The lack of political direction has been the greatest obstacle to the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage, writes Graeme Sweeney.
Dr. Graeme Sweeney is Chairman of the Zero Emissions Platform.
The critical role of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in meeting Europe’s energy, climate and societal goals is indisputable and ever more pressing.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have both highlighted the necessity for CCS to form part of global decarbonisation efforts. The European Commission, Parliament and Council have acknowledged the need for this crucial technology. And the EU’s recent Energy Union – its most ambitious climate and energy strategy to date – has reinforced the role CCS must play in achieving our decarbonisation goals.
But it is time for a little less conversation and a lot more action. We know from experience with Canada’s Boundary Dam Post-Combustion Coal-Fired CCS installation and ADM’s Bio-CCS project in Decatur that CCS is feasible and that the costs of building it on the next plant could be significantly reduced. We have a proven technology that needs to reach maturity in a limited amount of time and there is work to be done.
The logic that emitting CO2 is cheaper than capturing and storing it and where a near-term business case is weak needs to be disrupted. CCS projects are being built globally and Europe now needs a clear plan of action to make CCS a commercial viability. The last decade of experience has provided some crucial insights into how CCS deployment can be organised effectively.
So far, the greatest obstacles to deploying CCS in Europe have been clear political direction and developing the right funding mechanisms and incentives. To significantly accelerate CCS, the deployment of demonstration projects must continue as along with the delivery of transport and storage infrastructure and capacity.
CCS infrastructure is needed to transport hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 every year from power plants and energy-intensive industries to geological storage sites across Europe. And the potential for economies of scale are enormous: if different CO2 sources are located in close proximity, they can share such infrastructure, potentially across Member State borders.
To create this infrastructure existing EU policies and public financing opportunities are imperative and require a systematic approach to utilizing the options we have at hand. Funding mechanisms such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), Innovation & Modernisation Funds and European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) would significantly accelerate the progress of CCS projects and infrastructure.
However, one of the most effective ways to unlock commercial-scale deployment of CCS is to convincingly make the business case for investment.
European-based “Market Makers,” either state-owned or regulated private entities, would ensure efficient and cost-effective mechanisms for accelerating the deployment of CCS by creating flexibility in the market. They would do so by purchasing CO2 for transport and storage. This essentially incentivises industries and power plants to capture their CO2 by providing accessibility to storage opportunities. As a result, Market Makers can develop into regional storage providers, thus driving the expansion of an accompanying pan-European infrastructure. Such entities could be funded for a specific period of time through, for example, the future Innovation Fund.
Such a mechanism would have a ripple effect by stimulating the uptake of CCS technologies.
It would create an incentive market for additional CCS projects across power and industry and would drive further appraisal of storage opportunities.
It would also stimulate the expansion of CCS “hubs” in Europe; strategic locations for storing any CO2 captured in places which do not have the storage capacity. This is critical to the success of CCS in Europe, as it allows all Member States to reap the benefits of the technology.
The time has come to translate hypothetical goals into tangible actions. We have committed ourselves to concrete decarbonisation targets which require CCS and success hinges on earnest political support. As Member States pin down their national decarbonisation plans, they should identify ways they can benefit from this technology with an eye to 2050. And at pan-European level, we look to the European Commission to channel the best of intentions towards effective and concrete outcomes.