Created by intellectual property firm Appleyard Lees, the Inside Green Innovation:Progress Report 2022 notes a steady growth in CCUS patent filing in recent years, with more than 140 filed in 2020. This represents a 60 per cent increase on numbers from 2015, with the IP firm anticipating further growth across the 2021-2022 period.
“Capturing and storing carbon is essential to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global temperature increase to no more than two degrees Celsius and achieving net zero by 2050,” said patent attorney Sarah Gibbs, senior associate at Appleyard Lees.
“Our research shows that the number and scale of CCUS projects worldwide is accelerating, including new storage site activity in the North Sea.”
In a recent interview with The Engineer, former UK chief scientific advisor Sir David King outlined how removal of carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere was vital for rebalancing the planet’s climate. So far, however, the technology to remove CO2 at scale has been elusive, with just a handful of pilot projects up and running.
“It would probably take us to the end of the century even if we were to remove 30 billion tonnes a year,” said Sir David. “Now, there’s your big engineering challenge. Can we remove that amount of greenhouse gases? And globally we’re emitting about 40 billion tonnes, right? So the balance is in the wrong direction.”
According to Appleyard Lees, half of the new priority patents filed in 2020 relate to direct air capture (DAC), where carbon is removed direct from the atmosphere by passing air through filters that strip the CO2. Switzerland’s Climeworks- one of the leaders in DAC – launched its “Orca” direct air capture and storage plant in 2021, said to be the world’s largest. In June 2022, it also announced plans for “Mammoth”, a plant with the capability to capture 36 kilo-tonnes per annum. But DAC is not the only area of carbon capture drawing attention and investment.
“Improving current or developing novel technologies will, we believe, increase global interest in carbon capture – including the industrialisation of air capture,” said Ashley Wragg, patent attorney at Appleyard Lees.
“However, a promising future alternative could come from using algae as a natural, direct air capture method. Current innovation includes growing algae in large ponds to remove carbon from the air and bury it underground – and this area is attracting interest from major companies.”