Can we Capture Carbon and Store it: Efforts, Challenges

  • A key tool to stop climate change is costly and has for decades not worked as well as fossil fuel companies said it would.
  • Experts say carbon capture and storage a way to grab a planet-heating gas and lock it underground. It is sorely needed to cut pollution in sectors where other clean technologies are farther behind.

Carbon capture and storage

  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a way to catch carbon and trap it beneath the earth.
  • It is different to carbon dioxide removal (CDR) where carbon is sucked out of the atmosphere although some of the technologies overlap.
  • The key difference is that CDR brings down the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, cooling the planet while CCS in fossil fuel plants and factories prevents the gas from getting out in the first place.
  Carbon Capture and Storage - A key tool to stop climate change

Role in factories

  • In its latest review of scientific research, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found both options will be needed for emissions that are hard to wipe out.
  •  For chemical processes that release carbon dioxide, there are few alternatives to capturing CO2 straight away or sucking it out of the air later.
  • Scientists see a big role for CCS in factories that make cement and fertiliser, as well as in plants that burn rubbish.
    • As they are split on whether it makes sense to use it to make steel and hydrogen, which have some greener alternatives.

Economic efficiency of CCS model:

  • Most of their skepticism goes to capturing carbon when making electricity, because there are already cheaper alternatives that work better, like wind turbines and solar panels.
    •  In theory, it could play a role in gas plants as a back-up when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow particularly in countries that are still building fossil fuel plants today but it would have to quickly grow cheaper and more effective.

How well does CCS work?

  • For decades, engineers have captured carbon from concentrated streams of gas pushing it into tanks, scrubbing it clean and using it in industry or storing it underground.
    •  Some bioethanol plants, where the gas stream is pure, already report capturing more than 95% of the carbon emissions.
  • But capturing carbon from dirtier gas streams, like those from factories and power plants, CCS projects have repeatedly overpromised and underdelivered.
  • There is need for a special type of chemical to capture Carbon.
    • However such technology has been successfully demonstrated but it hasn’t been fully commercialised at scale
  • While a handful of test facilities have managed to capture more than 90% of emissions from some dirty gas streams, commercial projects have been plagued with problems.
    • Some have broken down or not been made to run all the time.
    • Others have been designed to capture only a fraction of the total emissions.
  • Still, experts see the failures of CCS more as an economic problem than a technical one as companies have little incentive to capture their pollution

Controversy related to CCS

  • Activists have called out energy companies for failing to capture much carbon while at the same time drilling for oil and lobbying against laws to cut fossil fuel production.
  • Along with it, CCS also gives companies fighting to burn fossil fuels access to policymakers and a “social license to operate,”
  • CCS is criticised as it is not used as carbon capture method for climate solution rather is being used in actually enhance extraction.
  • There is need of hour that policymakers put more weight on societal shifts like cutting energy demand rather than placing their faith in shaky technologies.
  • Scientists have also questioned how serious the industry is about its commitments.
  • After decades of pushing the technology, there are only 30 working CCS facilities, with 11 being built and 150 in planning.
  • A study in 2020 found more than 100 of the 149 CCS projects planned to be operational by 2020 have been scrapped or placed on indefinite hold.

How can CCS work better? ( Way forward)

  • Experts say momentum to capture carbon is starting to pick up.
    • For e.g. In Norway, German industrial giant Heidelberg Materials is building the first facility to capture carbon from cement and store it underground.
    • However, the company claims a capture rate of close to 100% is possible.
    • Still, it only plans to capture half of the emissions from the site.
  • According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), new companies are focusing on specific parts of the problem like transport and storage.


  • CCS is advanced state of art technology to capture and storage of carbon which will be a game changer method for climate solution.
  • However, it requires large capital investment, therefore there is need to provide subsidy for industries in order to accelerate the development of CCS.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)

  • The PSLV is the third generation launch vehicle that India has developed..
  • This will be the first launch vehicle in India to be outfitted with liquid stages.
  • A four stage launch vehicle.
  • Since its first successful launch in October 1994, the PSLV has established itself as India’s most dependable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle, having completed 39 consecutive missions without a single failure as of June 2017.