Carbon capture: Reducing the footprint

Over the last decade, the world has spent trillions of dollars trying to decarbonise. Despite this, emissions are still increasing.

Research from the International Energy Agency reveals that global CO2 emissions declined by 5.8 percent in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. However, as economies recover in 2021, it forecasts that global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 4.8 percent – the largest single increase since the carbon-intensive economic recovery from the global financial crisis.

Carbon capture and storage technology is one solution. In the last year, global capacity rose by 32 percent, according to figures from the Global CCS Institute. “Carbon capture and storage supports a just transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Matt Bright, senior advocacy and communications adviser at the institute. “The technology enables energy-intensive industries to take significant steps forward in mitigating their emissions, which is necessary in building a sustainable energy sector.”

Ruth Herbert, CEO at the CCS Association, agrees: “CCS is one of very few technologies which can decarbonise flexible power generation, energy-intensive industries, at-scale hydrogen production and deliver permanent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through technologies like bioenergy with CCS [BECCS] and direct air carbon capture and storage [DACCS].”

Action needed

IEA data shows that to reach net zero, CCS will need to account for 15 percent of emissions reductions globally.

“Reaching net zero by 2050 requires urgent and accelerated deployment of CCS technology”

Matt Bright
Global CCS Institute

The primary challenge for CCS is the pace at which it is being adopted, argues Bright. “Reaching net zero by 2050 requires urgent and accelerated deployment of CCS technology,” he says. “As of now, there are 135 CCS facilities in the project pipeline. While promising, that number will need to increase by 100-fold.” He says factors that lead to delayed CCS action can often be policy-based and regulatory, including restrictive or limited clarity by governments around CCS infrastructure, such as CO2 transport pipelines and storage.

In October, the UK government chose the HyNet and the East Coast carbon capture, utilisation and storage projects in northern England as initial beneficiaries of £1 billion ($1.4 billion; €1.2 billion) of state funding. The UK launched its CCUS cluster sequencing process in May. “In the next five years we will have at least two clusters operational in the UK, with a further two clusters on the way to operation before the end of the decade,” says Herbert. “We will have a strong pipeline of projects from other industrial regions and more dispersed sites looking to access the CO2 infrastructure.

“We are already starting to see the industry’s choices about where to invest being based on a region’s ability and commitment to capture and store their carbon in the near future.”