Application Prospects of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) in the Aviation Industry

Application Prospects of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) in the Aviation Industry

【Table of Contents】

  1. Introduction: The critical role of carbon capture technology in aviation industry
  2. Technological Aspect: From Capture to Utilization to Storage
  3. Application: New Solution for Carbon Emission Reduction in Aviation    – DACCS
  4. Policy: Multi-Country Support to Accelerate the Implementation of Carbon Emission Reduction Technologies in Aviation
  5. Conclusion: The Road to Green Transformation in the Aviation Industry is Arduous but Promising

Introduction: The critical role of carbon capture technology in aviation industry

In the global pursuit of carbon neutrality and mitigating the effects of climate change, collaboration across sectors is imperative. Among a range of solutions, Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) has emerged as a key tool. These technologies provide a direct and effective way to reduce carbon emissions by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from various sources, reusing it, and safely storing it to prevent its release into the atmosphere. The aviation industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and faces unique challenges and opportunities in integrating CCUS technologies. This report aims to explore the role of CCUS in aviation, examining its potential applications, technological advances and the policy architecture required for widespread adoption. By understanding these aspects, stakeholders can pave the way for a more environmentally responsible aviation industry. Now, let's delve into the technological aspect of CCUS and its applications within aviation.

Technological Aspect: From Capture to Utilization to Storage

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) covers a range of technologies aimed at reducing CO2 emissions by capturing CO2 from industrial processes or directly from the atmosphere. Once captured, the CO2 is utilized in various applications such as the production of fuels, chemicals, or construction materials, and storing it underground or in other long-term repositories to prevent its release into the atmosphere.

Carbon utilization involves converting captured CO2 into valuable products through chemical, biological, or physical processes. This provides economic incentives for carbon capture while reducing overall emissions. (IPCC, 2005) This comprehensive approach to CCUS not only addresses the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also provides opportunities for innovation and economic development in sectors such as energy, manufacturing, and construction, contributing to the transition towards a low-carbon

Figure: Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (IEA, n.d.)

  • Progress in Carbon Capture Technology: From Biomass to Direct Air Capture

Expanding our exploration from the foundational principles of CCUS, it is time to enter the realm of technological advancements, where progress in carbon capture technology is reshaping the landscape of emissions reduction strategies. Carbon capture programs, traditionally focused on energy and industrial facilities, now cover neutral carbon sources such as biomass and even the air itself.

Two well-known technologies, Biomass Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and Direct Air Capture (DAC) have become as important components of climate action strategies and CCUS technologies. BECCS involves capturing, utilizing or storing CO2 generated during combustion or conversion of biomass. Conversely, DAC focuses on capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere for subsequent utilization or storage. (张贤,杨晓亮,鲁玺 等, 2023) Pioneered by companies like Carbon Engineering, DAC technology works like a highly efficient "tree” to extract CO2 directly from the air.  (Airbus, 2022) As we witness the transformative progress in carbon capture technology, it is essential to recognize its symbiotic relationship with advancements in carbon utilization.

Figure: Direct Air Carbon Capture (Airbus, 2022)

  • Revolution in Carbon Utilization: Application of Power-to-Liquid (PtL) Technology in the Aviation Industry

PtL involves electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen, which is then combined with CO2 to synthesize hydrocarbon fuels. This process is powered by renewable energy, extending its environmental benefits, and helping to emissions mitigation.

PtL fuel has shown significant potential for emissions reduction, with theoretical estimates suggesting emission reductions up to 99%-100% over its lifecycle compared to conventional aviation kerosene. Although in its early stages, PtL technology is expected to revolutionize aviation fuel production, aligning with industry-wide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (丁奕如,杨雷,郑平等, 2022) As we contemplate the innovative strides made in carbon utilization, it is imperative to recognize the vital role of carbon storage in ensuring the permanence of emissions reduction efforts.

  • Carbon Storage: Key Step to Ensure Permanent Sequestration

Carbon storage is a crucial component of CCUS initiatives, involves the permanent sequestration of CO2 underground to prevent its release into the atmosphere. Geological carbon storage is the primary method employed, where CO2 is injected into deep subsurface rock formations for secure containment.

The carbon storage process involves rigorous site selection and assessment to identify suitable geological formations capable of accommodating CO2. Injection into these formations at high pressure, coupled with monitoring and management techniques, ensures the proper containment and migration of CO2 within the subsurface.

Additionally, mineral storage offers another option, where CO2 chemically reacts with minerals to form stable carbonates. While currently more expensive, mineral storage shows promise in areas with abundant geothermal energy and suitable rock formations. (The CCUS Hub, n.d.)

