As organizations and industries acknowledge the urgency of climate change — the world marches inexorably towards a carbon-free future. The proactive nature of this transformation is fueled by a sense of climate urgency that has never been witnessed before. Constructing a net-zero carbon strategy has become imperative for a sustainable future. As the economy restructures, organizations, industries, government, and individuals have an equal role to play in ensuring a seamless transition.
The mining industry plays a substantial role in reducing global carbon emissions. A systematic approach to minimizing the carbon footprint would enable mining stakeholders to drive the change towards decarbonization.
This article focuses on the mining industry’s contribution towards the carbon emission levels and how the decarbonization goal can be achieved through the process of carbon capture utilization and waste management.
Carbon Emissions in the Mining Industry
The mining industry contributes to global carbon emissions in three ways. The first category includes emissions from diesel, the second comes from the generation of electricity, and the final one includes emissions from transport and the supply chain. The magnitude of the emissions depends significantly on the nature of mining operations.
What is Carbon Mining?
Better presented as zero-carbon mining, the term translates to mining that leaves no carbon footprint. It is an ambitious and, in some ways, an essential future that can come to fruition with collective efforts from OEMs, mining suppliers, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, mining houses, and other commodity consumers.
Carbon Capture Utilization (CCU): An Overview
Carbon capture utilization involves the process of recycling carbon dioxide for future use. It presents itself as a viable solution to curb greenhouse gas emissions. As a process that supports zero-carbon mining, CCU begins with capturing CO2 from various sources like factories and power plants. The CO2 is then converted to construct various valuable products that can be used across various sectors.
Methanol is one of the products derived from CO2 and is used extensively as a biofuel. Other products derived from CO2 with carbon capture utilization (CCU) include reactants and plastics used in diverse chemical productions.
Zero carbon mining through CCU can eliminate a significant amount of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. This prevents environmental pollution caused due to various mining activities.
As the global target of reaching net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 draws to a close, carbon capture utilization qualifies as a productive way to ensure zero-carbon mining. It helps reduce and convert CO2 into useful products. Furthermore, CCUs can be deployed in various sectors of the economy to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Carbon capture utilization is unlike nuclear and renewables as it enables the removal of surplus carbon that exists within the atmosphere and facilitates the use of CO2 in the production process of hydrogen and electricity to construct energy vectors that are a hundred per cent free from carbon.
The Working Mechanism of Carbon Capture Utilization
We attempt to provide a complete insight into how CCU works. There are primarily four steps to its value chain dedicated to controlling carbon dioxide and facilitating effective zero-carbon mining.
- Capture: The first step involves capturing carbon dioxide from a power plant source through pre-combustion, oxy-fuel combustion, and post-combustion. Every procedure has its own dedicated research pathway to facilitate separation.
- Transportation: As soon as the carbon dioxide is captured, it is taken to a storage site. This is usually done with the help of a pipeline.
- Conversion: The CO2 is utilized and transformed into a range of biological, chemical, and mineral products for future use in chemical synthesis. Even non-converted CO2 finds its use in improving yields (enhanced oil and gas recovery) and desalinization (agriculture)
- Storage: As soon as CCU ends, the carbon dioxide can be stacked in oil reservoirs or saline aquifers to facilitate the unhindered use of essential international infrastructure and delay decommission.
Carbon Capture Utilization and Waste Management: The Interrelation
Carbon dioxide is classified as a waste product of burning fossil fuels. The accumulation of CO2 in the environment poses serious threats to the planet’s well-being. However, carbon dioxide is also used as a useful resource to create various products.
The emergence of technologies that support zero-carbon mining, like direct air capture, has put forward the possibility of reusing wasted carbon and has also contributed to the belief that carbon capture utilization is a waste management process. We attempt to determine if capture utilization can be practically regarded as a waste management process.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change puts forward its assessment that in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, there must be at least a hundred to one thousand gigatons of carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Since carbon dioxide is nothing more than carbon that is out of place in the atmosphere, carbon capture and utilization can be termed a waste management process; however, it can be leveraged to do a lot more.
The Road Ahead
Technology has played a pivotal role in carbon capture utilization’s success as an effective zero-carbon mining strategy. The rising popularity of the carbon to value economy has further elevated the need for CCU.
Carbon capture and storage technology are perceived as an integral part of the decarbonization strategy—one that enables the prevention of more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from stationary energy sources.
While the journey towards net-zero emissions will necessitate exceptional levels of coordination and collaboration across systems, the global contributions will test us beyond our traditional roles as stakeholders and consumers and more as the caretakers of our communities, organizations, and the ecosystem.
Decarbonization with Schneider Electric
At Schneider Electric, our vision is to efficiently close the gap between sustainability and progress. Our partners and consumers drive us to explore fresh ways to empower everyone to achieve more with less.
We were named the best global sustainable supply chain organization at the global sustainable supply chain summit 2021. Our team works relentlessly and have successfully launched innovative initiatives such as EcoStruxure, Schneider Go Green, and more. We welcome ideas that support our drive to always be at the forefront of an inclusive and sustainable future.