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Carbon Capture and Storage: The Role of Pipelines

Updated: Oct 31, 2023



The amount of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) released globally increased 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tons, as reported by the International Energy Agency (IEA)*. For power plants that will continue to use coal and natural gas, carbon capture and storage will help to mitigate CO2 emissions.


Globally, industrial sources such as chemical, cement, iron, and steel production account for approximately one fifth of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Which cannot be mitigated through any other technology other than carbon being captured and stored.


Carbon capture and storage can keep millions of tons of CO2 emitted from these sources out of the atmosphere, making it a critical tool in the global climate solution toolbox. According to a 2021 Princeton University study*, it is estimated that if we are to meet our net-zero ambitions to bury or utilize 1 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2050, we will need 11,806 miles of carbon pipelines, moving 65 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2030.


Moving the CO2 to locations where it can be injected and permanently stored into subsurface pore spaces could require between 12,000 and 70,000 miles of pipeline. This is an order of magnitude above the approximate 6,000 miles of natural gas pipelines currently laid in the U.S. Historically, the majority of pipeline moving CO2 is delivering the gas to oilfields to flush out additional crude oil.


The easiest way to move carbon might be to convert natural gas pipelines, but that comes with a few technical concerns. Carbon travels more efficiently through pipelines at pressures of up to 2,600 psi, much higher than natural gas pipelines, which operate around 800 – 1,200 psi.


The Role of the Carbon Capture Pipeline

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a crucial technology in the fight against climate change. CCS involves capturing CO2 emissions from sources such as power plants and industrial facilities, pressurizing it into a liquid-like form sometimes referred to as “supercritical CO2”, and then transporting and permanently storing carbon in a safe and secure manner. In order to make CCS a viable option, multiple pipelines need to be in place to transport the CO2 from the point of emission to the long-term permanent storage site.

The First Pipeline

The first pipeline in a CCS system is the CO2 capture pipeline, which is used to transport CO2 from the point of emission to the storage site. This pipeline is typically connected directly to the source of the CO2 emissions, such as a power plant or industrial facility.

The Second Pipeline

The second pipeline in a CCS system is the transport pipeline, which is used to transport the CO2 from the point of capture to the storage site. This transmission pipeline is usually much longer than the capture pipeline and may need to cross long distances and difficult terrain. The transport pipeline is designed to be able to withstand the high pressures and temperatures associated with CO2 transportation. It is made of durable materials such as steel or plastic.

The Third Pipeline

Once the CO2 reaches the storage site, it is injected into a suitable geological formation. This is done through a third pipeline, known as the injection pipeline. The injection pipeline is much smaller than the transport pipeline and is used to inject the CO2 into the geological formation at high pressure. The injection pipeline is designed to be able to withstand the high pressures and temperatures associated with CO2 injection and is usually made of durable materials such as steel or plastic.

The Final Pipeline

The final pipeline in a CCS system is the monitoring pipeline, which is used to monitor the CO2 storage site. This pipeline is much smaller than the other pipelines and is used to inject sensors and other monitoring equipment into the geological formation. The monitoring pipeline is used to ensure that the CO2 is being stored safely and securely, and to monitor for any potential leaks or other issues. Overall, CCS requires a complex network of pipelines to transport CO2 from the point of emission to the storage site. These pipelines must be designed to withstand the high pressures and temperatures associated with CO2 transportation and must be able to transport the CO2 over long distances and difficult terrain. By investing in the development of these pipelines, we can help make CCS a viable option for reducing CO2 emissions and combating climate change. If you’re interested in learning more about your land’s capabilities in carbon storage, find your property on our map and claim ownership! You can see the estimated credit value for either natural carbon sequestration or a mechanical storage of carbon.

* Sources:

  1. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics

  2. https://cpree.princeton.edu/news/2021/americans-are-unaware-carbon-capture-and-sequestration-technology-according-new-study

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