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Carbon Sequestration

Lee Layton, P.E.

Course Outline

The course begins with an overview of the carbon cycle in the environment.  The sources of carbon dioxide are explored as well the natural sinks of carbon.  The Technologies used to separate and capture carbon dioxide are reviewed.  Next, the three potential methods to sequester carbon are reviewed including geologic sequestration, ocean sequestration, and terrestrial sequestration.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

After taking this course you should,

Intended Audience

This course is intended for anyone who wants to understand the science of carbon sequestration and its potential benefit to our environment.

Benefit to Attendees

This course will give the reader an introduction to the three potential carbon sequestration sinks that exist and the challenges presented by each.  This will enable the reader to have a better understanding of how carbon sequestration fits into the global warming debate.

Course Introduction

Predictions of global energy use in the next century suggest a continued increase in carbon emissions and rising concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere unless major changes are made in the way we produce and use energy—in particular, how we manage carbon.  For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts in its 1995 “business as usual” energy scenario that global emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere, which currently is 7.4 billion metric tons of carbon (GtC) per year will double by 2050.  Although the effects of increased CO2 levels on global climate are uncertain, many scientists agree that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations could have a variety of serious environmental consequences.

There are generally three ways to manage carbon emissions,

  1. Reduce the need for fossil fuel combustion through increased energy efficiency.
  2. Use alternative low-carbon and carbon-free fuels and technologies such as nuclear power and renewable sources.
  3. Capture and securely store carbon emitted from the fossil fuel combustion, which is known as carbon sequestration.

The purpose of carbon sequestration is to keep carbon emissions from reaching the atmosphere by capturing them, isolating them, and diverting them to secure storage.  Any viable system for sequestering carbon must be safe, environmentally benign, effective, and economical. In addition, it must be acceptable to the public.

This concept is truly radical in a technology context.  The development of today’s fossil-energy-based system is rooted in the Industrial Revolution. For over 200 years, the development of energy technology has been focused on lowering costs through increased efficiency to support economic growth.  Because of their abundance, availability, and high energy content, coal, oil, and natural gas have proved to be attractive energy sources to produce electricity, run industrial processes, propel transportation vehicles, and provide energy for residential and commercial applications.  As fossil energy use increased and adverse environmental effects became apparent, energy technology also evolved to minimize them.  However, all of this enormous technology development has assumed that the free venting of CO2 to the atmosphere was environmentally harmless.

Why is carbon sequestration important? Given the magnitude of carbon reductions needed to stabilize the atmosphere, capture and sequestration could be a major tool for reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere from fossil fuels; in fact, sequestration may be essential for the continued large-scale use of fossil fuels.  It will allow greater flexibility in the future primary energy supply.

There are many technological issues to resolve before carbon sequestration will be a viable environmental option.  In the following sections, we will look at the basics of the carbon cycle, carbon sequestration, and more details on the various methods of carbon sequestration.

Course Content

This course content is in the following PDF document:

Carbon Sequestration

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Course Summary

Carbon capture and sequestration will become an important topic as the United States attempts to modify greenhouse gas emissions.  Coal is the most predominate natural energy resource in the United States and it will continue to be a major component in the energy mix for electric power generation for many years.  Carbon sequestration will likely cause energy costs to rise sharply.

Carbon sequestration is presently being used in sample scale applications, but it is largely unproven on the scale needed to manage the CO2 emissions for fossil fueled power plants.  However, geologic, terrestrial, and ocean sequestration of CO2 are all promising technologies that must be considered.  Significant research is needed to find ways to transport and safely sequester CO2


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.