How industry is depending on carbon capture technology for climate goals

Norwegian carbon dioxide (CO2) storage company Northern Lights and its owners have agreed to store emissions captured at fertiliser-maker Yara’s (YAR.OL) Dutch operation from 2025 in what they say is a commercial breakthrough for the business.

The joint venture founded by oil firms Equinor (EQNR.OL), TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) and Shell (SHEL.L) plans to inject CO2 from industrial plants into rock formations beneath the North Sea ocean floor.

Industries from cement to mining are creating plans to cap and cut their planet-warming emissions, and many depend on carbon capture.

There are two main types of carbon capture and storage: Point-source carbon capture and storage (CCS) sequesters CO2 produced at the source, like a smokestack, while direct air capture (DAC) removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

Captured CO2 usually is permanently stored underground, although carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) reuses the CO2.

Several groups see a need for billions of tonnes of storage by mid-century; Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) expects a $2 trillion market by 2040.

Here’s how four other large industries, all major carbon emitters, are using CCS technology.

CEMENT AND CONCRETE
Cement and concrete production accounts for about 8% of global CO2 emissions.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association recently announced a road map to net-zero cement by 2050 and pledged 10 industrial-scale carbon capture plants by 2030.

Carbon capture technology is the “elephant in the room,” Fernando Gonzalez, chief executive of Mexico’s Cemex, said in a company presentation this month, referring to the challenges around developing the technology.

IRON AND STEEL
The process of making iron and steel is energy- and carbon- intensive due to the use of fossil fuels like coal to power blast furnaces, and output has grown in recent years.

To hit emissions targets, 75% of CO2 produced globally by the sector needs to be captured, according to the World Steel Association. That equates to 14 steel plants with CCS technology built every year from 2030 to 2070. Currently, the world has only one large-scale iron and steel facility with CCS.

ArcelorMittal (MT.LU), one of the world’s largest steelmakers, signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year with Air Liquide, a France-based industrial gases company, to develop carbon capture technologies with the aim of producing low-carbon steel at its Dunkirk site.

OIL AND GAS
Until recently, capturing carbon produced by fossil fuels and injecting it underground has largely been a means to squeeze more oil from aging wells. There are several proposals to build CCS hubs, but few have gone beyond the development stage.

Now, numerous large energy companies are incorporating CCS into their plans for reducing emissions, but the lack of carbon trading markets or tax incentives to make the investment worthwhile has held back U.S. development.

Occidental Petroleum (OXY.N) is currently developing with private equity firm Rusheen Capital Management a direct air capture facility in Texas that would pull about 1 million metric tons of CO2 annually from the air.

MINING
Parts of the mining industry see carbon capture and storage as a way to reduce emissions at coal-fired power plants, the main source of electricity in mining hub Australia.

Some mining companies are also studying ways to replace natural gas in operations with hydrogen, which does not produce carbon emissions when burned.

Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.L), one of the world’s largest mining companies, in October said it would invest $4 million into privately-held Carbon Capture Inc, which is developing technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and chemically bind it – and thus permanently store it – to rocks.