While Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) might sound like an innovative concept, it uses existing and well proven technologies in new and innovative ways. Various parts of the process have also been used extensively in other practices for decades. Today, there are a variety of technical approaches for separating and capturing CO2 from a mix of gases and then injecting it into the ground. In this article, we will cover the basics on the history of CCS and how it works.
Origin of Carbon Separation
The first carbon capture plant was proposed in 1938. The purpose was to separate CO2 from the commercial methane gas that was sometimes found in natural gas reservoirs. They used a process called amine scrubbing – a chemical absorption technique. Today, this is referred to as “Point Source” capture, and is the most common process used in refineries, natural gas plants, and other industries to remove and capture the carbon from other gases.
Why We Starting Putting It Back Into the Ground
The basic idea of preventing carbon from being released back into the atmosphere was first suggested in 1972; using the existing equipment and infrastructure in a new way. Terrell gas processing facility in Texas took its captured CO2 and compressed it to a dense “supercritical” state, where it behaves as a liquid. It was then transported via pipeline to the nearby Sharon Ridge oil field and injected it into existing wells to produce more oil thus boosting their oil recovery. This process, known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), was proven very successful. Eventually, when all the oil had been extracted, the CO2 remained sequestered underground in the depleted oil field – permanently preventing that CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
Millions of tonnes of CO2 are now piped to and injected into oil fields across the United States every year and has been done successfully since the 1970’s. There are currently about 120 registered CO2 floods worldwide, almost 85% of which are in the United States and Canada. Thus, the practice of and technology for capturing and safely and permanently storing human-generated CO2 into underground formations has been around for decades. We can now identify previously depleted hydrocarbon fields as well as saline aquifers and other ideal underground formations and inject carbon into those for lifelong, secure storage.
Is “Point Source” the only technology out there for carbon capturing? No! There is another form of capture called “Direct Air”. What is it and how do you know what is right for your facility? Find out here: