Captured CO2 is now stepping up to be the next big thing in energy storage. Currently, 70 percent of the global demand for energy is met by burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, thus, emitting huge amounts of Carbon Dioxide into air. International Energy Agency reported a net amount of 35.8 billion tons (32.5 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide emission in 2017.
But, even with the exponential rise in renewable energy sources, the world is going to be majorly dependent upon fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas for a long time. Hence, need to eliminate carbon emission is extremely high. Thus, Carbon Capture is seen as a technological requirement by many to reduce the excess pollution caused by carbon emission. For the foreseeable future, coal will continue to play a critical role in powering the Nation’s electricity generation, especially for base-load power plants. Coal-fired power plants have made significant progress in reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide (contributors to acid rain), particulate matter, and mercury.
The Petra Nova power plant near Houston, currently the world’s biggest post-combustion carbon capture facility, kept more than 1 million tons (907,000 metric tons) of carbon from going into the atmosphere in the first nine months after it went online in January 2017.
But, the question arises about what should be done with the captured carbon?!
Carbon dioxide is thermodynamically stable, but it is still reactive under certain conditions that do not necessarily require intensive energy input. Using CO2 as a feedstock for a variety of products is a promising research area, particularly in conjunction with energy generated from renewable energy sources.
In an article published on March 29, 2018 in the scientific journal Joule, a group of Canadian and U.S. scientists describe an even intriguing solution. The paper suggested that captured CO2 could be converted into other molecules to create fuels to store energy generated by wind turbines or solar panels, as well as to supply raw materials to make plastic and other products. This could also be a solution for the current battery problems such as static discharge in lead-acid batteries.
“Consider this as a form of artificial photosynthesis,” Phil De Luna, a doctoral candidate in Materials Science Engineering at the University of Toronto and one of the article’s authors, explains,
“Plants take CO2 and sunlight and water and make sugars and other things they need to live. We’re taking energy and CO2 and converting it into things we can use.”
De Luna also suggested that this could solve one of the biggest problems of the energy sector. It will reduce the excess pollution as well as solve energy storage issues. Captured CO2 also could be used to make feedstocks such as ethylene, a chemical feedstock derived from oil and natural gas that’s the starting point for plastic. It will also help to reduce the demand for oil and gas. The process can also give a solution for the growing environmental problem of plastic pollution, much of which makes its way into the world’s oceans. Plastic could be recycled more effectively by burning it, capturing the CO2 and using it to make new plastic.
There still is much research needed in this sector. It is seen as a technology for the future. But, just wonder how amazing would it become when CO2 will be emitted, captured and converted at the same plant and the need for fossil fuels will be 0%?!