CCUS to play a critical role in meeting global net zero targets

By Jason Hendry, director of Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and managing director for England and renewables strategy, Peterson Energy Logistics

By 2050, the UK is legally required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels and a vital component of this ‘net zero’ target will be the development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies.

The emission reduction technology has been identified as a ‘critical’ part of our net zero goals by The International Energy Agency (IEA), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees that CCS is a key part of meeting targets for greenhouse gas emissions set out in the Paris Agreement.

It’s not just fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide (CO2), industries such as steel, cement, refining chemicals, glass, and ceramics all release the gas as part of their production, and although reducing emissions and switching to alternative sources of power, such as wind, solar, tidal stream, wave, biomass, geothermal, is most important, this won’t be enough on its own to limit global temperatures to 1.5C.

CCS, supported by technologies such as Direct Air Capture (DAC), can help reduce emissions from industries that are difficult to decarbonise by capturing CO2 and transporting it from where it was produced, via ship or pipeline, and storing it deep underground in geological formations or under the ocean.

In addition to reducing emissions, a related concept known as Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) allows for the re-use of carbon, converting it into, for example, low-carbon hydrogen and biomethane. This contributes to a more resilient supply of energy, and supports the energy mix of wind, wave, solar, etc, on days when there is a lack of these natural resources.

We know that CCS works with projects operating in several countries including the UK. According to the Global Status of CCS Report, there were 194 large-scale CCS facilities globally in 2022 and the outlook for CCS has never been more positive. It also highlights the capacity for CCS projects in development globally has increased by 44 percent over the previous 12 months.

In 2017 the UK Government set out a new approach to CCUS in its Clean Growth Strategy, which was designed to make the UK a global technology leader for CCUS. The current ambition to capture and store 20-30Mt of carbon emissions per year by 2030, supports its overall goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

As part of the 2023 Spring Budget, the government announced a £20bn investment in CCUS scale-up projects across the UK over the next 20 years.

In July, the Acorn project in the North East of Scotland and the Viking project in the Humber were selected as CCUS clusters. Alongside Hynet in North West England and North Wales and the East Coast Cluster in Teeside and Humber, it is estimated these four clusters will support up to 50,000 jobs in the UK by 2050.

A recent Arup report also outlined the “high value” opportunities within the CCS supply chain, which it says the UK is well placed to capitalise on due to its geology and strength in North Sea energy. As well as accelerating the decarbonisation of our industrial and power sectors, CCUS has the potential to create thousands of jobs and support the UK economy.

There is, however, a long way to go. The UK Government estimates the need to raise £15bn in private investment just to construct and deliver the early stages of CCUS transport and storage assets. In addition to cost challenges, there are technical difficulties, safety, storage capacity, and regulatory requirements as well as public perceptions to overcome.

With the backdrop of the climate emergency and the need for energy security and affordability now, whilst working towards a greener future powered by renewables, we must act now, moving forward with all proven methods for emission reduction from hard-to-abate sectors.

AREG supports all forms of renewable energy and technologies to reduce emissions and as part of its Energy Futures series of events, it plans to host a CCUS focussed webinar in 2024 to explore current and future projects and opportunities for its members across the supply chain. To stay up to date with AREG events and find out more about membership, contact [email protected]

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AREG is the original energy transition organisation, working on behalf of members to empower the energy supply chain and champion its expertise. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to find out more about membership.