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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Summary

As understanding of the risks and damages of climate change has improved, almost all nations have committed to limit total global warming to less than 2°C over preindustrial levels, with an aspirational target of 1.5°C. Meeting a 2°C target is becoming exceedingly challenging; the global mean temperature has already risen about 1°C over the 20th century. Most climate and integrated assessment models project that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) would have to stop increasing (and perhaps start decreasing) by the second half of the century for there to be a reasonable chance of limiting warming and the associated dangerous climate impacts.

Fossil fuel consumption, agriculture, land-use change, and cement production are the dominant anthropogenic sources of CO2 to the atmosphere. The focus of climate mitigation is to reduce energy sector emissions by 80-100 percent, requiring massive deployment of low-carbon technologies between now and 2050. Progress toward these targets could be made by deploying negative emissions technologies (NETs), which remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it. Under the present conditions, where fossil CO2 is continuously added to the atmosphere, removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it has exactly the same impact on the atmosphere and climate as simultaneously preventing emission of an equal amount of CO2. NETs have been part of the portfolio to achieve net emissions reductions, at least since reforestation, afforestation, and soil sequestration were brought into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, albeit as mitigation options, more than two decades ago. Recent analyses found that deploying NETs may be less expensive and less disruptive than reducing some emissions, such as a substantial portion of agricultural and land-use emissions and some transportation emissions.

In 2015, the National Academies published Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration, which described and initially assessed NETs and sequestration technologies. This report acknowledged the relative paucity of research on NETs and recommended development of a research agenda that covers all aspects of NETs from fundamental science to full-scale deployment. To address this need, the National Academies convened the Committee on Developing a Research Agenda for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration to assess the benefits, risks, and “sustainable scale potential” for NETs and sequestration and to define the essential components of a research and development program, including its estimated costs and potential impact (Box S.1). The full Statement of Task is presented in Box 1.4. The

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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committee held a series of public workshops and meetings to inform its deliberations and the writing of this report.

MITIGATION IN A NET ZERO EMISSIONS SYSTEM

Studies using integrated assessment models that link greenhouse gas emissions, the economy, and climate conclude that the reductions in net anthropogenic emissions required to meet even the 2°C target will be difficult and expensive to achieve, even with foreseeable technological breakthroughs. In its Fifth Assessment Report (2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects high costs for reducing the concentration of atmospheric CO2, with costs in many scenarios reaching

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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more than $1,000 per ton of CO2 emissions by 2100. Stopping the growth of atmospheric CO2 requires that anthropogenic emissions are less than or equal to natural and anthropogenic carbon sinks—not that they cease altogether. As reported in IPCC (2014b), the lowest cost trajectories for achieving the 2°C target typically include massive deployment of one specific type of NET, bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS), to avoid the even steeper costs associated with relying on emissions cuts alone. However, BECCS at this scale requires more feedstock than is available from biomass waste. For example, 30 million to 43 million hectares is required to raise BECCS feedstocks per Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions. Thus, 10 Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions from BECCS requires hundreds of millions of hectares of land, which is almost 40 percent of global cropland according to some studies reviewed in IPCC (2014b).

The committee repeatedly encountered the view that NETs will primarily be deployed to reduce atmospheric CO2 after fossil emissions are reduced to near zero. In contrast, because it will likely be very expensive to decrease anthropogenic emissions once they reach low levels, methods for reduced and negative emissions will probably be competitors for an extended period, even during a sustained period of net negative global emissions (see Figure S.1). For example, few alternatives to chemical fuels are likely to exist for commercial aviation. One option for zero net aviation emissions

Image
FIGURE S.1. Scenario of the role of negative emissions technologies in reaching net zero emissions.
NOTE: For any concentration and type of greenhouse gas (e.g. methane, perfluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide) CO2e signifies the concentration of CO2 which would have the same amount of radiative forcing.
SOURCE: UNEP, 2017.
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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would be deployment of $100/t CO2 NETs to capture and store 2.5 kg of CO2 for each liter of aviation fuel consumed.1 This will add ~25 cents per liter of fuel. This is just one example of how NETs might be conceptually bundled with emissions sources that are difficult to eliminate.

