January 21, 2022 4:59 pm

“We must start to act and stop talking only about objectives against climate change”

The Center for Research and Innovation in Industrial Decarbonization (IDRICin the United Kingdom develops activities focused on energy systems that mitigate the effects of climate change and that allow progress towards the global objective of net zero emissions. Their work is fundamental in the current context of climate emergency.

Maroto-Valer has more than 500 pioneering scientific contributions in technologies for the capture, use and storage of carbon and solar fuels

According to its director, the Spanish Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Vitoria, 1971), an expert in energy systems and decarbonization, the design of these new technologies is important, but also “it is necessary to have the support of a business model, that is, models, policies and incentives that promote investment by companies in what we really need: innovation”.

It has recently been awarded the ACES-Margarita Salas Award in the category of Physics, Math e engineering in 2021 for his long career, which has more than 500 pioneering scientific contributions in technologies for the capture, use and storage of carbon and solar fuels.

What important innovations are being developed to fight climate change?

They are being done in capturing carbon dioxide (CO2), its storage, transport, and use, and also in hydrogen technologies, which try to produce this gas, but without CO emissions.2 or minimizing them as much as possible. In addition, there are also innovations in the sense of how we approach these technologies from the point of view of business models with regulatory frameworks. What we really provide are solutions, not just technology.

How do these technologies work?

El CO2 It is produced in thermal power plants, in industrial processes -such as the production of cement or steel-, in the food sector, etc. When this gas is produced, it does so at the same time as others. The first thing is to separate the CO2 of the rest (water vapor, nitrogen and others, which do not have a climatic effect), we call that capture. Then, once we have it concentrated, it is used – if possible – for other processes within the same industry or the same sector. If not, it is stored safely and permanently in deposits where previously there was a hydrocarbon such as oil or natural gas and, in other cases, in deep and saline aquifers, which cannot be used to obtain drinking water.

If CO2 capture technologies are deployed globally, up to 1,200 gigatons could be stored, instead of the 40 megatons currently being captured

By using these technologies, are emissions to the atmosphere significantly reduced?

Yes, we have observed that with the processes used today it is possible to capture concentrations of CO2 99%, and it is that same concentration that we can store in deep saline aquifers or in abandoned wells that once housed oil or natural gas. However, the point is that these technologies carry an additional cost that must be taken into account.

99% is a high amount, but is it enough to slow down climate change?

According to a report published every year by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI), at the moment relatively large quantities are caught, but not enough.

If we want to talk about price, what is really expensive is doing nothing about climate change. That is going to cost us a lot more.

Around 40 megatons (Mt) of carbon dioxide are captured worldwide. Although it seems like a very large number, it is not, because we produce so much CO2 which in the end is a small amount. These technologies work and are used today, but we need much more deployment of them. That is, they are not only in certain plants, but are used globally. If this is fulfilled, we would be able to store between 350 and 1,200 gigatons (Gt). Innovation comes in how we can deploy these technologies globally and try to lower their costs.

Mercedes Maroto Valer with her scientific team. Photo provided by the interviewee.

Would that be its biggest drawback, the cost?

If we want to talk about price, what is really expensive is doing nothing about climate change. That is going to cost us a lot more. In my opinion, we must approach this matter as an investment in innovation, science and technology, and that investment in the long term is going to be profitable for us. If we do nothing, the price to pay will be in human lives.

Even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases completely, high concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to warm the planet. With these innovations we could also capture that CO2 of the atmosphere …

The 2020s are critical when it comes to using these technologies, deploying them globally, trying to lower costs and make them more effective

But not only in the atmosphere, but also in a chimney of a cement factory, a refinery or a thermal power plant. These are the technologies we are working on because, in this way, the gas does not reach the atmosphere. Then there are others that aim to remove that CO2 atmospheric. We have very high levels that continue to increase and, with them, we try to reduce those concentrations as much as we can, although the essential thing is not to emit more.

In the face of COP26 that is being held now, what measures, which have a real impact, do you think should really be agreed?

I am optimistic and I believe that governments are realizing that we must start to act and stop talking only about objectives in the face of climate change. The 2020s is critical when it comes to using these technologies and making the deployment that I have commented before, trying to lower costs, and make them more effective. In terms of awareness, society has changed a lot.

There must be an effort and a clear ambition that this must be done together and this must be translated into roadmaps with very short-term objectives

The circumstances in which the COP21 in Paris (France) and in which the COP26 en Glasgow (UK) are very different. Now we are talking about an economic recovery, but a sustainable one. What we really must ask governments is to create roadmaps to meet the objectives that have been set and to act. This decade of the 2020s is a decade of action, it is not a decade of deliberation, we already did that in Paris. In Glasgow what we want are stocks.

What type of actions would you stand out the most?

The first thing is to establish a clear roadmap on what technologies are going to be deployed. This supposes a economic investment by governments, putting financial systems on incentives that really promote it, that companies see that it is an area in which they can really invest. This has to be clear in a very short time. In this decade we are going to revolutionize everything we know today as energy systems.

Furthermore, climate change is a global change. Therefore, if only a couple of countries take the corresponding measures, it will not be enough. There has to be an effort and a clear ambition that this has to be done together. You have to collaborate. And this must be translated into roadmaps with very short-term objectives.

Reference-www.agenciasinc.es

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