Application: New Solution for Carbon Emission Reduction in Aviation – DACCS

Based on carbon storage techniques, we continue to explore an innovative solution that holds promise for reducing emissions in the aviation sector: Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS). DACCS offers a promising solution for tackling emissions from hard-to-abate sources in aviation. Leading aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus are actively exploring the integration of DACCS technologies into aviation operations through partnerships with industry leaders like 1PointFive. In a major move, Airbus committed to purchasing 100,000 tons of carbon removals from 1PointFive over four years in the initial agreement, totaling 400,000 tons.

The expected impact of DACCS on the aviation industry is significant. For instance, the DACCS facility in the Permian Basin is scheduled to begin operations in 2024 and is expected to capture up to one million tons of CO2 annually once fully operational. This extraordinary feat is equivalent to the carbon absorption capacity of approximately 40 million trees per year.

As airlines and aircraft manufacturers steadfastly refine their strategies towards achieving net-zero emissions, collaborative ventures centered on adoption of DACCS and other CCUS technologies will be critical. Notably, several airlines have expressed keen interest in partnering with Airbus, advocating direct air capture as a fundamental path to achieving the industry's net-zero emission target. These collaborative efforts, uniting key stakeholders from within and outside the aviation, are essential for propelling sustainability goals and achieving the vision of climate-neutral air travel. (Airbus, 2022)

Policy: Multi-Country Support to Accelerate the Implementation of Carbon Emission Reduction Technologies in Aviation

As we consider the pioneering efforts of industry leaders like Airbus in adopting DACCS technologies, it is evident that policy support plays a crucial role in driving widespread adoption. Countries such as China, the United Kingdom, and the United States have recognized the importance of policy support in promoting the adoption of CCUS technologies in the aviation industry. These include integrating CCUS deployment priorities into national strategies, fostering research collaboration, developing carbon capture and storage infrastructure clusters, and allocating federal funding for research and development projects focused on CCUS technologies for aviation. By implementing these policy support measures, governments can accelerate the adoption of CCUS in the aviation industry, paving the way for substantial emissions reductions and sustainable growth in air transportation (CEM CCUS Initiative, 2023).

Civil Aviation Administration of China: Strive to Achieve Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutrality in Civil Aviation

In the "Catalogue of Industries for Encouraging Foreign Investment (2022 Version)" issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, as part of the national catalog encouraging foreign investment, it clearly mentioned that foreign investment is encouraged in the CCUS field. This includes, under the subclass directory of chemical raw materials and chemical product manufacturing in the manufacturing industry category, the 73rd item - Construction and Operation of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Projects. Under the category of scientific research, development, and product, technology services industry, the 474th item is Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Technology Development and Services. Based on the 2020 version, the 2022 edition adds the 238th item under the subclass directory of specialized equipment manufacturing - Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Equipment Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gas Monitoring and Measuring Equipment Manufacturing. On March 20, 2024, China initiated the revision of the Catalog of Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment, clearly indicating an increase in support for advanced manufacturing, modern services industries, high-tech, energy conservation, and environmental protection fields.

Song Zhiyong, administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, attended the first plenary meeting of the Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutrality Working Group of the Civil Aviation Administration in 2023, coordinating and deploying the key tasks of civil aviation in implementing the national "dual-carbon" strategy. It is clearly stated to strive to achieve the goal of carbon peak and carbon neutrality in civil aviation, promote comprehensive green transformation and high-quality development of civil aviation, and continuously make new contributions to the modernization and construction of a beautiful China, and the maintenance of human-nature harmony.

Conclusion: The Road to Green Transformation in the Aviation Industry is Arduous but Promising

Although direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) is a promising technology, it is still in its early stages. One of the challenges is the availability of low-cost energy required for DACCS. However, globally, there are technological innovations aimed at reducing CCUS costs. For instance, the 50-megawatt clean energy power plant launched by NET Power in 2018 is a novel natural gas power plant utilizing the Allam Cycle technology, which employs CO2 as the working fluid in a supercritical CO2 power cycle, potentially significantly reducing capture costs. Additionally, the Net Zero Teesside Power plant in the UK, expected to be operational by 2027, could become one of the first commercial-scale natural gas power plants equipped with CCUS. The advancements in CCUS technologies may also benefit the aviation industry.

In conclusion, the advancements in Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) technologies present a transformative opportunity for the aviation industry to mitigate its carbon footprint and contribute to global sustainability goals. By integrating CCUS solutions into aviation practices and infrastructure, stakeholders can not only achieve significant emissions reductions but also contribute to the overall sustainability and resilience of the aviation industry. Continued investment in research, development, and policy frameworks is essential to unlocking the full potential of CCUS technologies and ensuring a more environmentally responsible future for air transportation. Through concerted efforts and collaboration, the aviation industry can lead a greener and more sustainable future.


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