Paving the way to a green future by capturing and storing CO2 – Los Alamos Reporter

Advancing the deployment of direct air capture and other carbon dioxide removal approaches will be key to achieving net zero emissions goals and addressing the global climate crisis. Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy


As the urgency to avert the worst effects of climate change grows, the airwaves and the internet are buzzing with discussions of how carbon capture and storage supports various strategies to keep excess carbon dioxide in check. carbon out of the atmosphere.

What is often missing from the discussion, however, is the science of how it works and how CO2 capture and storage can make a huge difference as the economy shifts from reliance on oil and gas to renewable alternatives, which will not happen overnight.

“The fact is, carbon capture and storage underpins just about every means of curbing climate change and meeting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s goal of limiting the increase global temperature to 1.5°C,” said George Guthrie, carbon capture program manager. at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Eventually, renewables, such as wind and solar, can produce hydrogen, but carbon capture provides the crucial technology to make the transition as renewables scale up, Guthrie said.

“We can do all of this while maintaining local economies, many of which are based on fossil fuel extraction in the region,” he said. “For this to work, we need to capture and store carbon, and we need to stop putting more CO2 into the atmosphere, period.”

Solid research base

Los Alamos and other Department of Energy labs have actively studied carbon capture and storage for decades, including technology to separate gases from coal and natural gas plants, extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere and store it safely underground, along with the associated geology. .

Carbon capture and storage involves two key elements, both technically feasible today: the capture of CO2 from complex gas mixtures and the permanent storage of CO2 in underground reservoirs.

“Capturing CO2 at some large industrial sources has been done commercially for decades,” Guthrie said. The technology focuses on separating CO2 from other gases as they leave the chimney. “The DOE has invested in research, including at Los Alamos, to extend CO2 capture technologies to a wider range of operations, such as natural gas power plants and other industrial processes. Commercially available solutions exist today to reduce CO2 emissions from certain sources by 90-95%.

These capture technologies can be applied to the conversion of natural gas to low carbon hydrogen. New technologies go a step further by capturing CO2 directly from the air, a concept born in Los Alamos in the 1990s. Systems are already being tested and deployed commercially today, and costs are falling.

The second key element of carbon capture and storage is the permanent geological storage of CO2.

“We know from nature that CO2 can be stored underground for geological periods. Many of the largest natural deposits of CO2 in the world are in the intermountain west,” Guthrie said.

One such example is McElmo Dome, a geological reservoir in southwestern Colorado that has naturally accumulated over a billion tons of CO2. Research by Los Alamos, Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico Tech and others has found reservoirs across the country that could sequester hundreds of billions of tons or more. By way of comparison, annual emissions in the United States are around 6 to 7 billion tonnes.

Take action on the I-WEST initiative

The shift from carbon capture and storage research to deployment has accelerated under the Intermountain West Energy & Transitions initiative. With DOE sponsorship, Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading this broadly inclusive initiative that brings together states, regional universities and colleges, research institutes, local communities, and Native American nations to create a sustainable energy economy.

Through a place-based approach using workshops and other outreach activities that put people first, I-WEST learns the unique concerns and needs of stakeholders around jobs, energy use and environmental stewardship. Based on this input, I-WEST will develop a roadmap towards a carbon neutral economy in the region. It is already clear that carbon capture and storage will be a key part of this roadmap.

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