Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration: An Environmental Gold Mine for Aviation?

Devon Brubaker

The conversation about aviation’s role in climate change has increased over the years. With the aviation industry accounting for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, the debate as to the true impact is far from over. However, airports and the carbon removal industry are not waiting for a resolution to that debate. Efforts are underway across the country to find innovative solutions to decarbonize the aviation industry. While the efforts regarding electrification, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel are well known, other lesser-known, nascent technologies are emerging that could revolutionize the conversation, and quite frankly, the opportunities for airports.

The Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration industry is providing rapidly evolving opportunities for industries to capture CO2 and either store it in deep subsurface saline reservoirs or utilize it for production of materials such as synthetic fuels, chemicals and building aggregates. The most economical form of capture—point source—separates CO2 from an industrial exhaust stream that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere; but that method is difficult to apply in the aviation environment. Quite simply, individual aviation sources do not produce enough CO2 to make the capital investment worthwhile; and you can’t exactly attach a CO2 line to the tailpipe of an aircraft. 

With these challenges in mind, airports are looking to other forms of carbon removal. For instance, Denver International Airport (DEN) recently partnered with Denver Parks and Recreation, as part of its Vision 100 initiative, to increase the prairie grasslands surrounding the airport. This effort will provide many benefits to DEN and surrounding communities, the most interesting of which is carbon sequestration. While biological sequestration projects like those at DEN are attainable for nearly all airports, there are new technologies that provide a more precise, scientifically measurable outcome.

Devon Brubaker, A.A.E., is the airport director for Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport in Sweetwater County, WY. He has nearly 20 years of airport management experience at airports big and small across the country.  

This can be achieved through the use of direct air capture technologies that extract CO2 from the atmosphere using either liquid solvents or solid sorbents. When air moves over these chemicals, they selectively react with and trap CO2 but allow the other components of air to pass through. Once CO2 is captured, heat is typically applied to release it from the solvent or sorbent. Just like CO2 captured from point sources, this CO2 can be injected underground for sequestration in certain geologic formations or used in various products and applications.

Direct air capture developers are developing modular technologies that will allow for scalable carbon removal developments. This scalability is precisely why Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport (RKS) was thrilled to learn of a regional initiative called Project Bison development by Carbon Capture Inc. We are well positioned to capitalize on burgeoning carbon removal strategies because RKS is situated on top of the Rock Springs uplift, a prolific geological sequestration site.

Here in Wyoming, pore space ownership resides with the surface estate, so RKS owns an immense asset thousands of feet below its airfield that can be monetized to support airport operations and development for years to come while also reducing emissions.

That is why our Airport Board has partnered with Frontier Carbon Solutions, a pre-eminent carbon sequestration developer operating in Wyoming, to explore decarbonization opportunities for the airport, its customers and surrounding industries. The partnership with Frontier is focused on:

  • exploring the costs, engineering and feasibility of designing, constructing and operating the infrastructure and equipment to facilitate the transportation and/or subsurface storage and sequestration of CO2 at RKS;
  • the study, development and implementation of decarbonization technologies;
  • the study, development or acquisition of low carbon fuels, such as renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel to benefit RKS, its customers or suppliers; and
  • hosting or siting renewable or low carbon energy infrastructure and assets.

Together, we are working toward establishing the world’s first airport-based decarbonization hub featuring carbon capture, carbon sequestration and sustainable aviation fuel production. Airports across the globe looking for innovative climate change solutions may very well find their answers in the growing Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration industry and possibly right here in Southwest Wyoming.

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Fairbanks International Airport Baggage Transport Conveyor Enhanced With Mod Drive™ System

Fairbanks International Airport Baggage Transport Conveyor Enhanced With Mod Drive™ System

Airports face a host of unique industry challenges, such as meeting efficiency regulations and seeking out the best maintenance practices to reduce costs and keep operations flowing. In today’s current economic climate, any potential cost savings can go a long way. 

In 2019, Alaska’s Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) sought to modernize its equipment and operations. They were dissatisfied with the performance of the gearmotors on their baggage transport conveyors and began searching for new suppliers. Regal approached FAI with a solution that could improve equipment performance and simplify maintenance, with the added benefit of energy cost savings: the Hub City® MOD Drive™ system.

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