Carbon capture warning over climate goals

The failure to develop carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology will leave the world with no hope of meeting its energy and climate goals warns a new report.

Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, (pic) launched the new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) with the warning there needed to be a global effort to deliver CCUS capability.

The report, CCUS in Clean Energy Transitions warned after years of slow progress, technologies to capture carbon emissions and store or reuse them are gaining momentum, a trend that will need to accelerate significantly for the world to achieve its energy and climate goals.

Ms Solberg whose government announced a major funding commitment this week for a new carbon capture project that can help tackle emissions from Norway and neighbouring countries said the time for action was now.

“In order to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage as a technology for the future we need investments in solutions and facilities in many regions and countries,” she said. “CCUS will be necessary on a global scale if we are to meet the Paris Agreement. And we must start now.”

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage is the only group of technologies that contributes both to reducing emissions in key sectors directly and to removing CO2 from the atmosphere to balance the emissions that are the hardest to prevent – a crucial part of reaching the net-zero emissions goals that a growing number of governments and companies have set for themselves.

Part of the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives Series, the new IEA report is the most comprehensive global study on CCUS to date. It assesses the state of play of CCUS technologies and maps out the evolving and expanding role they will need to play to put global emissions on a sustainable trajectory. It includes a detailed analysis of CO2 emissions from power and industrial facilities in China, Europe and the United States and potential for storing them.

“The scale of the climate challenge means we need to act across a wide range of energy technologies. Carbon capture is critical for ensuring our transitions to clean energy are secure and sustainable,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.  “Norway has been a global leader in researching, developing and implementing carbon capture technologies, as demonstrated by its major funding commitment this week to the impressive Longship project, which can help not just Norway but other European countries reduce their emissions.”

Plans for more than 30 commercial CCUS facilities have been announced globally in the last three years. And projects now nearing a final investment decision represent an estimated potential investment of around $27 billion – more than double the investment planned in 2017. The IEA said the portfolio of projects is increasingly diverse and would double the amount of CO2 captured globally.

The report sets out the four main ways that CCUS technologies contribute to clean energy transitions:

  • Tackling emissions from existing energy infrastructure such as power and industrial plants.
  • Providing a solution for some of the most challenging emissions from heavy industries like cement and chemicals, as well as from aviation.
  • Offering a cost-effective pathway for low-carbon hydrogen production in many regions.
  • Removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Although CCUS facilities have been operating for decades in certain industries like natural gas and fertilisers, they are still at an early stage of development in key sectors such as cement. These are the areas where CCUS technologies are particularly important for tackling emissions because of a lack of alternatives.

“Action from governments will be essential for establishing a sustainable and viable market for CCUS,” Dr Birol said. “But industry must also embrace the opportunity. No sector will be unaffected by clean energy transitions – and for some, including heavy industry, the value of CCUS is inescapable. As our new report demonstrates, the IEA is committed to leading CCUS analysis and policy advice worldwide – and to bringing together governments, companies and other key players to work together to achieve our shared energy and climate goals.”

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