The generation of carbon dioxide is a direct consequence of extracting the maximum energy possible from fossil fuels. However, emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere can be avoided by returning the carbon to the lithosphere. At sufficient purity, CO2 can be injected into the subsurface for permanent storage. However, because fuel conversion requires oxygen from the environment, at least one chemical separation must be performed to achieve the CO2 purity required.
Carbon dioxide capture and separation is a costly and inefficient process using present day technology. At thermodynamic efficiencies of 15% - 25%, these unit operations can consume 10% - 20% of a power plant's output, and their use is predicted to raise electricity generation costs by 50 to 100%. There is significant opportunity to exploit fundamental advances in chemistry and engineering to drive down the operational penalties that CO2 capture imposes on power production.