Why it is a necessity2 April 2020
CCUS in the EU, a new position paper from Energy Technologies Europe (formerly EPPSA (European Power Plant Suppliers Association) but now describing itself as representing “providers of state-of-the-art solutions for energy conversion”) sets out the case for carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
The EU emits almost 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, the ETE paper notes. This amount will need to be drastically reduced to transform the EU into a net-zero emitting economy, thus calling for several solutions to be deployed, and one of these solutions involves the capture and storage or utilisation of CO2, argues ETE.
If we are serious about reaching the common EU goal of carbon neutrality, CCUS needs to be part of EU long term strategy, says ETE.
The capture of carbon dioxide can essentially take place in two ways, namely: straight from the flue gases of industries such as steel making, which is referred to as point source capture; or from the atmosphere, via direct air capture (DAC).
Why do we need CCUS?
Currently the world is not on track to remain well below a 2°C increase in global temperatures – let alone remaining below 1.5°C – meaning that the large scale deployment of CCUS is imperative, ETE suggests, noting that the European Commission stated in their European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy, CCS deployment is necessary, especially in energy intensive industries and – in the transitional phase – for the production of carbon-free hydrogen.
If we only rely on generating more electricity from renewable sources, investing in energy efficiency and producing more renewable fuels and carriers, we will not be able to achieve an adequate amount of emissions reductions, the ETE paper suggests.
The role that CCUS needs to fulfil is recognised on a European and global level, the position paper says. This is well reflected in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report Global warming of 1.5°C. The IPCC’s fifth assessment report concluded that not making use of carbon capture technologies would significantly increase the costs of climate change mitigation.
CCUS needs to be rolled out on a large scale at the latest by 2035 in order to achieve the long term goals of carbon neutrality. Besides the climate benefits this will deliver, it will also help European companies to export their technologies and provide jobs of all skill levels for European workers, ETE says.
What can CCUS do?
The climate change mitigation potential varies depending on whether the captured carbon dioxide is utilised (CCU) or stored (CCS) and on whether the CO2 sequestered is from fossil or biological origins.
The outcomes range from halving CO2 emissions compared to the fossil fuel alternative, to carbon neutrality and even to becoming carbon negative. Therefore, it is important to understand clearly that different types of CCUS lead to different degrees of decarbonisation. See Figure 1.
What has been achieved already by CCUS?
CCUS is not a technology out of our reach, notes ETE; several successful demonstration projects already exist and are currently operating. The position paper summarises these as follows:
? Northern Lights
The Northern Lights project is a CCS project in Norway, a country with over 20 years of successful CCS experience. In this specific project, CO2 is captured from three industrial plants close to Oslo: a cement factory; an ammonia plant; and a waste-to-energy plant. This captured CO2 is transported by ship to an offshore underground reservoir. Here, the captured CO2 is permanently stored in microscopic rock pores, similar to the way the earth has stored natural gas for millions of years.
A project at the Drax site in the United Kingdom demonstrates the feasibility of bioenergy CCS (BECCS). A biomass fuelled power plant produces electricity while capturing the CO2 and storing it underground. Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing with the beverages industry to use some of the captured CO2.
The MefCO2 project (Figure 2) is an EU-funded carbon capture and utilisation project in Germany where CO2 is captured from a power plant. This CO2 is then converted into methanol using hydrogen produced by renewable electricity. The methanol can then be used as a fuel for industry and transport. Currently the project is being succeeded by the ALIGN-CCUS project (which has the goal of transforming six European industrial regions into economically robust, low-carbon centres by 2025).
What is needed from EU policies?
The ETE position paper argues that several actions are needed to make sure that CCUS technologies live up to their potential and contribute their share in the struggle to reduce CO2 emissions, the most important step being recognition of the potential of CCUS technologies in combatting climate change.
CCUS is not a silver bullet, ETE cautions, but it is an integral part of the solution and needs an appropriate political framework to live up to its potential.
Energy Technologies Europe thus calls on the European policymakers to:
- appropriately recognise CCUS in the EU long term strategy on greenhouse gas emissions reductions;
- ensure funding is made available, especially for much needed large-scale demonstration.
Demonstration CCUS projects not only bring cost reductions by progressing the technology along the learning curve, but can also spark new projects that can make use of newly created infrastructure and value chains. In this way, a demonstration project can support several commercial projects in its slipstream, the position paper says.
ETE policy recommendations:
? State aid rules should be revised to cover carbon capture and utilisation, alongside renewables, energy efficiency and CCS. Currently, EU state aid guidelines make no allowance for carbon capture and utilisation technologies, which complicates government support. ETE advocates that carbon capture and utilisation projects that have significant carbon abatement potential should be eligible for state aid.
- The quantification of carbon abatement is currently done by means of a number of different lifecycle analysis methodologies, and not all capture the complexity of the processes and applications. For that reason, an EU methodology is needed that is fit to be systematically applied to all carbon capture and utilisation projects, but takes into account their specificities in order to ensure a level playing field.
- To transition carbon capture and utilisation projects from demonstration to the commercial stage, clear and stable legislation is needed. The treatment of CCU and CCS under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), but also under other pieces of legislation such as the Renewable Energy Directive needs to be clarified. It is still not entirely clear how CCU will be treated under the EU ETS.
- The methodology to determine whether fuels making use of captured carbon (recycled carbon fuels) comply with sustainability criteria, still needs to be determined. The lagging of these legislative processes creates uncertainty in the market and delays investment decisions and the implementation of CCUS projects.
- Finally, there are currently no incentives in place for negative emission projects such as BECCS. Without a market for negative emissions, BECCS projects cannot become commercial and achieving climate targets will be more difficult. Therefore, a European market solution needs to be designed in order to monetise the value that BECCS projects bring.
The ETE position paper calls upon the EU institutions “to recognise the important role of CCUS and to develop a clear and supportive legislative framework to foster the development of CCUS technologies appropriately in line with their climate change mitigation potential.”