The truth about capturing CO2 to reverse climate change

this episode is brought to you by brilliant click the link in the description below the progress we've made recently with the adoption of renewable energy is encouraging especially not that the effects of climate change are becoming more noticeable but renewables alone aren't enough to lower carbon emissions at the rate that's needed what if we could stop carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place by capturing it from pollution sources like coal-fired power plants or a cement factory and then storing it underground or better yet finding a use for it well we can do that with carbon capture utilization in storage or ccus and it's not a new concept but it's been slow to take off until now that is numerous carbon capture facilities are being planned and built worldwide so we could see this technology become much more common but do we really need it how much of an impact could it really make and is it just really an excuse for burning more fossil fuels and letting heavy polluting industries off the hook it's time to find out the truth i'm matt farrell welcome to decided [Music] the energy sector is now responsible for around three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions so if we're going to have any chance of hitting the targets that have been set for reducing those emissions it's crucial that the major industries in this field are doing everything they can to decarbonize now while it would be great to shut down all of the fossil fuel plants and immediately replace them with renewable alternatives that simply isn't possible the transition has to be a gradual process which means we're going to be stuck with some of the non-renewable sources in our energy mix for a while no matter what we do but that doesn't mean we have to let these industries carry on polluting at dangerously high levels with ccus we can continue to burn oil and gas without having to worry about all those nasty emissions doesn't sound too bad right and doesn't it remove the pressure to make big changes right away when we can just bury it all underground for a while until we figure out the best way forward well one of the criticisms of ccus is that it gives some industries and governments an excuse to do very little at a time when it's critical that we take action to address climate change despite that this is a technology that we do need to start taking more seriously in fact the intergovernmental panel on climate change or the ipcc has labeled ccos a necessity rather than simply an option for keeping climate change under control alongside renewable technologies and new energy storage solutions it looks set to become one of the main weapons in this fight it's not hard to see why it's estimated that ninety percent of the emissions generated by large-scale industrial processes can be captured so can actually be very effective it works best in these situations where high concentrations of co2 are present at coal-fired power stations it's thought to be possible to capture at least 800 000 tons of co2 per year whereas natural gas plants which produce less co2 can offer around 400 000 tons of extractable co2 this is done by filtering out the co2 from the flue gases using special solvents before it enters the smoke stack another process involves sucking up carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere through what's called a direct air capture a form of negative emissions technology while it may sound like an advanced concept cc-us has been going on for some time the idea for the first carbon capture plant came back in 1938 but the first major project to involve bearing co2 underground didn't take place until 1972 in texas it took another 24 years for the first combined carbon capture and storage solution to come about in the north sea around norway so the theory has been around for nearly a century now but there are large gaps between the major milestones and progresses have continued to be very slow there are only two large-scale coal-fired power plants in the entire world that have ccs capabilities nrg's petronova in the us and canada's boundary dam owned by sask power these are just the kind of facilities that we really need to get on board with carbon capture and they were both retrofit projects so they're not new builds overall the international energy agency or iea says there's only about 18 large-scale ccus facilities operating worldwide so this covers more than just coal-fired plants and collectively they capture around 35 million tons of co2 per year this sounds like a lot and it is but it still only amounts for 0.1 of the total carbon emissions worldwide we can't realistically expect to be able to capture all carbon emissions when they come from such a variety of sources such as transport and housing but it's clear that there's a lot that needs to be done before ccos can be considered a major contributor to a mission reduction nevertheless the iea is optimistic about the technology and foresees a future where ccos facilities will be capturing 115 gigatons of co2 by 2060.

