Problem Overview

CO2 networks are partnerships between cities around the world that would share the cost and geological resources needed to trap emissions deep in the earth and give us a shot at stalling climate change.

In this Ted Talk video, carbon capture advisor Bas Sudmeijer proposes building such networks and explains why we need them.

Why do we need CO2 networks?

There are very few operational carbon capture facilities in the world capturing about 14 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year. While it may sound like a big number, it’s less than 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Energy Agency predicts that we need to capture between 4 and 7 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2040 to stay at or below 2 degrees Celsius warming. And that’s more than 100 to 200 times the increase in today’s carbon capture capacity.

CO2 emissions & CCUS demand

To get us there, Sudmeijer says, we will definitely require a price on greenhouse gas pollution. However, that price won’t be low. And that’s exactly when the need of well-thought-through rollouts of what might be called CO2 networks arises.

How do the CO2 networks work?

The scientists have found that the optimization of distances between sinks and sources matters a lot in terms of the cost. They have looked for the optimal distances on the map between both the sources of emissions, like steel plants, and the sinks, like the saline aquifers of Alberta.

By building up a detailed database of emitters as well as potential sinks, they found up to 200 clusters that have the ability to be scaled up to low-cost carbon networks. Together, that clusters can capture more than 1Gt of emissions – a big step to the 4 to 7 Gt needed.

What are the potential positive effect?

The proposed concept of CO2 networks can reduce the capture and storage cost of many emitters by up to a third, to below $100 per ton of CO2 captured, based on the current cost of CCUS technology. This cost is in the range of carbon taxes and market mechanisms that governments of Western economies are starting to think about or have already put in place.