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The US needs to capture millions of tonnes of CO2 to reach its net-zero goals

A new report by the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed that the United States must capture and permanently store between 400 million and 1,800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually to achieve its net-zero goals by 2050. The report states that this will involve point-source carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). 

The US needs to capture millions of tonnes of CO2 to reach its net-zero goals_visual 1

CCUS technologies aim to capture CO2 emissions from concentrated sources such as power plants, refineries, and industrial processes. Once captured, the CO2 can be transported to a storage site, such as an underground geological formation, where it can be permanently stored. Alternatively, the captured CO2 can be utilised in enhanced oil recovery, where it is injected into depleted oil fields to increase oil recovery.

On the other hand, CDR technologies aim to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. These technologies include biomass carbon removal and storage (BiCRS), direct air capture (DAC), and mineralisation. BiCRS involves using biomass to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and storing the carbon in soil. DAC uses chemical reactions to capture CO2 directly from the air and store it. Mineralisation involves capturing CO2 emissions and converting them into stable, solid minerals that can be stored permanently.

Read more: How does the carbon cycle work?

The DOE report, Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Carbon Management, aims to establish a ‘common fact base and ongoing dialogue’ with the private sector regarding the path to commercial lift-off for critical clean energy technologies while discussing the full carbon management ecosystem, including CCUS and CDR technologies.

The report highlights that the US currently has over 20 million tonnes carbon capture capacity per annum, 1–5% of what could be needed by 2050. Therefore, this scale-up represents a massive investment opportunity of around $100 billion by 2030 and $600 billion by 2050.

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To achieve this, CCUS and DAC projects will rely on the 45Q tax credit (a tax credit for CO2 storage). The report also notes that voluntary carbon markets can be unpredictable, and long-term prices and volumes remain uncertain. Therefore, many researchers expect policies such as a carbon tax, large-scale government procurement of CDR, or regulatory mandates will be needed to reach a relevant scale.

Read more: EU to upgrade carbon market and introduce carbon import tax

DGB Group believes these approaches can be highly effective for storing carbon and achieving net-zero goals. From reforestation to soil carbon sequestration, nature has proven to be a powerful ally in the fight against changing climates. By implementing these solutions on a large scale, we can make a significant impact on reducing global carbon emissions. With the right investment and support, nature-based solutions can be a key component in reaching our net-zero goals and building a more sustainable future for all.

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