So why is this taking so long to get going well a big reason hasn't taken off as quickly as it could and perhaps should have by now comes down to the one thing that makes or breaks well pretty much everything in life money [Music] capturing and storing carbon might be great for the environment and the future of our planet which you'd think would be enough on its own but it's not exactly a lucrative business at the moment and it's not easy for companies to make a profit from it especially when it's currently a very expensive process there are also concerns about the availability of sites worldwide where co2 can be stored once it's been captured some areas such as the north sea and europe are ideal locations for subterranean storage but the same can't be said for every country in the world that's under pressure to drastically lower their emissions and could benefit from this kind of solution some critics also argue that bearing underground is too risky since it could leak out of the reservoirs and either back into the air or into the water supplies another unintended consequence could be a buildup of pressure underground leading to man-made tremors known as induced seismicity so how much of this do we actually need to be doing and is there a target that we should be aiming to hit well estimates vary on the total capacity required to meet climate change targets some reports say that as much as 10 000 gigatons will be needed globally but imperial college london has recently done its own calculations to conclude that only 2 700 gigatons will be necessary and that we're actually on track to achieve this by looking at current progress going back to that issue of money one way to make a few bucks with captured carbon is to turn it into a product that others can put to some kind of use this is the utilization or the u part of ccus the process of making co2 into an economically valuable product involves either transforming it into materials chemicals and fuels to certain reactions or keeping the co2 as it is and utilizing in techniques such as enhanced oil recovery this is where carbon dioxide is used to flush more oil out of wells and reservoirs than can be normally extracted through conventional means others are taking a more environmentally friendly approach such as climb works a swiss startup that's using direct air capture to remove co2 from the air and sell it to be used as fertilizer or carbonated drinks one of the most promising uses for captured co2 though might surprise a few people building materials co2 can quite easily be turned into a solid aggregate for use in concrete without using much energy at all it can also be infused into wet concrete to help cure it as the co2 reacts with the water in the calcium forming solid calcium carbonates this means that the co2 can be sequestered or hidden away in walls and floors for the entire lifetime of that built structure and it reduces the carbon footprint of concrete production too which is responsible for around 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions another way of making ccos a more attractive business prospect is creating incentives through new policies in 2018 the us congress introduced a new tax credit that rewards companies for each metric ton of co2 that they capture and store while there are also new california laws that also offer incentives to firms that take steps to sequester their carbon dioxide even if a lot of this co2 is then used to extract more oil and gas from the ground which is true in many cases at least it gets more ccos operations up and running while the issue of money both in terms of cost and profitability is one of the main barriers to widespread adoption of ccos the technology is steadily being deployed more and more which will start to push those costs down the u.s is the current world leader in the development and deployment of ccos and minn kota power cooperative is now aiming to build the world's largest carbon capture facility with this new project tundra this would see north dakota's milton r young station retrofitted with an amine-based technology for post-combustion capture which would make it capable of collecting 4 million tons per year europe is another hot spot for cc us innovation energy giants shell total and equinor have submitted plans to build the world's first ccs network off the coast norway the 685 million northern lights project is thought to be capable of eventually capturing and storing up to 5 million tons of co2 a year from some of the biggest emitters in the eu with a giant saline aquifer these can be thought of as huge underground salt water deposits which react to the co2 once injected to form solid materials preventing it from unintentionally re-entering the atmosphere as a gas with northern lights co2 would be collected from capture sites across europe again using amines and then shipped to an island-based terminal near bergen where it's kept in temporary storage tanks before being injected into subsurface reservoirs 2 700 meters below the seabed the project is set to become operational in 2024 once signed off by the norwegian authorities so what is amine based technology well some methods of carbon capture involve the use of alkalamine solutions or amine for short to separate and remove harmful compounds such as co2 from flue gases they're a highly effective way of capturing high purity co2 and is used more commonly than any other method in large-scale ccs projects but this isn't the only approach and new innovations are starting to appear more regularly engineers at the massachusetts institute of technology have come up with a way of removing co2 no matter what the concentration so from the heavily concentrated flue gases of a power plant right down to direct capture straight from the atmosphere extracting from low concentrations is much more difficult in power plants between 10 and 20 percent of the gas from a smoke stack is co2 but in the air it's as little as .04 so it's much harder to grab mit's new method promises to be a much more efficient and cheaper way to capture in low concentration scenarios it involves directing air through a series or a stack of electrochemical cells plates which works like a special type of battery that sucks co2 out of the air as it passes over its electrodes when it charges and then it releases the gas as pure co2 when it discharges meanwhile researchers at monash university in melbourne and csiro which is australia's national science agency have discovered a ccos method that they claim sets new standards and efficiency it involves using small amounts of cutting-edge materials called metal organic frameworks or mofs which have incredibly large surface areas an mof is a crystalline compound of metal ions that behaves a bit like a sponge filled with tiny magnets and it has unusual porous properties its low energy cost is achieved via an absorption process that's similar to heating an induction cooktop to reduce the overall energy required the australian scientists have made their own unique highly absorbent material using mofs that can regenerate extremely quickly as well as use very little energy which they say will make it a relatively cheap method and they're aiming to be capable of capturing co2 directly from the air in the future while there's still work to be done to iron out the issues and we have yet to see it reach its full potential carbon capture utilization and storage surely has some part to play in our battle against climate change more governments and corporations are getting on board but perhaps not quickly as required and some argue that the oil and gas industry could also do more even taking the lead in this space since they have the financial means and the engineering know-how to drive csus innovation forward despite all of this if we can create those incentives to make it more financially viable increase the number of projects and continue to discover new ways of doing it especially with direct air capture then ccus might just be the boost that we need to get on top of this climate crisis and speaking of getting a boost i've really needed one in order to better understand topics just like this i took the differential equations course of brilliant which walked me through newton's law of cooling in a nutshell it teaches you how to calculate how long it will take for let's say your hot cup of coffee in the morning to cool down it's differential equations that help to model out changes in climate but if you want to brush up on more of the basics first you can start with brilliance calculus in a nutshell course or go back even further or study something completely different there's over 60 courses including topics mathematics statistics and computer science i've always learned better when i was taught the why of something not just the how so i could apply that understanding in my own way and the courses at brilliant do just that instead of learning by memorizing formulas you learn by doing and applying what you're learning with fun and interactive challenges so go to brilliant.org undecided to sign up for free the first 200 people will get 20 off their annual premium membership it's really an incredible service thanks to brilliant and all of you for supporting the channel and jump into the comments and let me know how you feel about carbon capture is it a necessity or just an excuse for big oil to keep drilling and as always a special thank you to all of my patrons if you like this video be sure to check one of the ones i have linked to right here and be sure to subscribe if you think i've earned it and as always thanks so much for watching i'll see in the next one

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