Great Plains Institute releases Carbon Capture Co-Benefits study

By Great Plains Institute | August 09, 2023

Installing technologies designed to capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and power facilities has the potential to result in billions of annual health benefits nationwide. These health benefits are directly tied to the reduction of other air pollutants that would also be removed in a carbon capture system, according to a first-of-its-kind study—Carbon Capture Co-benefits: Carbon Capture’s Role in Removing Pollutants and Reducing Health Impacts—from the Great Plains Institute and Carbon Solutions, LLC.

The analysis found that reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM) as part of an amine-based carbon capture system led to positive health benefits across all sectors and regions.

The study is the first to quantify the dollar value of the health benefits from reducing harmful co-pollutants by installing carbon capture technologies at representative facilities for seven industrial and power sectors across 10 regions in the United States.

At the regional level, the co-benefits associated with carbon capture at representative facilities led to monetary health benefits ranging from $7 million to nearly $500 million annually. In total, the study modeled up to $1.8 billion in annual US health benefits when examining 54 selected facilities. While not directly included in the study, the potential total annual health benefits among all industrial facilities nationwide could be even higher.

The benefits included reductions in adult and infant mortality, asthma exacerbations, and overall costs of lowering risks of all health categories.

“Most Americans are not aware of the potential co-benefits of carbon capture technologies, and this report quantifies these benefits in a relatable way—in terms of positive health impacts and cost benefits,” GPI Carbon Management Senior Policy Manager Matt Fry said. “As communities and stakeholders evaluate energy projects and technologies, co-benefits should be a part of those conversations.”

The study assumed that carbon capture technologies, in addition to capturing carbon, will also capture at least 75 percent of NOx, 98 percent of SO2, and 100 percent of condensable PM emissions.

The study examined these benefits at 54 representative facilities, which were selected from a subset of facilities that met several criteria. This included those eligible for the federal 45Q carbon capture tax credit, that have reported emissions of PM that includes particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) , NOx, and SO2, and that are not already using carbon capture technologies.

These results indicate significant opportunities for improving air quality through reducing NOx, SO2, and PM2.5 as part of a carbon capture system installed on coal and natural gas power plants, petroleum refineries, as well as iron and steel, cement, ethanol, and fertilizer and ammonia facilities.

“This research is an important first step in quantifying the co-benefits of carbon capture technologies,” Fry said. “But there are areas of future research that will be necessary, including broader, sector-wide analyses, continued research in carbon capture systems, and further examination of how cost benefits associated with improved health outcomes will affect overall health plan savings for Americans.”