of the CO2 in flue gas. It’s possible to capture more, but it costs more. CO2 can also be taken directly from the air, but it needs lots of energy and costs more because there’s less CO2 in the air than in flue gas.

After capturing CO2, it’s squished into a liquid and moved by pipeline, ship, or truck. Then, it’s put deep underground in places like old oil and gas fields or salty water layers. There’s enough room underground for all the CO2 we need to store, and most big polluting countries have their own places to store it.

Another option is using captured CO2 for things we buy, but we need to think about how that affects the climate too.

The Power of CCUS

CCUS can help a lot in the fight against climate change in several ways. First, it can cut down emissions from industries that are hard to clean up. Second, it can make electricity and hydrogen with less carbon, which can then be used to clean up more things. Lastly, it can even pull carbon out of the air.

Using CCUS is often the cheapest way to clean up tough industries like steel and chemicals. And for making cement, it’s pretty much the only way to cut emissions.

CCUS can also help make cleaner electricity and hydrogen. We can fit CCUS onto power plants that burn coal, gas, or even trash. Then, the electricity they make can replace dirty fuels in lots of things we use every day.

Pulling carbon out of the air is also important. Experts say we’ll need to do this a lot if we want to reach net zero emissions globally. There are a couple of ways to do it, like using plants to soak up carbon while capturing it or pulling carbon straight from the air. Both of these methods are kind of like CCUS, but they work with the air instead of with factories.

Advancements in CCUS Globally

CCUS development has been picking up speed lately, all due to tougher climate goals and more support from governments worldwide. In 2022, 61 new CCUS projects were added around the globe, bringing the total to 30 up and running, 11 being built, and 153 in the works. The US leads the pack with the most CCUS projects, and a new law passed in 2022 is set to push even more of these projects forward.

In Europe, countries like the UK, the Netherlands, and Norway are teaming up to build CCUS hubs. These hubs bring together multiple polluters, making it cheaper for everyone to transport and store captured carbon.

Types of Carbon Capture Technology

Here are some types of carbon capture technology:

Natural Carbon Sinks

Carbon sinks are natural areas like forests, oceans, grasslands, and wetlands that soak up CO2 from the air. Scientists say protecting and growing these areas could quickly reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. Wetlands and grasslands are especially good at storing carbon, even more so than forests. Some trees, like birch or willow, are particularly effective at capturing CO2 compared to others.

For instance, we’re helping to restore an ancient peat bog near one of our substations in South Wales. This 15-hectare bog holds as much carbon as 32,000 tonnes of CO2, which equals the yearly emissions of 22,000 cars. By reviving it, we’re not only storing carbon but also creating a habitat for rare butterflies and plants.

Saline Aquifers

Saline aquifers are huge underground rock formations filled with salty water. They offer massive storage space for CO2 injection, making them one of the best options for carbon capture. Take the ‘Endurance’ aquifer in the North Sea, for example. It sits about 1 mile below the seabed and is as large as Manhattan Island. This porous rock formation can safely hold CO2 for thousands of years.

In the US, projects like the Citronelle Project in Alabama are using saline aquifers for carbon storage. During its trial period, it successfully stored over 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, captured from a nearby pilot facility.

Giant Air Filters

In China, pioneering companies are deploying colossal air filter towers to combat pollution on an unprecedented scale. These towering structures draw air into heated glass chambers using solar energy, where pollutants are filtered out. The purified air is then released back into the atmosphere, significantly improving local air quality. One such tower in Xian is already making a remarkable impact by cleansing over 353 million cubic feet of air daily. With plans for even larger towers underway, these innovations hold the potential to provide clean air for entire cities.

Ionic Liquids

Recent advancements in carbon capture technology have introduced ionic liquids as promising candidates for efficiently absorbing CO2. These two-dimensional liquids possess a unique molecular structure that enables superior CO2 absorption rates. Scientists are exploring the potential of modifying these liquids to enhance precision in the carbon capture process while maintaining environmental sustainability.

Top Carbon Capture Technologies

Here’s a detailed look at the top 10 carbon capture technologies:

Direct Air Capture (DAC)

This cutting-edge technology employs air filters to directly extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Despite being in its early stages and relatively costly, DAC shows immense promise in effectively reducing atmospheric carbon levels. Once captured, CO2 is concentrated, transported, and either stored underground or converted into useful products.

Carbon Capture at Power Plants

This widely utilized technology focuses on capturing CO2 emissions from power plants before they are released into the atmosphere. The captured CO2 is then compressed, transported, and either stored underground or utilized for enhanced oil recovery. Despite its limitations, carbon capture at power plants remains one of the most prevalent methods for reducing carbon emissions on a large scale.

Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW)

ERW involves the application of crushed silicate minerals, such as basalt and glauconite, to soil surfaces. This process accelerates the natural weathering of minerals, leading to increased CO2 absorption by the soil. Notably, ERW is highly efficient and cost-effective, while also enhancing soil fertility, making it an attractive option for carbon capture.

