Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is quintessential in the decarbonisation of industry
Carbon Capture and Storage is the most advanced and widely employed technological method of capturing the excess CO2 from industrial processes and/or from our atmosphere.
As previously stated in our CCU section, IPCC projection models estimate that global average temperature by the end of the century may be superior to 2°C which will inevitably have drastic consequences on the world.
For these reasons, it is of top priority that we find ways of capturing this CO2 and removing it from the atmosphere.
Currently, CCS is an optimal technology for the rapid reduction of carbon emissions because a lot of the existing oil infrastructure is similar to the infrastructure necessary for the sequestration of CO2.
Carbon Capture and Storage
CCS is comprised of 2 steps:
- Capturing the CO2 from point sources or the atmosphere via a wide range of different adsorbent technologies.
- Safely transporting and sequestrating the CO2 in geological formations.
There are three main stages in the industrial process in which CO2 is captured; pre-, post- or oxy-fuel combustion.
Regarding the chemical technologies found in the capture process, they come from a wide variety of sources. These technologies are also evolving and can significantly affect the efficiency and accessibility of CCS as a whole.
Currently, various simple amines are the most widely used, accessible and cheapest CO2 capturer available.
The problems associated with these amines is that they typically require larger capturing and transport infrastructure and, in order to separate the CO2 from amine, they must be regenerated at very high temperatures.
Scenarios in which excess heat is available make this version of CCS very attractive.
Newer technologies such as Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) offer the possibility of capturing condensed CO2 in a much smaller area with a much more affordable regeneration.
Due to the fact that all plants that use amines have costly expenditures on heating for regeneration, avoiding this would make CCS comprehensively more carbon neutral.
CCS and carbon leakage in the EU
At the heart of the EU’s climate policies is the EU ETS directive, a capped CO2 emissions trading system for the EU, which is slowly increasing the price of the industry’s CO2 emissions.
The price of these emissions will only keep increasing as the EU tries to reach its 2050 climate goals.
This means that some heavily emitting industries may find it cheaper to relocate in countries with no penalisations on CO2 emissions. This phenomenon is known as carbon leakage.
However, not all industries are equally prone to carbon leakage. An example of a heavily emitting industry that is unable to relocate is the cement industry. Cement must be produced relatively close to its source of use to avoid extortionate transport costs.
As the price of CO2 emissions rises, a viable option for the cement industry to not pay for extra emission allowances is to deploy CCS to mitigate its CO2 emissions and becoming carbon neutral.
Carbon Negative Processes: BECCS
Aside from achieving carbon neutrality, CCS is also at the heart of nearly all carbon-negative processes. Presently, the IPCC has already established that global carbon neutrality will not be enough to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement and that negative emissions are the key to meeting these.
Therefore, we should actively develop the right policy framework for negative emissions technologies.
The concept of carbon negativity is simply explained by a process that has a net reduction of all CO2 (emitted and atmospheric). Leading technology in negative emission processes is bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, commonly referred to as BECCS, is a concept in which biomass is turned into bioenergy.
Upon combustion of the bioenergy, the emitted biological CO2 would be captured and stored. As of 2019, the first large scale BECCS project was successfully installed at Drax Power Station in the UK.
As advances in the efficiency of bioenergy and capture technologies emerge and the policy framework develops, more BECCS projects will ensue. However, the largest impediment to BECCS technologies remains political will.
Presently, no policies are set in place to incentivise negative emissions which would grant greater impetus to the BECCS movement.
Achieving carbon negativity via directly capturing atmospheric CO2
In contrast to previously mentioned CO2 capture from specific industrial point sources, direct air capture (DAC) is the process of removing CO2 directly from the ambient air.
Combining DAC with carbon storage could act as a unique CCS technology that would become a promising feat for climate engineering.
There are still several economic and regulatory hurdles for this technology but we must contemplate the future of our societies.
As carbon prices increase and the number of available point sources decreases, we must envisage the potential of DAC and CCS (DACCS) and bioenergy in combination with CCS (BECCS) in the mission of achieving negative emissions.
Despite the criticisms that CCS is a short-term solution to a ‘carbon addiction’, the general consensus is that CCS will be indispensable in meeting the global 2°C threshold declared in the Paris Agreement.
Whether it be uniquely through carbon neutrality or as a key technology of carbon-negative emissions, it is clear CCS will play a pivotal role in the EU’s long term climate policies.
To ensure that we make the best use of these decarbonising and much-needed technologies for our energy transition, Energy Technologies Europe endorses legislation that appropriately recognises all the benefits and necessity of CCS technologies and ensures fair remuneration for the carbon abatements.