Given the steep Paris targets, companies are looking to reduce their emissions by capturing carbon and using it for the production of a host of items including soda ash
With the 2016 Paris Agreement setting a moonshot goal for the world to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, companies have been toying with innovative technologies to meet individual targets. One such technology with considerable promise is Carbon Capture and Storage.
As part of the circular carbon economy (CCE), the technology enables manufacturers to capture carbon at the point of emission, ie chimneys, and trap carbon dioxide using a chemical oxidation process, for reuse in the production of fuels, plastic components, soda ash, food and drinks, building materials and agriculture. The carbon captured is stacked and stored deep inside geological formations such as exploited oil and gas wells.
Debasish Mishra, partner, Deloitte in India, says, “It is believed renewable energy alone will not be able to achieve the Paris Agreement targets. Carbon capture at manufacturing plants will become a compulsion as companies look at options to avoid carbon tax.” Some of the major companies in India using or planning to use the carbon capture technology are Reliance Industries (RIL), Unilever, and Dalmia Bharat.
In July 2020, RIL announced having achieved substantial progress in turning CO2 into a recyclable resource, as against being released as waste. “We have already made substantial progress on photosynthetic biological pathways to convert our CO2 emissions at Jamnagar into high-value proteins, nutraceuticals, advanced materials and fuels,” Chairman Mukesh Ambani had said. “RIL also plans to develop next-gen carbon capture and storage technologies. It is evaluating novel catalytic and electrochemical transformations to use CO2 as valuable feedstock,” he said.
Mahendra Singhi, MD of Dalmia Bharat tells FE, “the Asian Development Bank is doing a feasibility study for our pilot project on carbon capture, and will soon come out with the viability report. Once that happens, we will approach green climate funds or IFC to implement the project across our cement plants”. Highlighting that cement plants in the UK, Sweden and Norway are getting 100% financing for such projects, he adds, “we hope some finance will come our way as well. However, we will go ahead even if the assistance does not materialise”.
As is the case with any new technology, the cost of capturing carbon dioxide is exorbitant at present ($45-50 per tonne), though it has fallen considerably since 2004 when it was $250 per tonne. Experts say, like the price of solar, the costs will come down further, with Deloitte’s Mishra highlighting that a lot of research and adoption is happening in the field in Scandinavian countries.
As per an IEA estimate released in 2020, total carbon capture by Iron & Steel, Bio-Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), Cement, and Chemical sectors will increase to 527 metric tonne by 2030, and is likely to grow five-fold to 2,831 metric tonne by 2050. Cement and chemicals are projected to account for the maximum CO2 trappings, at 49% and 33.8%, respectively, by 2050.
Aniruddha Sharma, co-founder & CEO of London-headquartered Carbon Clean, a firm providing carbon tech solutions to companies like Unilever, points out that energy production and consumption account for only 55% of global emissions, with the other 45% coming from the manufacture of goods. These industrial CO2 emissions need to be reduced by almost half by 2030 to meet global targets. “The circular carbon economy can eliminate the remaining half of the greenhouse emissions by capturing and reusing a projected 9.3 billion metric tonnes of CO2 by 2050. Industries need to develop viable, large-scale carbon capture solutions today if they are to meet the 2030 and 2050 targets,” he says.