Conclusion 1: Negative emissions technologies are best viewed as a component of the mitigation portfolio, rather than a way to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide only after anthropogenic emissions have been eliminated. The central question is “which is least expensive and least disruptive in terms of land and other impacts—an emission reduction or an equivalent amount of negative emission?” The committee recognizes that there is a possibility that large negative emissions in the future could result in a moral hazard, by reducing humanity’s will to cut emissions in the near term. Reducing emissions is vital to addressing the climate problem. However, the least expensive and least disruptive solution involves a broad portfolio of technologies, including those with positive, near-zero, and negative emissions. In addition, a broad portfolio of technologies (including multiple NETs) improves the ability to manage unexpected risks from nature and mitigation actions.

TECHNOLOGIES CONSIDERED

As directed by the Statement of Task, the committee focused on six major technical approaches to CO2 removal and sequestration:

  • Coastal blue carbon (Chapter 2)—Land use and management practices that increase the carbon stored in living plants or sediments in mangroves, tidal marshlands, seagrass beds, and other tidal or salt-water wetlands. These approaches are sometimes called “blue carbon” even though they refer to coastal ecosystems instead of the open ocean.
  • Terrestrial carbon removal and sequestration (Chapter 3)—Land use and management practices such as afforestation/reforestation, changes in forest management, or changes in agricultural practices that enhance soil carbon storage (“agricultural soils”).
  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (Chapter 4)—Energy production using plant biomass to produce electricity, liquid fuels, and/or heat combined with capture and sequestration of any CO2 produced when using the bioenergy and any remaining biomass carbon that is not in the liquid fuels.

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1 Combustion of a gallon of gasoline releases approximately 10 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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  • Direct air capture (Chapter 5)—Chemical processes that capture CO2 from ambient air and concentrate it, so that it can be injected into a storage reservoir.
  • Carbon mineralization (Chapter 6)—Accelerated “weathering,” in which CO2 from the atmosphere forms a chemical bond with a reactive mineral (particularly mantle peridotite, basaltic lava, and other reactive rocks), both at the surface (ex situ) where CO2 in ambient air is mineralized on exposed rock and in the subsurface (in situ) where concentrated CO2 streams are injected into ultramafic and basaltic rocks where it mineralizes in the pores.
  • Geologic sequestration (Chapter 7)—CO2 captured through BECCS or direct air capture is injected into a geologic formation, such as a saline aquifer, where it remains in the pore space of the rock for a long time. This is not a NET, but rather an option for the sequestration component of BECCS or direct air capture.

The exclusive focus of this report on terrestrial and near-shore coastal NETs reflects the Statement of Task. The committee recognizes that oceanic options for CO2 removal and sequestration (e.g., iron fertilization and ocean alkalinization), which fall outside the scope of its task, could sequester an enormous amount of CO2 and that the United States needs a research strategy to address them. The report also does not address mitigation options such as enhanced energy efficiency, renewable electricity, or reduced deforestation because they are not NETs. Their exclusion is not a statement about priorities. Reducing emissions is vital to addressing the climate problem. Policymakers should consider the broadest possible portfolio of technologies to find the most inexpensive and least disruptive solutions, including those with positive, near-zero, and negative emissions.

CARBON REMOVAL POTENTIAL AND NEED

The committee identified the potential rates of CO2 removal and sequestration that could be achieved safely and economically, given our current knowledge and level of technological development. These results are summarized in Table S.1 and expanded in Tables 8.1 and 8.2. “Safe” means that the deployment would, with high confidence, not cause the large potential adverse societal, economic, and environmental impacts that are described in detail in each report chapter. “Economical” means that the deployment would cost2 less than $100/t CO2. Most of the NETs that meet that criterion actually cost less than $20/t CO2. Differences among rows in the significant digits listed reflect heterogeneity in the state of knowledge. It is important to understand

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2 The committee refers to direct costs of attaining negative emissions (e.g., operating costs, labor costs). It recognizes that all NETs have a full set of indirect costs (e.g., impact on land values) that may not be reflected in direct cost estimates.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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TABLE S.1 Cost, Limiting Factors, and Impact Potential of NETs with Current Technology and Understanding. “Safe” maximum rate of CO2 removal means that the deployment would not cause large potential adverse societal, economic, and environmental impacts. These estimated rates assume full adoption of agricultural soil conservation practices, forestry management practices, and waste biomass capture.

Negative Emissions Technology Estimated Cost
($/t CO2)
L = 0 - 20
M =20 -100
H = >100
Safe Potential Rate of CO2 Removal Possible Given Current Technology and Understanding and at ≤$100/t CO2
(Gt/y CO2)
Primary Current Limiting Factors
US Global
Coastal blue carbon L 0.02 0.13a
  • Available land given coastal development and land use
  • Understanding of future rates with sea level rise and coastal management
Terrestrial carbon removal and sequestration: afforestation/reforestation L 0.15 1
  • Available land given needs for food and fiber production and for biodiversity
  • Inability to fully implement forestry management practices
Terrestrial carbon removal and sequestration: forest management L 0.1 1.5
  • Demand for wood limits feasible reduction in harvest rate, though some forest management activities would not impact fiber supplies
  • Inability to fully implement forestry management practices
Terrestrial carbon removal and sequestration: agricultural practices to enhance soil carbon storage L to M 0.25 3
  • Limited per-hectare rates of carbon uptake by existing agricultural practices
  • Inability to fully implement soil conservation practices
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
×
Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) M 0.5 3.5-5.2
  • Cost
  • Availability of biomass given needs for food and fiber production and for biodiversity
  • Inability to fully capture waste biomass
  • Fundamental understanding
Direct air capture H 0b 0b
  • Cost is greater than economic demand
  • Practical barriers to pace of scale up
Carbon mineralization M-H unknown unknown
  • Fundamental understanding, especially of feedbacks between carbon mineralization and permeability for in situ methods
Total 1.02 9.13-10.83

NOTE: Number of significant digits reflects state of knowledge among different NETs and between US and global estimates.

a Global removal rate based on coastal wetland area lost since approximately 1980 and annual burial rate with restoration; does not include active management of existing areas or managed wetland transgression.

b Cost for deployed air capture remains substantially above $100/t CO2 (as high as $600/t CO2).

that safe and economical limits to NET deployment are not necessarily achievable in a practical sense, because human behavior, logistical shortages, organizational capacity, and political factors can also limit deployment.

The collection of NETs in Table S.1 exhibit a wide range of technical maturity. Some approaches to carbon removal, such as reforestation, have been developed over many decades and are already deployed at large scale. Others, such as several types of enhanced carbon mineralization, are at the early stages of exploration by academic researchers and have never been tried in the field. In general, the cost estimates for technologies that have not been demonstrated are more speculative than those for technologies that have been deployed at scale. However, even NETs that are relatively mature will benefit from additional research to reduce costs and negative impacts and to increase co-benefits.

There are also fundamental differences among the primary factors that limit potential rates and capacities of NETs. Land-based NETs, especially afforestation/reforestation

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
×

and BECCS, are constrained by land availability, because of competing needs to produce food and preserve biodiversity and by the responses of landowners to incentives. Research on land-based options would help to ensure that the capacities listed in Table S.1 can be realized or increased as discussed in Chapter 8, but their potential will remain limited by available land. In contrast, the major barrier to large-scale direct air capture is the high current cost. If made less expensive, direct air capture technologies could be scaled up to remove very large amounts of carbon. Finally, carbon mineralization is currently constrained by many scientific unknowns, as well as uncertainty about environmental impacts and likely cost. However, like direct air capture, carbon mineralization technologies could have very large capacity if their costs and environmental impacts could be sufficiently reduced. The analysis in Table S.1 leads to the committee’s most important conclusions about the readiness of NETs:

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Nonetheless, the potential global uptake from current technologies of significantly less than 10 Gt/y CO2 is substantially lower that the negative emissions in most scenarios that would produce less than 2°C of warming, according to virtually every recent assessment (Chapter 8). For example, Figure S.1 shows net anthropogenic emissions of all greenhouse gases falling from more than 50 Gt CO2e today to less than 20 Gt CO2e at midcentury and to approximately zero by 2100. Approximately 10-20 Gt CO2e of gross anthropogenic emissions come from sources that would be very difficult or expensive to eliminate, including a large fraction of agricultural methane and nitrous oxide. Most scenarios that meet the Paris agreement, such as the one in Figure S.1, thus rely on CO2 removal and storage that ramps up rapidly before midcentury to reach approximately 20 Gt CO2 by century’s end.

Conclusion 4: If the goals for climate and economic growth are to be achieved, negative emissions technologies will likely need to play a large role in mitigating climate change by removing ~10 Gt/y CO2 globally by midcentury and ~20 Gt/y CO2 globally by the century’s end.

FACTORS AFFECTING SCALE UP

The committee considered a range of factors that will affect the scale-up of NETs. Described in detail in Chapters 2-7, these factors include the availability of land given the competing needs for food and biodiversity preservation, other environmental constraints, energy requirements, high cost, practical barriers, permanence, monitoring and verification, governance, and insufficient scientific or technological understanding. They helped to inform development of the recommended research program for each NET. Collectively, Conclusions 2-4 are critical, because they demonstrate that all existing safe and economical NETs and mitigation options together do not have sufficient capacity to meet the Paris agreement. Uncertain research breakthroughs will be required before those NETs can provide even the minority share of the solution in Conclusion 6. Any argument to delay mitigation efforts because NETs will provide a backstop drastically misrepresents their current capacities and the likely pace of research progress.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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The Land Constraint

Because food demand is expected to double by mid-century, repurposing a significant amount of current agricultural land to produce feedstocks for BECCS or for afforestation/reforestation might have a significant effect on food availability and food prices, with far-reaching effects on national security and biodiversity. If afforestation/reforestation and BECCS could be extended to hundreds of millions of hectares of arable land without disrupting the food supply or causing the clearance of remaining tropical forests, then these options could deliver more than 10 Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions. However, such an extension would require either a revolutionary breakthrough in agricultural productivity or revolutionary changes in diets (with greatly reduced meat consumption) and reduced food waste. Until research proves otherwise, it is prudent to view as impractical upper bounds for afforestation/reforestation and BECCS deployment of much greater than 10 Gt/y CO2.

Other Environmental Constraints

Environmental concerns vary among the NETs. Because forests established at high latitudes decrease albedo, afforestation/reforestation at high latitudes would cause net warming despite the cooling caused by the forest’s CO2 uptake. In addition, forests established in regions with limited rainfall would have adverse effects on streamflow, irrigation, and groundwater resources. Mining minerals that spontaneously bind CO2 would create enormous volumes of waste rock that may contaminate water and/or air. Approaches that enhance carbon uptake and storage in agricultural soils generally have large positive side benefits, including increased productivity, water holding capacity, stability of yields, and nitrogen use efficiency, but sometimes increase nitrous oxide emissions. Afforestation/reforestation, BECCS, and potentially some direct air capture routes may have substantial water requirements. In particular, irrigated bioenergy crops may lead to a trade-off between land and water requirements, in addition to freshwater ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

Energy Requirements

Direct air capture and some carbon mineralization options require a large energy input per ton of CO2 captured, which increases costs. Direct air capture systems require between 5 and 10 GJ to capture a ton of atmospheric CO2. To put this into perspective, combustion of 100 gallons of gasoline releases about 13 GJ of energy and emits about a ton of CO2. Gt-scale direct air capture thus necessitates an enormous increase in

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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low- or zero-carbon energy to meet energy demands, which would compete with use of such energy sources to mitigate emissions from other sectors.

