(article content extracted from The Times 19th January 2023)
Britain leads the world in efforts to extract carbon from the air as countries seek technology to slow climate change, experts have said.
Machines that suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and power stations that capture emissions from burning trees could become the biggest growth industry for the UK. Scientists have said that Britain is a global frontrunner in CO2 removal technologies and is well placed because removed CO2 could be stored in old North Sea oilfields.
The energy company Drax hopes to build a “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage” (Beccs) plant near Selby, burning trees, grass and other biomass to generate electricity, then capturing the CO2 and piping it under the North Sea.
“There’s potentially a big growth industry story for the UK, because the world is probably going to need lots of CO2 removals. The UK is thinking on the front foot about it,” said Steve Smith at Oxford University, whose international team publishes a study in January 2023 that finds humanity is removing about two billion tonnes of CO2 a year from the atmosphere. However, he said that 99.9 per cent of that was from tree-planting and managing soils, with new technologies accounting for only 0.1 per cent. He said Britain also had the skilled workers, regulatory environment and infrastructure to do “really well” at deploying CO2 removal technologies.
The UN’s climate science panel said last year that the world would need to increase the use of such technologies to meet climate change goals. The latest study found that meeting even the Paris agreement’s goal of holding global temperature rises below 2C would require today’s CO2 removal technologies to increase 1,300-fold by 2050. Jan Minx, at the Mercator Research Institute in Berlin, one of the study’s authors, said: “We need to aggressively develop and scale up CO2 removal.”
Separately, an investigation into one of the leading carbon offset standards found that 94 per cent of its offsets were unlikely to have delivered carbon reductions.
The analysis into Verra by The Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and the non-profit SourceMaterial concluded that many credits approved by the organisation and bought by companies including Disney, Gucci and Shell were in effect worthless. Verra disputed the conclusions and the methodology underpinning them.
Current approaches on how to capture carbon include:
Direct air capture and storage
Machines that use fans to suck in air and chemicals to capture and store CO2 have become the poster child of removal technologies. Greta Thunberg has visited facilities built by the Swiss company Climeworks, which opened Orca in Iceland, the world’s biggest direct air capture plant, in 2021.
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (Beccs)
Beccs is the latest technology for removing CO2, thanks to a plant in Illinois where plants capture CO2 as they grow, so capturing and storing the CO2 released when burning them.
Burn wood or other biomass at a high temperature without oxygen and you create biochar, a carbon-rich, charcoal-like material that can then be buried. Proponents argue it can also increase crop yields.
The 3D Consultancy is currently working with our British client to help develop and prove the effectiveness of Carbon Capture processes.
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