What is Carbon Management?

Carbon capture, removal, transport, reuse, and storage technologies, commonly referred to as carbon management, are a portfolio of safe, effective, and increasingly cost-effective emissions technologies to manage, abate, and remove CO2 and CO emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, and directly from the air. Captured CO2 or CO is then reused to make valuable products or transported to appropriate sites for geologic storage.


Capture Carbon capture refers to a variety of technologies that separate carbon emissions from emissions sources including diverse industrial sectors, such as steel, cement, basic chemicals for fertilizers and fuels, hydrogen production, natural gas- and coal-fired power generation, and freight transportation. CO2 captured from these industrial processes or electricity generation is then compressed for transport and permanent geologic storage, reused for commercial products such as building materials, fuels, and chemicals, or used to produce oil and gas from existing wells. In addition to capturing CO2 from emissions sources, both carbon capture and reuse can also reduce the amount of air pollutants released to the atmosphere that are harmful to human health.


Removal Carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by a variety of nature-based and engineered methods and in recent years has received increased focus from a wide range of policymakers and the private sector. Scaling the full suite of available carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods is increasingly recognized as a central component to both offsetting emissions in those sectors with challenging-to-abate emissions, such as shipping and aviation, and post-2050, reducing the concentration of CO2 remaining in the atmosphere. Within carbon dioxide removal strategies, the Coalition focuses on technological, sometimes referred to as engineered, carbon dioxide removal technologies. Direct air capture (DAC) is one type of engineered CDR that offers permanent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere when paired with geologic storage; alternatively, captured CO2 can also be reused to produce essential fuels, chemicals, and products.


Transport Some areas of the country lack appropriate deep geologic storage sites for CO2, necessitating the safe and cost-effective transport of captured CO2 to geologic storage sites, or to points of reuse. Currently, there are more than 5,000 miles of CO2 transport pipelines in the United States, but economywide deployment of regionally interconnected carbon management hubs will require significant buildout of this network. The scale and timing of this necessary buildout warrants careful consideration of the footprint and location of this network to minimize potential impacts to local communities and ecosystems.  Decades of safety data show that CO2 pipelines can be operated at the highest safety standards by best-practicing operators. CO2 pipelines have been operating in the U.S. for fifty years, currently transporting nearly 70 million metric tons of CO2 per year, with an excellent safety track record over that time period. Additional modes of transport for CO2 include cargo ships, rail, and trucks as a demand-flexible solution for CO2 transport from capture sites with too little volume to warrant dedicated pipelines.


Reuse Carbon reuse, also referred to as carbon utilization or conversion, is the reuse of CO2 or CO to produce valuable products, such as low- and zero-emissions fuels, building materials, and other products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions as compared to products or processes that are typically derived from fossil fuels. While still nascent relative to the other technologies in the carbon management value chain, carbon reuse can provide an important and valuable component to building the carbon management marketplace. Increasingly, carbon reuse is seen as an important complement to large-scale carbon storage, as it provides value-added markets and carbon reuse opportunities for carbon capture operations, while also creating long-term, circular supply chains.


Storage Once transported to storage sites, compressed CO2 is injected deep into suitable geologic formations typically over a mile underground. Suitable storage locations are separated from underground sources of drinking water and occur below impermeable rock layers that ensure the CO2 is permanently trapped in the target geologic formation. Large-scale geologic storage of CO2 is well understood and The United States has some of the most abundant and well characterized geologic storage. Prior to storage, potential sites are identified and appropriately characterized by storage project developers. The ability to inject CO2 and safely store CO2 deep underground is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class VI program.