CO2 removal: is it really possible?

Some industries can capture CO2 by storing or using it for their manufacturing process. Facilities that can’t capture, store or use that CO2 are emitting climate-changing gas.


Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage (CCUS) technologies are now necessary to reach the Paris Agreement targets for climate change mitigation.

Once these technologies and practices are developed and deployed, it will physically remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it permanently in geological formations and other long-term storage pools.

Growing levels of atmospheric green-house gases (GHGs) have been linked with rising average temperatures globally. To date, we have been increasingly relying on emission-intensive technologies and solutions in the energy, transport, materials and agriculture sectors.

We can achieve substantial GHG emission reductions by incorporating carbon-neutral or low-carbon technologies. For instance, the emergence of renewable and low-carbon energy, electrification of transportation and use of bio-fuels instead of fossil-based fuels are ongoing and are anticipated to reduce emissions in energy and transport.

However, not all the industries quickly adopt carbon-neutral technologies; some residual emissions will remain in the future.

What’s carbon-negative?

CO2 is captured directly or indirectly from the atmosphere; via direct air capture (DAC) or via biomass growth. It is stored as such or in the form of another highly stable product in order to prevent its release into the atmosphere.

The amount of permanently stored CO2 is higher than life-cycle emissions from capture and storage processes. The source of carbon largely defines whether CO2 removal can be achieved by a particular technology.

If the emitted CO2 from the coal-fired power plants are captured and stored to prevent their release into the atmosphere, emission reductions or carbon neutrality can be achieved.

DAC technologies are also developed, so that it enables the extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere, using special adsorbents. DAC facilities can be flexibly located as they are not bound to any existing point source of CO2 emissions.

However, point sources can be more attractive to capture carbon, due to higher concentrations of CO2. Carbon dioxide makes up about only 400 parts per million, which makes it considerably more challenging to separate. However, industrial flue gases contain 10% and higher concentrations of CO2.

The permanence of CO2 storage is also crucial to reach net removal. If biogenic CO2 is used to produce biofuels, no net negativity can be achieved. The following options are among those currently considered as providing permanent or long-term removal:

•        Permanent storage of captured CO2 in geological formations

•        Production of highly stable biochars via pyrolysis of biomass

•        Storage of CO2 in concrete and artificial aggregates (construction applications)

•        Conversion of CO2 into synthetic polymers for long lifecycle applications, such as cables and pipes

•        Viable models to support investments in the area would need to be created, and additional regulatory measures are likely going to be necessary

•        Substantial R&D work is still needed to advance technical readiness and improve process economics for most CDR technologies.

CDR potential

Finland is well positioned to be at the forefront of developing and implementing CO2 removal technologies. Unique

know-how in sustainable forest management and a strong bio-based product industry provides access to multiple feedstock pools for subsequent carbon capture and storage.

Biogenic CO2 emissions from the forest industry alone are about 20 million tonnes annually, with the majority of those coming from point sources located at large bio-product mills.

Such CO2 streams can then be used in carbon storage projects or converted into other long-lived organic products. The availability of biomass side streams, together with strong expertise in biochar, creates an opportunity for substantial growth in biochar production.

Finnish companies and research institutions are actively developing know-how in technical areas of CO2 capture, purification and its conversion to long-lifetime products. This all creates a strong starting position to lead the development and implementation of removal technologies in the Nordics in the near future.




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