COLLABORATION

Could carbon capture collaboration be the saviour of the climate crisis?

SOURCE: Luis Tato/AFP
Turkana is a vast, dry area in the north-west of Kenya that is on the frontline of climate change. With regular searing temperatures the Turkana people are suffering from recurring and prolonged droughts.

The climate crisis has rightfully been capturing headlines and dominating media coverage in recent months as the warnings from climate scientists get direr and the deadline to prevent catastrophe looms ever-larger.

Extinction Rebellion protestors have been taking to the streets and causing disruption across the planet over the last week, and young climate activists have been making their voices heard through weekly strikes to highlight the critical nature of the situation.

The need for change and workable solutions has never been more urgent. While governments battle it out over policy and carbon tax, academia and the private sector is working to find effective solutions to the big questions.

Previously seen as an unrealistic money pit, carbon capture and storage is having a revival and becoming the focus of departments looking to mitigate climate change.

carbon capture
Activists from the climate change action group Extinction Rebellion hold flags during a protest at the Place Royale in Brussels on October 12, 2019. Source: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified the progression of technology, including carbon capture and storage, as a key factor in keeping the crisis within manageable levels. But until recently, progress on this front has been slow and the costs associated with it, unsustainable.

In 2017, the world’s first commercial plant for capturing carbon dioxide from the air opened in Switzerland.

The Climeworks AG facility near Zurich was the first ever to do this on an industrial scale. The carbon it captures is sold directly to a buyer or buried under the ground. But the plant currently only captures a tiny fraction of the amount generated by fossil fuel giants.

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Climeworks is currently absorbing 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – the emissions equivalent of about 30 households. To achieve their goal of capturing one percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, they will need another 250,000 similar plants.

Optimistic estimates from the IPCC suggest the planet needs to remove at least 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100; in a worst-case scenario, this climbs to 1000 gigatons.

In a challenge to reach this ambitious target, more players are bringing their expertise to this globally shared problem.

It is this shared passion to exact change on the climate crisis that brought the cross-border collaboration between Japan and Canada’s Saskatchewan into reality.

carbon capture
Young activists and their supporters rally for action on climate change on September 27, 2019 in Montreal, Canada. Source: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images / AFP

Japan CCS and the International CCS Knowledge Centre, at the University of Regina, have joined forces to work on accelerating the use and understanding of carbon capture utilisation and storage. Last week, the pair signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that charts a path to collaborate in the development, demonstration and deployment of the flourishing carbon capture technology.

“Saskatchewan is helping lead the world in innovative technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world,” Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, Canada, said in a press release.

“The collaboration between the International CCS Knowledge Centre and Japan CCS Co. highlights Saskatchewan’s global leadership on CCUS and the impact this innovative technology can have far beyond our borders.”

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As a pioneer in carbon capture, the International CCS Knowledge Centre will share its expertise with Japan CCS Co. and will share the lessons-learned following the construction of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 CCS Facility – the world’s first commercial-scale, post-combustion CCS facility on a coal-fired power plant.

The hope is that this shared experience and knowledge exchange between the two will encourage the development of carbon capture technology across the globe and start to make a dent in the behemoth that is global fuel emissions.

“It is important to share experiences and knowledge in order to progress CCS as a global mitigation measure,” said Shoichi Ishii, President of Japan CCS Co., Ltd. “And we are happy to collaborate with the International CCS Knowledge Centre.”