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Carbon capture can help clean up harmful air pollution from critical industrial applications, finds new CATF report

December 1, 2023 Work Area: Carbon Capture

Boston — A new report from Clean Air Task Force provides a rigorous engineering analysis of the air quality impacts of integrating carbon capture technology on two hard-to-decarbonize industrial processes and finds a significant reduction in health-harming air pollutants along with reductions in carbon pollution. 

“Meeting global climate goals will require rapid decarbonization of all economic activity, including some critical industrial processes, like cement production and oil refining, which have inherent carbon emissions that aren’t readily eliminated by electrification or low-carbon alternatives,” said Ben Longstreth, Global Director for Carbon Capture at Clean Air Task Force. “Carbon capture systems allow facilities that would otherwise emit carbon pollution to reduce or eliminate their carbon emissions and, as this report finds, improve local air quality.” 

The analysis in the report, Air Pollutant Reductions From Carbon Capture, involved modeling the impacts on carbon dioxide (CO2) and criteria air pollutant emissions if carbon capture equipment were installed on the main pollution sources at four relatively high-emitting existing facilities in California and Texas: two fluidized catalytic crackers at petroleum refineries and two cement manufacturing plants. 

The report’s key findings are that: 

  • Adding carbon capture could reduce CO2 emissions and soot (particulate matter) by close to 90% while Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions would be nearly eliminated (99% reduction) from the largest point sources at these facilities.  
  • The potential climate and public health benefits achievable through the installation of carbon capture at these facilities are well in excess of the costs of such equipment. 
  • Applying carbon capture to other cement plants, catalytic cracking units and other industrial facilities is expected to lower health-harming sulfur dioxide and particulate matter pollution, although the magnitude of reduction will depend on the cleanliness of a facility before the addition of carbon capture.  

“The reductions in health-harming pollutants found through this analysis are a necessary result of operating installed carbon capture effectively,” said John Thomspon, Technology and Markets Director for Clean Air Task Force. “These pollutants really damage the equipment if you don’t clean them out of the flue stream beforehand, which makes it and the improvements to the local air quality non-negotiable for the operator.” 

There is overwhelming consensus among leading climate scientists, economists, and energy systems experts that carbon capture, removal, and storage technologies are essential tools needed to cut carbon pollution and address climate change. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes carbon capture, transport, and storage in almost all of its decarbonization pathways and the International Energy Agency has stated it is “impossible” to reach climate goals without carbon capture.  

In the U.S., the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment in Jobs Act secured historic funding for carbon capture, directing billions of dollars toward its development, demonstration, and deployment. The focus now lies on responsibly deploying carbon capture infrastructure to decarbonize power generation and industrial processes while delivering air quality benefits to local communities.  

Read the report here for a detailed description of research methods and findings. For more on CATF’s work in this space, explore our homepage.   

Press Contact

Steve Reyes, Communications Manager, [email protected], +1 562-916-6463

About Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit and follow @cleanaircatf.

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