Julia Swales, Senior Editor at Ti, interviewed Alan McKinnon, Professor of Logistics at the Küehne Logistics University in Hamburg, about the many roles of logistics in the climate crisis. One role in particular needs much more attention – moving the materials needed for carbon capture and storage.

92% of the world economy is now covered by net zero pledges, but the carbon sequestration side of this is often overlooked. Reaching net zero is not just a matter of mitigating and reducing emissions, it’s about removing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Of course, the more we underperform in mitigation, the more dependent we will be on sequestering greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. That process is very logistics intensive, particularly if you look at the IPCC models and their projection for the amount of CO2 (8 billion tonnes) we’re going to have to capture, transport, and find underground places for permanent storage by the 2050s.

In 2023, according to the International Energy Agency, direct air capture plants removed only 10,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, so we’re going to have to go from that to 8 billion tonnes in around 25 years. The technologies are not working well – a lot of money has been thrown at this and the results, as yet, are fairly disappointing. Assuming it is made to work at scale, at a planetary level, vast amounts of material we will have to be moved.  The transport demands could be equivalent to those of the oil and gas industry of today. It’s not just that the technology has to work, because that’s one of the big problems, we also have to find the right chemicals that capture the CO2 and that then will also release it again, to allow you to pressurize it and liquidize it so it can be buried underground. There are currently experiments with various chemicals, but a dream chemical which does that very effectively at speed has not been found yet.

One study suggests that to remove 30 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere you would need 22 billion tonnes of ammonia, 6.9 billion tonnes of sodium hydroxide and 4.4 billion tonnes of ethylene oxide. This is a vast amount of chemicals we would have to move just to capture the CO2. Once it’s liquidized, you have to move it. It’s been estimated that there are around 7000 kilometres of pipeline in the world moving CO2, often from natural sources, which the oil industry pumps into the ground to get more oil out – this is called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Obviously, if large amounts of CO2 are captured, that’s the last use it should have, as we don’t want to increase the level of oil production. The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute estimates that the world will need 100 times that amount of pipeline network over the next 30 or 40 years to move the captured CO2 to locations where it can be stored long term in underground rock formations. The enormous logistics challenges that this will present is not widely recognized or acknowledged and this must change.

Author: Julia Swales

Source: Ti / Foundation for Future Supply Chain


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