Carbon Capture 101

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Power plants are vital to modern life. They produce the energy we need to light our homes, cook our food, and countless other tasks.

But when most people think of power plants, they think of smokestacks. In fact, power plants account for about 35 percent of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S.

The Energy Department is working to lower that number, and one way we’re doing it is through carbon capture.

You’ve probably heard of carbon capture before, but you might not understand how it works. So we’ve broken it down for you in our latest infographic.

Put simply, carbon capture is the process of separating CO2 from the exhaust of a power plant so it can be permanently stored. There are two ways of doing this: pre-combustion and post-combustion.

Pre-combustion captures the CO2 before the fossil fuel is burned, while post-combustion happens in the smokestack. We’ve broken down both processes in the infographic above.

Last year Energy Department projects captured and stored a milestone 10 million metric tons of CO2 — the equivalent of taking two million cars off American roads for an entire year. And we continue to research and develop newer, more cost-effective ways to keep CO2 out of the air.

To learn more about carbon capture research at the Energy Department, check out the Office of Fossil Energy’s Carbon Capture page.

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(Image: Carbon capture is an important part of the Energy Department’s Fossil Energy research and development efforts, but it can be hard to understand. This infographic breaks it down for you. | Infographic by Carly Wilkins, Energy Department.)