Saturday, April 21, 2012

Carbon capture or Carbon recycle?


We live in a carbon constrained world where carbon emission is considered as the biggest challenge of the twenty first century. We unearthed fossil fuel which Nature buried for millions of years and burnt them for our advantage to generate power and to run our cars. Scientists pointed out that the unabated emission of greenhouse will cause the globe to warm with dire consequences.This came as an ‘inconvenient truth’ to industries and Governments around the world. However, economic consequences of stopping fossil fuels outweiged the impact of global warming. Governments were in a precarious situation and were unable to take a concrete policy decision. Popular Governments were not willing to risk their power by taking ethical decisions and opted for popular decision to maintain their growth. Then the financial crisis became an issue, which has nothing to do with greenhouse emission or global warming. Yet, the economic and industrial growth stumbled in many developed countries and unemployment skyrocketed. Governments are caught in a situation where they need to take a balanced view between an ethical decision and economic decisison.The overwhelming evidence of global warming and their consequences are slowly felt by countries around the world by natural disasters of various sizes and intensities. Some scientists suggested that there was nothing wrong using fossil fuels; we could continue with greenhouse emission without risking the economic growth by capturing the carbon and burying them underground. Carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies became popular and more funds were allocated to them than renewable energy development.Countires like India and China were not in a hurry to discontinue fossil fuels but continued to make massive investments on coal fired power plants. They neither try to capture carbon nor bury them, but continue to emit carbon claiming that it is their turn of economic growth and right to emit carbon emission. The chief of UN panel on climate change headed by an Indian has no say in the matter.Politicians push scientists into the background whenever the truth is inconvenient to them. How feasible in the carbon sequestration technology and what is the cost? Even if we can come up with a successful technology of capturing carbon and burying them underground, there will be a cost involved. This cost will invariably be passed on to the consumer which will eventually increase the cost of energy. Constraining carbon emission without incurring a cost can only be a dream. Capturing carbon emission is nothing new; Carbon dioxide is absorbed by solvents like MEA (Monoethanolamine) in many chemical industries. The absorbed carbon dioxide can be stripped free of solvent and the solvent can be recycled. This carbon dioxide can be treated with Ammonia to get Urea, a Fertilizer. But the source of Hydrogen can come only from renewable energy sources. That is why ‘Renewable Hydrogen ‘is the key to solve global warming problem. We can produce Urea from “captured Carbon” and ‘Renewable Hydrogen’ so that we can reduce a substantial quantity of greenhouse emission. Carbon recycling is a sustainable solution than Carbon capturing and burying. Countries like India who depend upon import of Urea for their agriculture production should immediately make Carbon recycling into Urea production mandatory. It is a win situation for everybody in the world.