Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been posited as the latest technology to support the growing demand for sustainable flight, with the ongoing development of the Direct Air Capture project, jointly led by UK and Canadian companies Storegga and Carbon Engineering, respectively.
CCS involves the capture CO2 before it enters the atmosphere, typically at large source points such as power stations or heavy industry including steel plants. This is then stored either in rock formations to significantly slow its release into the atmosphere or, most recently, the captured CO2 can be transformed into liquid fuels, creating a less harmful circular economy.
The Direct Air Capture project includes the establishment of a large-scale facility in northeast Scotland in 2026 that could remove up to one million tons of CO2 annually.
Recent GlobalData polling – from a February 2021 survey – placed climate change as the most important environmental, social, and governance issue for 63 per cent of 253 respondents. Johnana Bonhill-Smith, GlobalData Analyst, commented: “The potential for direct air capture to combat climate change and form a more sustainable future for travel is real.
“It is a technology that could prove majorly beneficial for more sustainable aviation going forward. Through creating fuel that is formed from carbon that is already in the air, this could help halt carbon emission levels growing further.”
CCS has been celebrated internationally, including a 2015 study conducted by Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environment and Centre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Développement, France, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, and the Met Office, UK, that argued CCS was essential to meeting the COP21 Paris Agreement targets, which have unfortunately already been passed.
However, the UK has stumbled in supporting CCS through, in recent history, delaying or cancelling multiple billion-pound development projects including converting the Peterhead gas power plant and White Rose coal power plant into CCS facilities.
Regardless, Bonhill-Smith believes CCS will need to be supported by a robust and widespread approach.
“[CCS] cannot be relied alone. The Direct Air Capture plan rolling out in Scotland, for example, will not be fully operational until 2026. Change needs to happen now to tackle climate change in travel. This form of technology should be looked to as an addition to other initiatives rolling out such as cutting emissions. Therefore, it is not a magic bullet to eradicate climate change, but possible more a magic bean for further growth and a more sustainable future.”