Ocean-based Carbon Capture

This approach focuses on utilizing the ocean’s natural ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Strategies such as ocean fertilization and algae cultivation aim to enhance the ocean’s carbon sequestration capacity. While still under development, ocean-based carbon capture holds promise for mitigating carbon emissions on a large scale.

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)

BECCS involves generating energy from biomass sources, such as plants or organic waste, while capturing and storing the resulting CO2 emissions. This integrated approach combines renewable energy production with carbon capture, making it a valuable tool for achieving carbon neutrality.

Carbon Mineralization

This innovative process involves converting CO2 into stable carbonate minerals through chemical reactions with naturally occurring minerals. Carbon mineralization offers a permanent storage solution for captured CO2 while also providing economic opportunities through the production of valuable mineral products.

Industrial Carbon Capture

This technology targets carbon emissions from industrial processes such as cement production, steel manufacturing, and chemical processing. By capturing CO2 emissions directly from these sources, industrial carbon capture plays a crucial role in decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors.

Agricultural Carbon Capture

Agricultural practices such as carbon farming and soil carbon sequestration aim to enhance carbon storage in agricultural soils. These methods involve implementing sustainable land management practices that increase soil organic carbon levels, thereby mitigating carbon emissions and improving soil health.

Biochar Production

Biochar is a form of charcoal produced from organic biomass through a process called pyrolysis. When applied to soil, biochar acts as a long-term carbon sink, sequestering carbon while also improving soil fertility and water retention.

Forest Carbon Sequestration

Forests serve as natural carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing it in biomass and soil. Forest conservation, reforestation, and afforestation efforts are essential for enhancing forest carbon sequestration and mitigating carbon emissions.

Aqueous Amine-Based CO2 Capture

Utilizing amines, this method captures CO2 from industrial processes before it’s discharged into the air. The CO2 is later separated from the amine and either stored or reused. Despite being well-established, this approach comes with drawbacks like high energy consumption and cost.

Membrane Gas Separation

This technology employs permeable materials to segregate carbon dioxide and other gases. Its operation at low temperatures and pressures makes it energy-efficient and cost-friendly. Although still in the experimental phase, membrane gas separation holds significant potential for CO2 capture, separation, and storage.

Chemical Looping

By utilizing metal-based particles, this method chemically reacts with CO2, separating it from fuel. The metals act as catalysts, enabling the capture and storage of CO2 while allowing further fuel combustion. While in early development, chemical looping technology shows promise in reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-dependent industries.

Cryogenic Carbon Capture (CCC)

CCC, a novel approach, uses cryogenic cooling to extract and eliminate CO2 from gas streams. It boasts higher extraction rates compared to conventional systems and reduces storage volume. Although its application is currently limited, CCC demonstrates significant potential in mitigating carbon emissions from various sources.

Carbon Capture Using Nanotechnology

In this method, nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes are employed to capture and store CO2 at lower pressures than other techniques. It requires fewer resources, less energy, and generates minimal waste. While still in the experimental stages, carbon capture using nanotechnology holds promise for scalability and efficiency.

Pros and Cons 

Here are some pros and cons of carbon capture:


  • Carbon capture technology helps reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes, power plants, and other sources, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change
  • By capturing CO2 emissions, this technology helps mitigate the impact of climate change by preventing greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere and trapping heat
  • Carbon capture helps protect the environment by reducing air pollution and minimizing the release of harmful pollutants associated with fossil fuel combustion
  • By enabling the continued use of fossil fuels with reduced emissions, carbon capture technology enhances energy security by maintaining a diverse energy mix and reducing dependence on imported fuels
  • The development and deployment of carbon capture technology create opportunities for job creation, technological innovation, and investment in clean energy solutions


  • Carbon capture technology can be expensive to implement and operate, requiring significant investment in infrastructure and equipment, as well as ongoing maintenance and monitoring costs
  • Some carbon capture processes consume a considerable amount of energy, which can offset the emissions reductions achieved and increase overall energy consumption
  • Carbon capture technology may not be suitable for all industries or sources of emissions, limiting its effectiveness in achieving widespread emissions reductions
  • Storing captured CO2 underground or repurposing it for other uses may pose challenges, including the availability of suitable storage sites and potential risks of leakage or unintended environmental impacts
  • While carbon capture technology has advanced in recent years, it may still face technical and logistical challenges, including scalability, efficiency, and reliability, particularly in large-scale deployment scenarios


Carbon capture technology offers a promising avenue for addressing the urgent challenge of climate change by reducing carbon emissions and mitigating their impact on the environment. While it presents both opportunities and challenges, continued research, innovation, and investment are essential for unlocking its full potential. 

Join the movement towards a sustainable future by staying informed and advocating for policies that prioritize carbon capture technology. Together, we can make a significant impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and safeguarding the planet for future generations.

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