Taking a closer look at carbon capture

Experts say carbon capture and storage is essential to reaching net zero. But what will we actually use it for?

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

Carbon capture and storage is a controversial tool in the energy transition. We don’t want to use it, but we probably have to. Most of the scenarios in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report include capturing and storing hundreds of gigatons of carbon dioxide between now and 2100

But when people talk about carbon capture and storage,” they may be referring to one of a number of technologies. It’s a term that covers multiple methods used to capture CO2, such as point source and direct air capture, as well as different approaches to using the captured CO2.

With the CCS industry in its infancy, tackling some big questions now could save us headaches down the road. Most pressing are questions about CCS infrastructure use, where we’ll build it and who will control it.

In this episode, Shayle talks to Emily Grubert, associate professor of sustainable energy policy at the University of Notre Dame. She recently posted a Twitter thread about how the same core CCS infrastructure can actually serve four different use cases:

  1. Avoiding emissions to extend the life of fossil-fuel infrastructure.

  2. Avoiding emissions where we don’t yet have zero-carbon alternatives (e.g., cement production).

  3. Removing carbon to compensate for other emissions (i.e., offsets).

  4. Removing carbon to draw down legacy emissions and avoid overshooting 1.5 degrees Celsius climate targets.

In this episode, Shayle and Emily walk through each of the four categories and cover topics including:

  • Which categories to prioritize over others — and whether we really have the luxury to prioritize when we need to deploy CCS so quickly.

  • How to avoid the double-counting problem.

  • Where we should use CCS vs. zero-carbon alternatives.

  • The resource constraints on CCS, including water, land and energy.

  • Whether CCS customers or regulatory bodies should determine the type of CCS infrastructure that is built and where we build it.

Recommended resources:

  • Catalyst: Carbon capture and storage is making a comeback

  • Bloomberg: Big money rushes into carbon capture. Can it deliver this time?

  • Canary Media: Chart: Carbon capture and removal projects hit a record high in 2022

  • Canary Media: EPA rules may push power plants to capture carbon. Is the tech ready?

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.

Catalyst is supported by RE+. RE+ is more than just the largest clean energy event — it’s a catalyst for industry innovation designed to supercharge business growth in the clean energy economy. Learn more: re-plus.com.