Technological Carbon Dioxide Removal🔗
Pull carbon dioxide out of the air with new technologies that enhance natural removals or manually sequester and store carbon. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies include: direct air capture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), biochar, and others (but not including coal or gas CCS). CDR is not yet used widely, and most approaches face significant barriers to deployment.
- Advancements in various CDR technologies through research and development and government policies.
- Support from businesses, land owners, and the general public to implement such technologies.
Carbon Dioxide Removal Methods🔗
All of the following methods of CO2 removal can be explored in the En-ROADS simulator:
|Afforestation and reforestation. As trees grow, they draw carbon out of the air, which reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide. The CO2 is then stored in living biomass.||Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) entails burning biomass for energy, capturing the CO2 emissions, storing the emissions long-term, and successfully re-growing any used biomass.|
|Direct air capture is an emerging technology that pulls CO2 out of the air, where it is then stored in geological reserves. To get a net removal benefit, the captured carbon must be stored long term.||Enhanced mineralization entails mining specific rocks—like basalt—that can absorb CO2 from the air and converting it to rock for long-term carbon storage.|
|Agricultural soil carbon sequestration involves using agricultural practices which enhance soil carbon (such as no-till agriculture and preventing overgrazing).||Biochar is biomass (e.g. from trees) that has been made into charcoal via pyrolysis, and is then buried to retain the carbon.|
- Technological Carbon Removal has the potential to pull significant amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
- Most of these technologies are still undergoing pilot testing, and do not exist at the level needed to deploy at a large scale.
- To be successful, these technologies must store carbon (usually underground) for the indefinite future without leaking back into the atmosphere.
Land needed. View the graphs “Land for Growing CO2-Removal Biomass” and “Land for Farming with CO2 Removal” and note the total amount of land area that all the approaches might require.
Industry scale. View the graph “Bulk Material for Mineralization” to see the scale of industrial production these approaches entail.
Potential Co-Benefits of CDR Growth🔗
- Nature-based carbon removal approaches like agricultural soil sequestration can help improve landholder and farmer profits in some cases.
- Some carbon removal methods could provide energy (like BECCS) or improve soil health (like agricultural soil carbon sequestration).
- The scale up of many carbon removal approaches would result in vast new industries and businesses, which would create jobs.
- Approaches like BECCS require large areas of land that in some cases could otherwise be used for food production.
- Methods like direct air capture and enhanced mineralization would demand large amounts of energy.
- Many of the technological carbon removal approaches have not been developed at scale yet and pose unknown risks and consequences to the communities they are situated within.
|status quo||low growth||medium growth||high growth|
|Percent of maximum potential||0% to +10%||+10% to +40%||+40% to +70%||+70% to +100%|
The five methods of CO2 removal included are modeled independently. They each vary in their maximum sequestration potential, the year they might start to scale up, how long it takes them to be phased in, and the carbon leakage rate over time (stored carbon is not always permanent).
The default settings for the maximum potential of technological carbon removal (“% of max potential”) are sourced from the midpoint of the ranges of the 2018 ‘Greenhouse gas removal’ report by the Royal Society (Table 2, Chapter 2). For example, moving the simulator’s biochar slider to “100% of max potential” increases removals up to 3.5 Gton/year, which was taken from the report’s range of 2-5 Gtons/year. For higher removal, one can adjust the “Carbon dioxide removal maximum” settings within the “Assumptions” view, up to the highest end of the range sourced from the same report. For example, the biochar maximum can be increased to 5 Gtons/year.
Why aren’t coal and gas carbon capture and storage (CCS) included here, and how can I increase them? We think of coal and gas CCS as reducing CO2 emissions from coal and gas, not actually as removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Both can be changed in the Advanced Views that support the Coal and Natural Gas sliders.
Where can I learn more about the different CDR types? Follow the links to find detailed fact sheets on these CDR types:
Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.