What does CCUS stand for? CCUS means carbon, capture, utilization, and storage. CCUS has gotten a lot of attention as an approach to fighting climate change. Many people are familiar with the concept of carbon capture technology, which is focused on capturing carbon dioxide and other emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect in Earth’s atmosphere.


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CCUS is focused on this capability, but it can also include methods that store and reutilize emissions. This prevents them from entering the atmosphere and could potentially make use of them as resources. Proponents of CCUS technology see it as a necessity for mitigating climate change.

The switch to renewable energy and carbon emission reduction also is imperative for this goal, but it’s not yet a standalone solution. The slow rate of net-zero energy implementation and current rates of carbon emissions mean that multiple solutions will need to be employed.

CCUS technology is currently operational at commercial facilities in the United States and abroad. Of the 27 CCUS facilities operating globally, 12 U.S.-based systems have been applied to natural gas, ethanol, fertilizer, hydrogen, and syngas production.

The very limited number of active facilities is mainly due to high costs for minimal incentive. The technology itself is viable, and if more widely employed, could help improve the decarbonization of hard-to-electrify industrial processes and allow natural gas power plants to support renewables until energy-storage technology improves, among other benefits.

Credit: Peabody Energy, Inc.

How Does CCUS Technology Work?

CCUS technologies include a variety of different capture methods. In absorption capture, a solvent is used to absorb CO2 as its produced. It can then be released in a concentrated stream as the solvent is heated. Adsorption capture can also be used for the concentrated release of CO2. T

his approach uses specialized materials that attract CO2 so it can be collected and concentrated for storage or use. Membrane capture collects and isolates CO2 using a combination of membranous materials,  molecular diffusion, and pressure changes. Cryogenic separation cools flue steam to isolate CO2 through differences in boiling points.

Oxy-combustion separates CO2 by increasing its concentration through combustion in an oxygen-rich environment, thereby making it easier to separate and collect. These methods are effective for carbon capture from direct sources, like mills, power plants, and refineries.

emoving carbon already released into the atmosphere is more complex, but direct air capture (DAC) technologies are improving to simplify this process. Once the CO2 is isolated, it can be compressed, stored, and reinjected into porous rock formations below the Earth’s surface.

It’s then contained through the same natural forces that keep carbon dioxide trapped in nature. Alternatively, it can be utilized for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which eases the extraction of oil from geological formations that are difficult to penetrate.

What’s The Current State Of CCUS?

CCUS technologies are recognized as means to achieve climate neutrality goals along with renewables, and they are being actively explored around the world, but investments and incentives are curbing efforts. In the United States, tax incentives for carbon capture integration have been in place since 2008.

Credit: Net Power Inc.

While they have led the opening of several new facilities in recent years, they haven’t proven enticing enough for truly impactful developments. CCSU proponents have pushed for regulations requiring broader CCUS technology deployment.

This could increase demand for capture and storage capabilities, which could also drive down costs by CCUS encouraging innovation, thus further reducing the expense of integration and operation. Apart from financial barriers, CCUS is hindered by an infrastructure that isn’t yet prepared for widespread sequestration and utilization of captured CO2.

As more CCUS facilities are built and become operational, pipeline networks will be required to make the whole system feasible and efficient. These issues will need to be addressed before CCSU can fulfill its potential.

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