High Cost

The primary impediment to several NETs is high cost. Climeworks, which has the only existing commercial direct air capture machine, captures CO2 at a reported cost of $600/t CO2. The estimated cost of capture and sequestration for BECCS systems that produce electricity is $70/t CO2, which is higher than costs for capture and sequestration from fossil fuel electricity. Although costs for direct air capture and BECCS may decline quickly, they are not currently competitive. The costs of carbon mineralization are uncertain because the fundamental understanding of the processes and engineering systems required for effective sequestration is insufficient.

Practical Barriers

Implementing NETs at the scale necessary to limit warming to 2°C presents practical barriers. For example, a 10 percent per year increase from the 65 Mt/y CO2e that is currently injected underground for CO2-enhanced oil recovery and saline aquifer sequestration is needed in order to scale up underground injection for geological sequestration. Comparable or greater rates will be required of every available NET. At these rates, scale-up could be limited by materials shortages, regulatory barriers, infrastructure development (i.e., CO2 pipelines and renewable electricity), the availability of trained workers, and many other barriers.

Furthermore, humans often resist actions that appear to be in their economic interest. For example, historical adoption rates of agricultural soil conservation and forestry management practices that would save farmers and forest landowners money have been surprisingly low, as have dietary changes, such as reduced meat consumption, that would increase health while freeing agricultural land for forestry NETs and BECCS. These behaviors could limit deployment of NETs, as could public resistance to new local infrastructure, but they are not well represented in integrated assessment models.

Permanence

The terrestrial and coastal blue carbon options are reversible if the carbon sequestering practices are not maintained. For example, forested land could be cleared again, reverting to intensive tillage will eventually reverse soil carbon gains from reduced tillage in

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
×

agricultural soils, or a restored coastal wetland could be drained again. Although temporary CO2 storage will have some climate benefit, scientific and economic requirements to ensure the permanence of storage within ecosystems are substantial. In contrast, BECCS, direct air capture, and carbon mineralization have comparatively minor issues of permanence. CO2 that is geologically sequestered can leak from saline aquifers but at rates low and straightforward enough to remediate. Permanence for carbon mineralization would be very high for mineralization of basalt or peridotite.

Monitoring and Verification

Monitoring and verification will be critical components of any large-scale deployment of NETs. Terrestrial carbon removal and sequestration approaches are sufficiently well understood that, in most cases, they could be deployed in the United States with remote monitoring and verification backed up by onsite measurements in a statistical sample. Effective monitoring and verification will require improved systems to monitor forest carbon and soil carbon on agricultural lands, expanded remote sensing of land use and management practices, better integration of existing data sets and models, and selected improvements in global monitoring to help address “leakage” (i.e., land-use changes in one location inducing land-use changes in other locations). Coastal blue carbon could be monitored and verified inexpensively through remote methods, although landscape heterogeneity would require finer resolution than terrestrial approaches, backed up by onsite measurements of a statistical sample. Because most carbon mineralization efforts would store CO2 in inert and essentially permanent solid form, they might have the lowest monitoring and verification costs of all the NETs. This is particularly true for in situ carbon mineralization, whereas dispersal of reactive rock material in soil, along beaches, or into the shallow ocean could be as difficult, or more difficult, to verify than enhancements to agricultural soil carbon. Monitoring and verification of direct air capture would be straightforward because the amount of CO2 can be directly measured. Monitoring and verification of sequestration in saline aquifers requires sophisticated methods such as seismic imaging, measuring pressure in and above the sequestration reservoir, and routine measurements of well integrity.

