CCUS in 2021: The Latest on Carbon Capture & Storage

CCUS facility

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology is not yet widely adopted around the world. But, a growing number of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs say that in 2021, carbon capture technologies will “explode” in popularity and adoption.1

Support for CCUS technology in 2021

The world pumps over 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air every year.2 Reducing these emissions will take time. Therefore, a temporary solution, such as carbon capture, may be necessary.3

In late January 2021, a group of engineers criticised green groups for dismissing carbon capture schemes as costly mistakes. “Carbon capture and storage is going to be the only effective way we have in the short term to prevent our steel industry, cement manufacture and many other processes from continuing to pour emissions into the atmosphere”, said Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University.4

Trapping and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil power generation and steel and cement factories is “needed urgently”, according to a UN report in March 2021. Large-scale deployment of CCUS would allow countries to decarbonise quicker, the report indicated. That would bridge the gap until next-generation carbon energy technologies become available. But, CCUS technology is not yet widely implemented – nor cheap enough – for widespread adoption.5

Elon Musk’s support for CCUS

Support for CCUS comes from technologists and entrepreneurs too. In January, Tesla founder Elon Musk announced that he would donate USD $100 million as a prize for the most efficient way to capture carbon from the air.6

Why is carbon capture criticised?

In January 2021, a report by Global Witness and Friends of the Earth Scotland said that CCUS technology has a “history of over-promising and under-delivering”. They said it would not make “a meaningful contribution to 2030 climate targets” and wanted priority for clean energy plants instead.7

Currently, there are only 19 facilities worldwide that capture carbon before it is released into the air. Out of 36 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted, CCUS facilities only capture around 40 million tonnes every year. This is a drop in the ocean. But the International Energy Agency says CCUS will “need to form a key pillar of efforts” for the world’s “path to net-zero emissions”. But just new CCUS facilities are being built around the world, according to plans announced in the past five years.8

There is no doubt that 2021 has seen a renewed focus on carbon capture technology. Now it has to prove itself.

Sources

  1. Blackmon, D. (2021). Elon And Exxon Agree: Carbon Capture Is Set To Explode In 2021. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidblackmon/2021/02/04/elon-musk-and-exxon-agree-ccsu-is-set-to-explode-in-2021/ [Accessed 18 Mar. 2021].
  2. Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2017). CO2 emissions. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions.
  3. the Guardian. (2021). Carbon capture is vital to meeting climate goals, scientists tell green critics. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/16/carbon-capture-vital-meeting-climate-goals-scientists-cut-emissions.
  4. the Guardian. (2021). Carbon capture is vital to meeting climate goals, scientists tell green critics. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/16/carbon-capture-vital-meeting-climate-goals-scientists-cut-emissions.
  5. UN News. (2021). UN report calls for scaling-up carbon capture, use and storage. [online] Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086312 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2021].
  6. the Guardian. (2021). Elon Musk pledges $100m to carbon capture contest. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/08/elon-musk-pledges-100m-to-carbon-capture-contest.
  7. the Guardian. (2021). Carbon capture is vital to meeting climate goals, scientists tell green critics. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/16/carbon-capture-vital-meeting-climate-goals-scientists-cut-emissions.
  8. IEA. (n.d.). CCUS in Industry and Transformation – Analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/ccus-in-industry-and-transformation.