January 18, 2020

Could More Oil Be the Solution to Climate Change?

“To secure a stable climate for future generations, humanity will need to permanently bury gigatons of carbon dioxide. There is already too much in the atmosphere — 415 parts per million, when scientists say 350 ppm is the upper bound of safety — and we emit more and more each year.

Building a carbon capture and storage industry of sufficient size would mean starting immediately, but at least for now, there is little financial incentive to do so. Companies can’t make money burying carbon, so they mostly don’t.

One way to scale up the carbon-capture side of the industry would be to boost demand for captured CO2, which can be used as an input or feedstock in various other industrial processes. Capturing carbon (either from industrial waste streams or from the ambient air) and using it in industry is known as carbon capture and utilization (CCU).

The idea is that CCU can be used as an “on-ramp” for eventual CCS, pushing down the costs of carbon capture and laying down some of the foundational infrastructure, like pipelines, needed for eventual CCS at scale.

This is the second in what will be a four-part series of posts on CCU. The first is a brief introduction to the need for CCS and the various types of CCU that might help get it going. It will give you a lay of the land. In the third post, I will cover some of the more intriguing and promising uses of CO2, such as in concrete, fuels, and plastics.”

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