Water impact of bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration


United States – Water usage is examined in new research by University of Wyoming scientists when bioenergy production is combined with carbon capture and sequestration, and the researchers argue for careful coordination of technology, resources, and policy in the transition to a net-zero carbon energy future.

Haibo Zhai, associate professor of engineering, environment, and natural resources, and Zitao Wu, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management, detail their research in a paper titled “Consumptive life cycle water use of biomass-to-power plants with carbon capture and sequestration.” It is expected for publication in December in Applied Energy, a prestigious journal that serves as a clearinghouse for information about energy innovation, research, development, and demonstration.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration is a technique for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in which organic matter is converted to heat, electricity, or liquid or gas fuels, with the carbon dioxide emissions from this conversion captured and stored in geological formations or embedded in long-lasting products.

Primary negative emissions technology

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified this technology as one of the primary negative emissions technologies that may be required to limit global warming this century. The technique’s potential significance in transitioning to a net-zero carbon future was also addressed in a strategic research agenda developed by the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. However, large-scale implementation will almost certainly encounter obstacles, including worries about water and land sustainability.

Because large-scale deployment of the approach may jeopardize water sustainability, the researchers anticipate significant trade-offs between carbon mitigation and water use. Given the technique’s potential for major influence on water resources, its use should be planned sustainably.

Location is critical

Location is critical for large-scale deployment of the technology, and bioenergy planning should account for potential natural resource limits, the researchers write. They intend to develop a regional assessment framework that integrates energy planning, carbon mitigation, and water resource management within the constraints of local resource availability in order to facilitate the development, harmonization, and integration of technological strategies and energy policies for deep decarbonization in a sustainable manner.