You'll see the acronyms CCS and CCUS used a lot around here. Let's first go over what those mean.
CCS: Carbon Capture and Sequestration. This is the process of capturing CO2 emissions either from a direct source (a smokestack, for example) or from the atmosphere. After the emissions are captured, they're stored underground (sequestered) and kept out of the atmosphere. The emissions aren't recycled but are sometimes used to extract oil through a process known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
CCUS: Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration. Now, here's where things get exciting. After the CO2 is captured, it's used to create new materials and products. Instead of just sequestering the CO2, it's utilized to make everything from fuel, concrete, and shoes, to cleaning products, plastics, and food. This allows us to actually recycle our emissions and create a circular carbon economy.
Whether the CO2 is recycled to make new products or sequestered underground, both practices can help us achieve negative emissions - where we're removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than we're putting in.
Climate change is by far the single greatest threat facing humanity.
The release of excess CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity has disrupted the Earth’s natural carbon cycle and climate system to the point where human civilization and the entire biosphere is now threatened.
If we were to halt all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we would still be locked into many destructive consequences of climate change - such as a potential release of large amounts of methane and CO2 from warming soils, rapidly rising sea levels, and widespread habitat destruction. The spread of infectious diseases, increased risk to national security and global stability, and the loss of trillions of dollars in investments would be guaranteed.
The last time atmospheric CO2 levels were this high, the world was a drastically different place where organized human society and large-scale agriculture would not have been possible. The unknown repercussions that come with a changing climate are too dangerous and costly to risk facing.
In addition to moving away from the use of fossil fuels and halting our emissions, we must also clean up the atmosphere.
New technologies and proven methods of carbon capture and removal, coupled with the relatively new practice of using the emissions we capture, present us with an exciting opportunity to effectively deal with the immediate and worsening climate crisis in an economically viable way.
After causing so much damage to the Earth, we've entered what we at the CUA call The Age of Cleanup. We must now correct the problems that we've caused. CCUS is a major part of this new era.
CO2 can be captured through both natural and man-made (technological) processes. Taking advantage of the Earth's natural carbon capturing abilities - by growing trees and algae, improving farming practices, enhanced weathering, and using Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) - allows us to use proven natural methods to capture large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Some of the methods, such as enhanced weathering, can also improve soil quality and crop yields.
Using technological methods to capture CO2 presents us with a way to capture emissions and use them to create products. Machines that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and newly discovered ways to turn that CO2 into the building blocks of materials we use every day are opening up a new world where we can begin to bring down the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in an economically viable and socially beneficial way. New start-ups and large corporations are constantly adding increasingly efficient and effective tools to the current CCUS arsenal.
Carbon capture and utilization alone will not be the silver bullet when it comes to fighting climate change. The mass deployment of renewable energy, ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and making changes in our overall behavior are all necessary if we are to be successful in our efforts to reverse climate change.
Nevertheless, we believe that CCUS presents us with a unique opportunity to not only deal with the greatest threat facing humanity and the environment, but to create a new economic boom while doing so.
We envision a new “carbon-based economy” where most of the products we use frequently - from concrete and plastic, to fuel, shoes, and cleaning products - are made from CO2 captured from direct sources and the atmosphere.
In addition to using technology to capture our emissions, we look forward to natural methods of carbon capture being used on a large scale - such as biochar, reforestation, growing algae, and carbon farming. We believe that using nature’s own effective carbon capturing processes should be used whenever and wherever possible.
To reverse climate change, we must go beyond merely becoming a low-carbon economy. We must transition to a carbon-negative economy.