[Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of E&P. Subscribe to the magazine here.]
American kids learn early that to accomplish something really important—like hitting a homerun in a baseball game—they need to “keep their eye on the ball.” But what if there are two balls coming at them? How does one weigh the pros and the cons when both challenges are of equal importance? Take global population and climate change, for example.
Today’s global population sits at about 7.5 billion people, according to the U.N. It is a figure that is expected to grow by about 1.5 billion in the next 20 years, reaching about 9.2 billion in 2040. In that same span of time, many long-term outlooks forecast a 25% to 30% increase in global energy demand and increases in greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.
But a central goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is to keep the global temperature rise to below 2.7 F pre-industrial levels. To do that requires the reduction of GHG emissions by shifting toward cleaner energy sources like solar and wind. More than 190 countries signed the agreement and committed to enacting goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Replacing fossil energy with renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions is only half the battle. Capturing carbon as it flows out of power plant smokestacks and then using it for industrial applications or storing it is the other half. According to the International Energy Agency, industrial production accounts for one-quarter of CO2 emissions from energy and industrial processes, and 40% of global energy demand.
In December 2019, the National Petroleum Council, an oil and natural gas advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, released the results of its two-year study on the actions needed to deploy commercial carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technologies at scale in the U.S. In “Meeting the Dual Challenge: A Roadmap to At-Scale Deployment of Carbon Capture, Use and Storage,” the council found that as populations and economies continue to prosper, the world faces a dual challenge of providing affordable, reliable energy while addressing the risk of climate change.
Widespread deployment of CCUS is essential to meeting this dual challenge at the lowest cost, according to the report. The U.S. currently uses about 80% of the world’s carbon capture capacity. However, the 25 million tonnes per annum of CCUS capacity represents less than 1% of the country’s CO2 emissions from stationary sources, according to the report. In reducing emissions, we’ve put significant focus on renewable energies.
Now it is time to focus on the second target—capturing and storing CO2 from industrial sources.
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