Carbon capture technology and how it works

Types of carbon capture technology

1. Carbon absorbers

Natural forms of CCS are called “carbon sinks” and are vast spaces where natural habitats trap CO2 from the atmosphere – these include forests, oceans, meadows and wetlands.

Scientists, as well as environmental and conservation experts, recognize that conservation and cultivation of carbon sinks can increase the amount of carbon absorbed from our atmosphere in the shortest amount of time.

Grasslands and wetlands in particular have a much faster turnaround for carbon storage, with riparian wetlands storing more carbon per hectare than other habitats such as forests.1

Where forests are used, experts believe that certain types of trees, such as birch or willow, are optimal for terrestrial carbon sequestration because they absorb more CO2 compared to other tree species.

Carbon dioxide storage in an ancient peat bog

One of the ways we work on biological carbon capture is this conservation and reclamation of ancient peat bog located close to one of our substations in South Wales.

The 15-hectare marsh stores the equivalent of 32,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the average annual emissions of 22,000 petrol cars. Its restoration has also created conditions for the flourishing of rare butterflies and vegetation.

2. Saline aquifers

Deep saline aquifers are underground geological formations; huge expanses of porous sedimentary rocks that are filled with salt water. CO2 can be pumped into them and stored forever – in fact, saline aquifers have the greatest identified storage potential of all other forms of engineered CCS.

The Endurance Aquifer, located in the North Sea off the coast of Great Britain, is one such formation that lies approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) below the seabed. About the size of the island of Manhattan and the height of The Shard or the Empire State Building, its porous composition allows carbon dioxide to be injected into it and stored safely for potentially thousands of years.

In the US, numerous large-scale saline aquifers are currently being used for CCS purposes, e.g Project Citronelle in alabama It successfully stored over 150,000 tons of CO during a three-year trial period2 per year, which was captured from a nearby pilot facility.

3. Giant air filters

Carbon capture technologies are still being developed around the world, and individual countries are creating strategies to meet their own net-zero emission goals. For example, in China, companies have developed experimental commercial air filters – huge towers that clean the air of pollutants on a huge scale. These giant air towers purify the air by drawing it into glass rooms that are heated by solar energy, creating a greenhouse effect. This hot air is pushed up the tower through a series of filters and then returned to the atmosphere as clean air.

One such giant air purifier in Xi’an reportedly cleaned more than 353 million cubic feet of air every day, significantly improving local air quality. Manufacturers believe they are close to building even larger towers, where just one could clean enough air for a small city every day.

4. Ionic liquids: carbon capture technology of the future?

Recent advances in CCS technology include new types of fluids that are highly efficient CO absorbers2. Two-dimensional “ionic” liquids have a molecular structure that provides higher CO levels2 to be absorbed Scientists believe that “editing” fluids can offer more precise control in the chemical engineering process and are considered environmentally friendly.

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