According to the Global CCS Institute, scientists warn that global warming will continue and have more and more devastating effects unless net greenhouse gas emissions reach zero and remain at that level. To achieve that, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions must be accompanied by the permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, according to the International Energy Forum (IEA), the forecast is that despite green technology, fossil fuels will remain a major source of global energy, and CO2 emissions will continue, especially from oil and gas operations. The Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) is a realistic way of carbon management that will lead to a carbon-neutral environment.
The Circular Carbon Economy
According to the CCE Guide Overview of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, the CCE is an improvement over the circular economy, which emphasizes the principles of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” The CCE adds a fourth “R” for “remove” and focuses on the circular flow of carbon toward achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century.
William McDonough clarified the differences in types of carbon. Living carbon is the foundation of healthy ecosystems and is naturally recycled. Fugitive carbon is the dangerous type released to the environment. Durable carbon is contained in stable solid products or geologically stored and is, therefore, either safely useful or rendered permanently harmless.
The CCE calls for reducing the production of fugitive carbon. At the same time, fugitive carbon that is being emitted can be removed, reused, and recycled through carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology. For instance, Vivakor’s proprietary technology removes hydrocarbons from soil contaminated by oil spills, thereby cleaning up the soil. Afterward, Vivakor recycles recovered oil into asphalt concrete that is used in road construction. Fugitive carbon becomes durable carbon that is safe and useful to society.
Reduce Energy Consumption and Emissions
Reducing the amount of fugitive carbon released into the atmosphere involves policies, new technologies, and solutions that lower energy consumption and, thereby, carbon emissions. It also includes the use of fuel with no carbon footprint, like nuclear energy and natural gas. The IEF notes that having diverse energy sources will also lead to less volatility in the energy market.
According to the CCE Guide Overview, new power generation must be from renewable technologies. In many markets, solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and wind energy are currently leading in terms of having the lowest cost in electricity generation. Large-scale battery solutions, smart grids, and heat pumps can manage the variables in solar and wind energy.
The Overview states that the use of renewable technologies combined with energy efficiency can provide 90 percent of the carbon emission reductions needed to reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will be a huge contribution toward the goal of net-zero emissions.
Remove, Reuse, and Recycle CO2
CCUS technology removes CO2 emissions at their source or from the environment and reuses these by conversion into value-added products. Other uses of captured carbon include pumping it into oil-bearing rock for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) or storing it underground to produce methane gas used to generate electricity.
Recycling captured carbon involves chemical reactions through carbon-to-value conversion technologies. It is then recycled as industry feedstock to replace fossil fuels or as other products like concrete, fertilizers, methanol, and ammonia.
According to the IEA, it is still currently too costly to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels and chemical intermediates from captured carbon. It is less energy-intensive to convert captured carbon into building materials that could also act as carbon storage.
Another carbon removal method is forest conservation and reforestation. Forests act as natural sinks that capture carbon from the air and store it in the greenery and the soil. According to the CCE Guide Overview, however, these are not long-term solutions because forest fires will release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Forest fires are common with climate change.
Worldwide Circular Carbon Economy Implementation
The G20 Energy Ministers expressed support for the CCE in their Ministerial Meeting from September 27 to 28, 2020. This means the CCE is now supported by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Turkey, South Korea, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Indonesia, India, France, Germany, China, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina.
These countries represent two-thirds of the global population and 85 percent of the world economy. The G20 Energy Ministers called on all member states to apply the CCE systems and endow resources in the context of their national, political, economic, developmental, social, and environmental circumstances. It is a powerful endorsement that will influence worldwide policymaking and investments.