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Des arbres artificiels pour capter le CO2

Un grand nombre de voies technologiques sont explorées pour tenter de capturer le CO2 et diminuer ainsi la concentration de gaz à effet de serre. Parmi celles-ci, l'une des plus prometteuses est celle des arbres synthétiques, conçue par Klaus Lackner, géophysicien et professeur à l’université de Columbia (États-Unis). Encore au stade de prototype, cet épurateur de CO2 devrait filtrer l’air à la manière d’un arbre naturel, mais avec une capacité bien plus importante. « Un épurateur de CO2 de la même taille qu’un moulin à vent peut retirer de l’air beaucoup plus de CO2 qu’un moulin ne peut éviter d’en produire », explique l’inventeur de la méthode.

L’idée lui a été inspirée par sa fille : « C’était en 1998. Claire avait travaillé à un projet qui lui a permis de démontrer qu’on pouvait retirer le dioxyde de carbone de l'atmosphère ». En effet, au cours d’une nuit, elle a réussi à récupérer la moitié du CO2 contenu dans l’air. En prolongeant cette expérience, Klaus Lackner a construit un « aspirateur » qui, placé dans des zones de vent, absorbe l’air chargé en CO2 et le filtre, avant de le relâcher purifié. La soude caustique est la clé du succès de cette méthode car c’est à son contact que le dioxyde de carbone se transforme en solution liquide de bicarbonate de sodium. Ce liquide est ensuite comprimé jusqu’à se transformer en gaz très concentré pouvant être stocké dans la roche poreuse des fonds marins. Sa densité étant plus importante que celle de l’eau, le gaz ne peut pas s’en échapper et y demeure séquestré durant des millions d’années. Selon le professeur Lackner, cette approche technologique devrait permettre progressivement d'extraire une quantité croissante de CO2 de l’air pour un coût décroissant.

Cet arbre artificiel a une capacité de fixation du carbone 1000 fois plus grande que celle d'un arbre naturel : il serait capable de capter 90 000 tonnes de CO2 par an (soit l'équivalent des émissions de CO2 d'environ 20 000 voitures). Pour l'instant, chaque tonne de CO2 fixée par cet arbre artificiel revient à environ 130 euros. Le procédé n'est pas encore compétitif si l'on se réfère au prix moyen de tonne de CO2 sur le marché du carbone (autour de 13 Euros la tonne) mais il pourrait le devenir d'ici une dizaine d'années avec la hausse prévisible du prix de la tonne de CO2. Cette technique, combinée à d’autres technologies semblables, pourrait contribuer à stabiliser puis à faire décroître l’augmentation des taux de CO2 dans l'atmosphère.

Les géo-ingénieurs ne nient pas l'importance des mesures politiques visant à réduire nos émissions de CO2 mais soulignent que ces efforts doivent être complétés par ces nouvelles technologies de capture et de séquestration de CO2, si nous voulons suffisamment réduire nos émissions de CO2 pour atteindre les objectifs internationaux de limitation du réchauffement climatique définis lors des sommet des Copenhague et Cancun. Rappelons que, selon l'AIE, les émissions humaines de GES devraient passer de 50 à 60 Gtonnes d'ici 2030 et les émissions anthropiques de CO2 liées à l'utilisation des énergies fossiles de 30 à 41 Gtonnes d'ici 2030, soit une augmentation de 37 %.

La plupart des spécialistes estiment que l'ensemble des technologies de capture et de séquestration de CO2 pourraient permettre de piéger au moins 10 % des émissions humaines de CO2 d'ici 2030 (soit environ 4 Gtonnes par an, ce qui représente la totalité des émissions actuelles de CO2 de l'Union européenne), ce qui fait de cette voie technologique un levier indispensable qui doit être mobilisé en association avec les cinq autres grands leviers d'action contre le changement climatique : réduction à la source de notre consommation globale d'énergie en modifiant nos modes de vie et notre organisation économique, amélioration de l'efficacité énergétique à tous les niveaux, protection des forêts et réorientation de l'agriculture, redéfinition de l'urbanisme et développement massif et synergique des énergies renouvelables.

Article rédigé par Mark Furness pour RT Flash

Columbia Magazine

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