Governance

Appropriate governance of NETs and sequestration is critical because overly lax oversight would lead to ineffective CO2 removal and loss of public confidence, while overly strict oversight would limit deployment. Governance is especially critical when large-scale deployment is imminent. Currently, governance is well established only in those

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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sectors covered by a national or international agreement, including afforestation/reforestation (under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and saline aquifer storage (under the Underground Injection Protocol of the Safe Water Drinking Act). In addition, the United States and other governments have ample experience regulating agriculture and forestry for non-NET purposes. One way to maintain public confidence during rapid deployment of NETs is to invest in a substantial effort to educate the public during the research and development stage.

Insufficient Scientific/Technical Understanding

Significant scientific gaps remain for all NETs, but especially for carbon mineralization and coastal blue carbon. Regarding the former, there is limited understanding of the kinetics of CO2 uptake, no inventory of appropriate geologic deposits and existing tailings of reactive but unreacted rock, and no technical expertise to manage tailings piles so that they effectively take up CO2. In addition, negative feedbacks cannot be predicted, nor can the long-term consequences of depositing crushed reactive minerals in agricultural soils, along the coasts, or into the shallow ocean. For the latter, many of the critical processes that govern carbon burial and sequestration in coastal ecosystems lack a mechanistic understanding of how they may change under high rates of sea-level rise and other direct and indirect impacts of climate change, and few studies have been performed on transgression of coastal wetlands inland.

PROPOSED RESEARCH AGENDA

Scaling the capacity of NETs to address the expected needs for carbon removal will require a concerted research effort to address the constraints that currently limit deployment. The research agenda should address not only potential research gaps, but also other needs for scale-up of NETs including cost reductions, deployment, and monitoring/verification. Based on its review of the factors that will affect scale-up of NETs, the committee drew the following conclusions that motivate the selection of research priorities:

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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The committee developed a detailed research agenda that is divided into two categories: 1) projects that would exclusively advance NETs (Table S.2); and 2) NET-enabling research on biofuels and CO2 sequestration that should be undertaken as part of an emissions mitigation research portfolio (Table S.3). Drawing on the expertise of certain members, the committee estimated the budget for each research effort, which could be funded across a range of agencies (described further in Chapters 2-7). Of course, these budget estimates contain some uncertainty, but there is value in assessing the relative levels of investment needed to advance each of the NETs and sequestration approaches. For example, the estimated research budget for afforestation/reforestation and forest management is lower than that for other NETs because these approaches are more mature. In contrast, the estimated research budgets for carbon mineralization and direct air capture are larger because these technologies are relatively new and underexplored. The committee also identified an appropriate timespan to fund and conduct each effort. In many cases, the research should be conducted in stages—that is, funding will continue if certain milestones are met.

The scale of these research costs is commensurate with the size of the carbon and climate problem. A solution such as the one depicted in Figure S.1 requires electricity

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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TABLE S.2 Research Plan and Budget for Negative Emissions Technologies Plus Sequestration (abbreviated from Table 8.3)

NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
Coastal Basic research in understanding and using coastal ecosystems as a NET 6M 5-10
Mapping current and future (i.e., after sea level rise) coastal wetlands. 2M 20
Integrated network of coastal sites for scientific and experimental work on carbon removal and storage. 40M 20
National Coastal Wetland Data Center, including data on all restoration and carbon removal projects. 2M 20
Carbon-rich NET demonstration projects and field experiment network 10M 20
Coastal blue carbon project deployment. 5M 10
Afforestation/Reforestation, Forest Management Monitoring of forest stock enhancement projects 5M ≥3
Forest demonstration projects: increasing collection, disposal, and preservation of harvested wood; and forest restoration 4.5M 3
Afforestation/Reforestation, Forest Management, BECCS Integrated Assessment Modeling and regional life cycle assessment of BECCS mitigation potential and secondary impacts 3.7-14M 10
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
Forest Management Preservation of harvested wood 2.4M 3
Research on greenhouse gases and social impacts of reducing traditional uses of biomass for fuel 1M 3
Social sciences research on improving landowner responses to incentives and equity among landowner classes 1M 3
Agricultural Soils National agricultural soils monitoring system 5M Ongoing
Experimental network improving agricultural soil carbon processes. 6-9M ≥12
Data-model platform for predicting and quantifying agricultural soil carbon removal and storage 5M 5
Scaling up agricultural soils sequestration activities 2M 3
High carbon input crop phenotypes 40-50M 20
Soil carbon dynamics at depth 3-4M 5
Agricultural Soils, BECCS Biochar studies 3M 5-10
Agricultural Soils, Carbon Mineralization Reactive mineral additions to soils 3M 10
BECCS Biomass-to-fuel with biochar 40-103M 10
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
Direct Air Capture Basic research and early phase technology development 20-30M 10
Independent techno-economic analysis, third-party materials testing and evaluation, and pubic materials database 3-5M 10
Scaling-up and testing air capture materials and components 10-15M 10
Third-party professional engineering design firm assistance for the above effort, including independent testing, and a public database 3-10M 10
Design, build, and test pilot air capture system (>1,000 t/y CO2) 20-40M 10
National air capture test center support of pilots 10-20M 10
Design, build, and test air capture demonstration system (>10,000 t/y CO2) 100M 10
National air capture test center support of demonstrations 15-20M 10
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
Carbon Mineralization Basic research on mineralization kinetics 5.5M 10
Basic research on rock mechanics, numerical modeling, and field studies 17M 10
Mapping reactive mineral deposits and existing tailings (scoping for pilot studies) 7.5M 5
Surficial (ex situ) carbon removal pilot studies 3.5M 10
Medium-scale in-situ field experiment in peridotite rock 10M 10
Development of a resource database for carbon mineralization 2M 5
Studying the environmental impact of mineral addition to terrestrial, coastal and marine environments 10M 10
Examining the social and environmental impact of an expanded extraction industry for the purpose of CO2 removal 5M 10
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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TABLE S.3 Research Plan and Budget for NET-Enabling Research (abbreviated from Table 8.4)

NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
BECCS Biomass-to-power with carbon capture and sequestration: biomass supply and logistics 53-123M 5
Biomass-to-power with carbon capture and sequestration: high-efficiency biomass power 39-94M 10
Biomass-to-fuel with carbon capture and sequestration Ongoing research efforts are sufficient
Carbon Mineralization Mine tailings and industrial wastes 1M 10
Medium-scale field in situ experiment in a basalt formation. 10M 10
Geologic Sequestration: Saline Aquifer Storage Reducing seismic risk 50M 10
Increasing the efficiency and accuracy of site characterization and selection 45M 10
Improving monitoring and lowering costs for monitoring and verification 50M 10
Improving secondary trapping prediction and methods to accelerate secondary trapping 25M 10
Improving simulation models for performance prediction and confirmation. 10M 10
Assessing and managing risk in compromised storage systems. 20M 10
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
×
NET Research Title Cost $/y Duration Years
Geologic Sequestration: Oil and Gas Field Sequestration Developing reservoir engineering approaches for co-optimizing CO2-EOR and sequestration 50M 10
Geologic Sequestration Social sciences research to improve public engagement effectiveness with local communities and the general public 1M 10

NOTE: All projects listed above not only support the advancement of NETs, but should also be part of any comprehensive research effort on carbon mitigation.

