Environment

Eco-article 1: Capturing CO2 by CCS and BECCS

As we continue emitting CO2, along with other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we will soon reach the tipping point to which climate change would be our inevitable future. Already, a few scientists are predicting a worst-case scenario of an increased temperature of 6 degree Celsius by the end of the century.

No doubt that there are many who are developing solutions to mitigate climate change such as alternative energy and green ICT. Nevertheless, these solutions take a long time to develop, and even longer to implement with long-winded policy-makers and manufacturers with short-term profits in mind.

Many are unsatisfied with the slow-to-implement solutions and thus, came up with radical geo-engineering technologies. Two such technologies are carbon capture and storage (CCS) and its variant, bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Main stages in CCS systems

CCS is a process where carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel power plants are stored deep underground or sea-bed instead of being emitted into the atmosphere. It is an increasingly popular technology and is even acknowledged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to Lynn Orr, director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) in Stanford, a power plant with CCS would be able to reduce up to 90% of its carbon emissions. Many countries have started small-scaled projects to implement this system in their power plants in the near future.

In the United Kingdom, Scottish Power has built a trial CCS unit in Longannet and with the trial’s success of cutting 50% of its emissions, Scottish Power has plans to build a larger-scale CCS facility. Vattenfall, Europe’s fifth largest electricity generator has initiated a CCS project in 2001 and more massive-scale projects are scheduled to be developed from 2015 to 2020. In the United States, FutureGen, which is a public-private corporation, planned to build the world’s first coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant by 2017.

Yet, there are controversies with CCS. CCS is not a carbon-zero system as CCS is used and powered by coal-fuelled power plants, known to be one of the major emitters of carbon dioxide. Therefore, BECCS was developed.

BECCS is a form of bio-energy with carbon storage (BECS) combines biomass technology with CCS systems. Compared to CCS, BECCS boasts of a negative carbon emissions technology and has an added benefit of capturing CO2 from biomass sources to effectively remove them from the atmosphere. Since BECCS uses biomass to power the system, its potential applications are in industries such as pulp & paper, ethanol, and food productions as well as electrical and heat power plants.

Geo-engineering technologies are fascinating and exciting immediate solutions to climate change. However, they are often radical and very costly. These factors often induce an extraordinary reluctance from policy-makers, industrialists, and environmentalists to implement these systems. Nevertheless, we should keep open-minded to such technologies as we do not have much time to waste before reaching the point of no return for us to survive in the future Earth.

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