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Carbon Capture: The Reel Deal

North America | 8 February 2024 | 8 min


Films like Chinatown and Top Gun. What do they have in certain shots: halation. This is an effect that, when shooting a film – on film – creates a ‘halo’ effect around the borders of the frame, generally in clear red and orange. In past film processing, once the director announced cut on the final scene, the film was packed and shipped to a processing facility, the carbon backing of the stock was removed and thus, halation also removed to create a sheen of movie magic, with deep colors and (hopefully) engaging performances all at 24 frames per second. Without the halos.  


Many film directors embrace the effect of halation. And even on digital photography mediums today, light and exposure are used to create the same effect. So, this brings us to carbon again. It is something that, like the film editors of past times know, is in our worldly realms but also something that needs to be looked at, accounted for, removed or when required, stored safely for a particular use.

Carbon capture is something we are focused on.  We do not want to exist in a ‘halo’ so essentially, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on elements that contribute to climate change. The goal, as a society, is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C and in this year, countries will be reporting on the actions taken to do so.

Vacuum. What is it and how does it relate to this?

Vacuum is at its essence – nothing. But at the same time it is involved with everything.  A car, an airplane, a computer, a phone. And to speak to the film industry since we’re on the topic – lots of weather:  fog, ice, water vortexes. Also blood spatter? Next time you watch a medical drama, Dexter, Poseidon or a John Carpenter film, know that a vacuum pump was likely used in a process to create a storm or a gross spectacle. Vacuum has been used to create a lot of these effects practically on the big screen. Sometimes with and without halation.

But to get down to brass tacks. Vacuum can also help to pull back on the ecological footprint of carbon usage. To ‘edit’ it so to speak. Like with the production of a 1940’s neo-noir film, shot on film stock with a carbon-backing, vacuum can help to decrease an ecological footprint in a production process by removing that carbon ‘backing’ or to safely store it. There is much thought put into the processing of carbon from our perspective as a vacuum company, not just for more efficiency for our customers but for the sake of overall health, safety and a product with a ‘final edit’ that everyone can stand behind.

Traditional film projection at a movie theater would involve a series of reels. A projectionist would have to change the reels out during the show since a feature film would exist on several and the term ‘cigarette burn’ is where you can see a little burnt circle in the corner of the frame as reels change. So where do we come in on the first of a four-act, four-reel structure?

Reel 1:

Direct Air Capture involves vacuum systems and heat to actually release CO2, then once captured and stored for direct use or storage, the process is in a new realm, hence the actual term of CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization & Storage).  Liquid ring pumps have been ideal in these situations as they operate quietly, can be integrated into a plant process effectively and do not require the exact oils for maintenance they are meant to be mitigating against.

This could be akin to someone getting the dailies of the first day of ‘The Big Sleep’ and processing the film print in a chemical bath, assessing the print for its visual properties and deciding on what the ‘final cut’ is.


Pre-Combustion Capture actually removes CO2 from fossil fuels before combustion. Before the combustion, gasification and oxidation of the fuels produce and separate CO2 and the Hydrogen and CO2 is separated or, rather, isolated via absorption, meaning one thing absorbs another.

For example, the cinematography of 2001: A Space Odyssey. While there is the space-time continuum being discussed and planets or galaxies can be absorbed to create new universes, this is also a good example of halation on film stock. The third act represents this. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick not only predicted modern AI, computer technology and more but shot something on 65 millimeter film, which was somewhat revolutionary and through a chemical process (at the time, 65mm stock had a large carbon backing), separated light from dark, while also maintaining a middle ground of color.

To drive it down to how we relate, we focus on the latest technological developments and consider that there are concerns in development, process and output. Though they weren’t launched in 2001, our dry screw pumps are especially suited to this application (especially with an EH booster) and are made to create that separation of CO2 and H2 from a gas mixture. They are flexible, easy-to-control solutions – and what they’re really doing is creating a pressure difference to affect separation of the elements.

And we haven’t named any of our pumps ‘HAL’ so don’t worry about that. They are made to be the instruments to separate the light from dark and maintain the middle ground so things can push ahead as planned, according to any requirement.


Post-Combustion Carbon Capture: As it sounds, things have gone through the process. Now it’s time to, well, capture. Vacuum is used to filtrate and dewater at this later stage. Gypsum is the target here – the soft sulfate mineral, widely used as a component in fertilizer and can be used in many forms of plaster, drywall and…sidewalk chalk.

Now the film is in the can, but it needs to be looked after. Processed, assessed.

Like a Moviala, at this stage we try to help with the post-production, to help edit as needed. Dry screw pumps as well as steam ejector systems can be applied here to handle the vapors and solvents in this stage. And our teams are always on hand to assist.

Reel 4:

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture: This process takes biomass and stores carbon from the atmosphere which is burned to store energy. It sequesters the CO2 and sets it aside for later production. Liquid rings, again, are particularly suited for this. No oil to deal with and systemization can be customized per application.  

So, think of it like a ‘shelved’ film or series that has a stacked cast and just needs to be released at a later time since Titanic 2 just came out. But once production is ready to go, the camera assistant will be reeling up the film stock for day one and at the call of ‘action’ things will roll.


And for the credit reel we’d like to say that this is one of a myriad of areas we’re involved in and we welcome any discussion for your own application or set of needs. The team ‘behind the scenes’ is ready for action.  


Want to learn more about Edwards' Vacuum Solutions for Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), visit:

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