generated by wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration; biofuels and electricity for transportation; and some form of energy storage. Every one of these technologies has already received large government investment. For example, a recent Congressional Research Service report Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, and Energy Efficiency R&D estimates that the federal government spent more than $22 billion on renewable energy research and development from 1978 to 2013. NETs have not received comparable public investment despite expectations that they might provide ~30 percent of the net emissions reductions required this century (i.e., maxima of 20 Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions and 50 Gt/y CO2 of mitigation in Figure S.1). NETs are essential to offset greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be eliminated, such as a large fraction of agricultural nitrous oxide and methane emissions. Inexpensive direct air capture or carbon mineralization could allow for some continued use of fossil fuels without impacting climate. Recent regulatory proposals to freeze light-duty fuel economy standards over the 2021-2025 period and changes to the Clean Power Plan may further the need for NETs. Table S.3 contains a proposed budget for improving CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers and for enhanced oil recovery. This information is included because CO2 sequestration is required by direct air capture and BECCS, but the size of the budget reflects the larger need for sequestration of CO2 captured at other energy sources such as fossil fuel electricity plants. The scale of the recommended research budget is consistent with the need for NETs that can solve a substantial fraction of the climate problem.

Recommendation: The nation should launch a substantial research initiative to advance negative emissions technologies (NETs) as soon as practicable.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
×

A substantial investment would (1) improve existing NETs (i.e., coastal blue carbon, afforestation/reforestation, changes in forest management, uptake and storage by agricultural soils, and bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration) to increase the capacity and to reduce their negative impacts and costs; (2) make rapid progress on direct air capture and carbon mineralization technologies, which are underexplored but would have essentially unlimited capacity if the high costs and many unknowns could be overcome; and (3) advance NET-enabling research on biofuels and carbon sequestration that should be undertaken anyway as part of an emissions mitigation research portfolio.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Recent analyses of economically optimal solutions to the climate problem have concluded that NETs will play as significant a role as any mitigation technology, with perhaps 10 Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions needed approximately at midcentury and 20 Gt/y CO2 by the century’s end. Several Gt/y CO2 of negative emissions at less than $20/t CO2 are already available. Nonetheless, existing options (coastal blue carbon, afforestation/reforestation, forest management, agricultural soils and BECCS) cannot yet provide enough negative emissions at reasonable cost, without substantial unintended harm. A substantial research investment is needed to improve existing NETs and to reduce their negative impacts and costs. In addition, direct air capture and carbon mineralization have essentially unlimited capacity and are almost unexplored.

The committee recognizes that the federal government has many other research priorities, including others in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Multiple reasons exist to pursue research on NETs. First, states, local governments, corporations, and countries around the world are making substantial investments to reduce their net carbon emissions and plan to increase these investments. Some of these efforts already include negative emissions. This means that advances in NETs will benefit the U.S. economy if the intellectual property is held by U.S. companies. Second, as climate damages mount, the United States will inevitably take increased action to limit climate change in the future. Third, the United States is already making a substantial effort, including the new 45Q rule3 that provides a tax credit of $50/t CO2 for capture and sequestration in saline aquifers and $35/t CO2 for oil and gas reservoirs, which would leverage the value of new investments in NET research. Thus, though climate mitigation remains the motivation for global investments in NETs, intellectual property and economic benefits will likely accrue to the nations that develop the best technology.

___________________

3https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/45Q.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25259.
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To achieve goals for climate and economic growth, “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) that remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the air will need to play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Unlike carbon capture and storage technologies that remove carbon dioxide emissions directly from large point sources such as coal power plants, NETs remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or enhance natural carbon sinks. Storing the carbon dioxide from NETs has the same impact on the atmosphere and climate as simultaneously preventing an equal amount of carbon dioxide from being emitted. Recent analyses found that deploying NETs may be less expensive and less disruptive than reducing some emissions, such as a substantial portion of agricultural and land-use emissions and some transportation emissions.

In 2015, the National Academies published Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration, which described and initially assessed NETs and sequestration technologies. This report acknowledged the relative paucity of research on NETs and recommended development of a research agenda that covers all aspects of NETs from fundamental science to full-scale deployment. To address this need, Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda assesses the benefits, risks, and “sustainable scale potential” for NETs and sequestration. This report also defines the essential components of a research and development program, including its estimated costs and potential impact.

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