Significant opportunities to generate reliable electricity while capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere have emerged and can be implemented on a global scale. A larger system is made possible by the combination of four key technologies: biomass or fossil fuel power generation with carbon capture, direct air capture (DAC), energy storage and renewable energy. Taken together, these technologies can provide reliable power to the grid while generating substantial negative carbon emissions. In addition to scaling up renewables, this will help transition the hydrocarbon-based energy sector to a low-carbon economy. If implemented worldwide, this approach could reduce carbon emissions by billions of tons each year while creating more economic opportunities.
Compared to using fossil fuels, generating electricity from biomass has a greater negative carbon footprint because biomass is already carbon neutral. In addition, while generating electricity from biomass, another valuable product can be produced: biochar. There are now several commercial-scale systems that produce both energy and biochar. Biochar is some of the energy released by biomass. Biochar has many uses, including significantly improving soil capacity for growing crops.
Since the production of biochar from biomass and its introduction into soil is an internationally recognized method of removing carbon from the atmosphere, there is a lot of money to be made by creating this biochar. Even more beneficial than creating biochar is combining it with nutrients and using it through the soil. For example, a 2019 study found that the combination of biochar and compost significantly increased average crop yields—by 40 percent compared to a compost control without biochar.
Many companies have pledged to achieve net-zero goals in the next few decades. For example, more than 200 companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, and 21% of the world's 2,000 largest related listed companies, with sales of nearly $14 trillion (89 trillion yuan), have now committed to achieve this by 2050 Net zero emissions. The companies will purchase carbon credits to meet their respective commitments. Because of this, demand for these credits is expected to grow rapidly, which can generate significant revenue for companies implementing these with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In addition to being stored underground, CO2 captured through industrial carbon capture and DAC can be utilized in a variety of ways, including agriculture, enhancing soil strength and producing methanol. The rapid growth in carbon use presents significant economic opportunities for the growth of local industries and the expansion of international markets and trade opportunities. The U.S. carbon utilization market is estimated to reach $800 billion to $1.1 trillion (RMB 5.1 trillion to RMB 7 trillion) by 2030, making it a lucrative component of the energy transition. As reliable sources of CO2 become available around the world, the utilization of this resource can be expected to increase.
By incorporating renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the technology mix, it provides a cost-effective source of inexhaustible energy, while also creating new jobs and economic opportunities. Combining renewable energy generation and storage with carbon capture and DAC can provide reliable power to the grid even if wind and solar farms fail to produce enough power for days on end. The DAC system helps here, as it can be turned off or off when necessary to allow more power to be fed to the grid. It also helps maximize the use of available electricity, thereby increasing the profitability of the facility.
While the cost of a DAC is currently quite high, it is expected to drop rapidly. For example, Iceland's Climeworks reportedly costs between $600 and $800 (3,822 yuan to 5,096 yuan) to capture and store a metric ton of carbon dioxide at its new facility. Several other companies are now developing DAC technologies, some of which say they can capture carbon dioxide for less than $100 per metric ton when their respective technologies are implemented on a commercial scale.
Facilities capable of long-term carbon storage have been growing rapidly, and now the availability of climate finance (such as carbon technology funding) is increasing. This, combined with the above-mentioned technologies, has created many new business opportunities on a global scale that can help drastically reduce global carbon emissions while creating jobs and boosting economic growth.
An important feature of this technology portfolio is that it does not depend on the technology of any one company. Therefore, there are many options for implementing this combination of technologies, and can and should choose their best option.
Proactively partnering with these relevant technical communities to develop projects and obtain available funding can further accelerate collaboration progress. This will lead to faster development and scale-up of technologies to reduce carbon emissions. There are multiple sources of funding available to accelerate technology development and scale, such as venture capital, government grants and related incentives, private grants, crowdfunding, and loans. To help companies secure funding for construction, online platforms such as Puro-Earth facilitate the completion of facility capture and carbon fulfillment. Furthermore, in order to make investment in these major projects more attractive to investors,
One of the easiest and most profitable ways to benefit from this combination of technologies is to upgrade existing biomass-fired power plants. These plants already have off-takers for biomass sources, material handling equipment and power generation. Existing biomass-fired power plants can be upgraded with new processing equipment so that these plants can produce biochar and more electricity by combining them with renewable power plants and energy storage. When it makes economic sense, carbon capture, hydrogen production and DAC can be included in one facility. The end result for operators of existing biomass-fired power plants is greater profits, massively negative carbon emissions, and helps create a more sustainable world for all of us.
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