How does carbon capture work?


The Shwarze Pump power plant in Spremberg, Germany, heats a steam boiler with über-polluting lignite coal, according to Scientific American. Only, instead of burning the lignite in air like most plants would, the Schwarze Pump burns it in the presence of pure oxygen, limiting the byproducts to water vapor and CO2. In 2006, the power plant installed one more step between lighting the lignite and releasing its byproducts: a pipe. Inside this pipe, the water vapor condenses into liquid and is siphoned off, and the carbon dioxide gas is left pure to pass through to the pipe's exit. Later, the plant pressurizes the CO2 gas, which, as you might remember from high school chemistry, turns gas into liquid. This liquid carbon has uses ranging from putting the pep in Pepsi to blasting the final oil deposits from drying wells. (Environmentalists point out that it would be better still to refrain from burning lignite in the first place.)