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carbon capture and reuse (CCR)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Carbon capture and reuse (CCR, also sometimes seen as carbon capture and utilization or CCU) is the collection of carbon dioxide (CO2) from a high-output source point or the environment and reuse of the carbon that is captured in that process.

Carbon dioxide is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect, by virtue of its prevalence in the environment as well as its interaction with methane. Since the industrial age began in the 1750s, CO2 concentration has increased by 40 percent. Carbon capture is under consideration as a means of reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigating global warming.

Carbon dioxide may be captured at the source of a high-output CO2 sourced such as smoke stacks in various industries and carbon-based power plants. CO2 can also be removed from air anywhere in the environment with direct air capture (DAC) technologies. Most often, these methods rely on carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves long-term storage (sequestration) of CO2 in its gaseous form or as carbon itself, after separating out the CO2’s oxygen.

However, the carbon collected can also be used to create carbon nanotubes or a low-carbon alternative crude that can be refined for fuel. Methods exist to create both methanol and hydrocarbon fuels. CO2 can also be used in oil extraction, where it is pumped into an underground deposit to pressurize it. Leakage is a concern in most methods of storage and sequestering; in some reuses such as agricultural applications, CO2 is eventually released into the environment.

Opponents of carbon capture, whether for storage or reuse, worry that use of the technology might legitimize continued reliance on fossil fuels and result in further damage to the environment. They urge, instead, for increased research into renewable energy sources.

This was last updated in May 2016

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