Texas Just Started Building the Largest Carbon Capture Facility Ever | Smart News | Smithsonian

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We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to mimic a mangrove tree, basically. (Richard Soberka/Hemis/Corbis)

Texas Just Started Building the Largest Carbon Capture Facility Ever

The plant will soak up most of the emissions from its coal-fired power production

smithsonian.com

Humans are pros at putting carbon dioxide into the air. Plants, bacteria, and even fungi are great at taking it out. But as we keep producing more and more and more carbon dioxide, it can be hard for them to keep up. So in a bid to help balance things out, construction is beginning just outside Houston on a $470 million dollar facility that will help soak up the waste of our industrial existence. 

The plant will do this through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), "a key technology option in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s fossil fuel power plants," explains Scientific American.

The idea behind CCS technology is that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that would normally be released in the combustion process are instead captured and stored. These emissions can be captured before or after the combustion process, depending on the technology and approach used. As a result, CCS can “clean up” fossil fuel powered plants, including the coal plants that account for 37% of the U.S. electricity supply.

A statement from the Department of Energy explains where the captured carbon will go: 

Once completed, the energy technology project will capture about 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually from an existing coal-fired power plant in Texas. The captured CO2 will then be used to extract additional, hard-to-access oil from a previously depleted field 80 miles away, safely storing the carbon underground in the process.

Capturing carbon dioxide and then using it to extract even more fossil fuels is less than ideal, but one of the biggest problems with CCS to-date is the cost.

According to Scientific American, "concerns exist as to whether or not the greenhouse gas can be stored permanently, without significant leakage over time." Cross your fingers that it will stay in the ground. 

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About Shannon Palus

Shannon Palus is a science writer, and a researcher for Popular Science. Her work has appeared in Discover, Slate, Ars Technica, and elsewhere. She is based in Philadelphia.

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