Carbon Capture Technology

Because for the last 400,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels were at most 280 parts per million (ppm), and are now at 411ppm, we will still have atmospheric effects like climate change and extreme storms- even if we stop contributing to greenhouse gasses. That is, unless we remove the carbon.


Ingenuity and Nature to Air and Earth

As Pagans, we draw inspiration and understanding from Nature. We look upon all the parts of Nature, whether living or non-living, organic or inorganic, energy or material – but what about human nature? There are many aspects of human nature – some positive, some negative. One aspect of human nature, our ingenuity, is a wonderful ability that we can use to develop a more symbiotic relationship with our Earth Mother. Through our ingenuity we will find technological solutions to one of the greatest environmental challenges of this age – anthropogenic (human-made) climate change. The purpose of this article is to briefly review some of the ways in which humankind can use science and technology to reduce the amounts of Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. The removal of CO2 from the air is commonly referred to as “Carbon Capture and Storage” (CCS).

A machine has been invented and tested which can absorb CO2 through filters and recycle the CO2 to a greenhouse to help grow vegetables. Although it is true that the amount of CO2 this machine can remove is insignificant compared to the amount that needs to be removed, take note the optimistic phrase: “many a little makes a mickle.” Also, as this technology becomes more widespread it will inevitably become more efficient, since more people will be applying their ingenuity to improve the technology, as is their nature. This has just scratched the surface, as there are many more CCS methods available.

other alternatives

As you will soon find, many CCS methods rely on using our scientific knowledge to apply the powers that already exist within Nature towards the goal of reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. For instance, microalgae that live in lakes, rivers and oceans use photosynthesis to produce energy for themselves and to grow, which consumes CO2 from the air. Scientists have been studying microalgae for decades, and know enough to engineer self-contained environments in which the organisms can thrive. Studies have been conducted regarding the possibility of linking such a microalgae habitat at the end of an industrial exhaust stack, thereby allowing Nature to work its magic in converting the CO2 emissions into more biomass. This biomass may be potentially used for biofuel, which is essentially a more environmentally sustainable form of fossil fuel. Current examples of biofuels include corn and sugarcane, but as you might be well aware, these require large tracts of land, whereas microalgae can be grown in far less space while simultaneously working to cut down CO2 emissions.You can learn more about biofuel here!

Another way in which science works with nature to reduce CO2 seems humorously simple – burial. That’s right, by literally burying the CO2 deep underground, it can be stored there in a manner that is virtually permanent. All around the globe there are saline aquifers that contain high concentrations of calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions, which can react with CO2 to form calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and magnesium carbonate (MgCO3). Both of these are common naturally occurring minerals, so it is literally like making rock from air! Once the CO2 is trapped in rock form, it will stay underground for thousands of years. Deep ocean burial has also been suggested, which involves putting the CO2 in some of the deepest areas of the ocean floor, where the sheer pressure of all the water above would compress it into a liquid. Although it would work in removing CO2 from the air, the method is unfavorable because the lakes of CO2 would be detrimental to life on the ocean floor, which would undoubtedly cause a negative ripple effect throughout the rest of the marine ecosystems.

It is even possible to use CO2 to make cement using the same chemistry that happens when it is pumped into saline aquifers. In the Calera Process, carbon emissions from industrial stacks are bubbled through super-concentrated solutions of Mg2+ and Ca2+ ions, which causes them to precipitate out as MgCO3 and CaCO3 particles. This precipitate may then be used to produce cement, which also happens to be one of the strongest building materials available. Just as with the biofuel mentioned earlier, we can actually use the CO2 as a beneficial resource while simultaneously helping to fight climate change!



what you can do to help

You don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer to help capture and store CO2 - one of the best ways to do CCS is by planting trees! Plus, reforestation can also help to reverse the shrinkage of animal habitats. There are a great number of nonprofit organizations available dedicated to reforestation and just by giving them a little monetary support every month, you could help with CCS and conservation efforts alike. If you live in a large metropolitan area, planting trees in your city can also help with the local air quality. Also, let’s make use of all that roof space in the city – Green roofs are another potential CCS method. An added bonus to Green roofs is that they can absorb rainwater, which reduces the amount of storm-water runoff that causes pollution of water bodies.

Always remember that your point of view is your choice. After reading this article, you may hear from friends or family about several arguments against CCS technology that are definitely valid points of view, but are not the only point of view. For example, one person may point to the economics of CCS technology, explaining that the cost of the technology outweighs the benefits. However, is not the communal need of reducing CO2 emissions enough to encourage more people to invest in CCS technology? Especially as the effects of global warming become worse, it is likely that we will be pressured to use every option we have. A different person may insist that we should simply stop generating CO2 in the first place and to simply use 100% green, renewable energy across the board. Why waste our time on CCS when we already have renewable energy sources? This is a lot easier said than done, and would take more time than we have to get CO2 emissions down to an acceptable level. CCS is worth investing time and resources in so that we can cut down on CO2 emissions while we transition to greener industry.

article written by: Trent Pinion, Corpus Christi, Texas