North Sea CCS holds the key to Europe's transition to a low-carbon economy

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 29 Jan 2016 17:58, Last updated: 2016-01-29
Carbon capture and storage could boost the low-carbon drive of North Sea nations
Carbon capture and storage could boost the low-carbon drive of North Sea nations

North Sea nations have the skills and storage capacity to deliver a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) industry that will transform Europe’s industry and power sectors, providing a least cost transition to a low-carbon future and a reliable electricity supply while helping to secure economic resilience, says a report released today by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS).

The report urgently calls for specific policy support and wider political ambition within the European Union, and is published as the European Commission meets stakeholders in Edinburgh to discuss a strategic vision for energy infrastructure in the North Sea basin.

The SCCS report, A CCS future for Europe: catalysing North Sea action, derives from a meeting of European and international experts, and delivers a ten-point plan for policy makers, highlighting the need for robust business models for CO₂ transport and storage in the North Sea basin as well as targeted funding support to develop regional carbon capture “clusters” of emitters.

It also calls for CCS to be fully recognised financially as a high-value climate change technology “unique in enabling the decarbonisation of thermal power generation and essential industrial processes”.

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said: “Europe faces tough targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. As the EU considers policy options to drive CCS deployment in line with 2030 climate and energy objectives, it is essential that this starts with CO₂ storage.

“Earlier this week, a review of the CCS Directive recommended a Europe-wide target of 220 million tonnes a year for CCS deployment by 2030 due to the ‘genuine and urgent need for CCS in Europe’.

“Our new report strongly supports this finding and shows how the North Sea region can accelerate delivery of CCS across many nations. We specify actions to deliver essential infrastructure, and pinpoint incentives to support CO₂ transport and storage as well as develop cost-effective CCS clusters in regions across Europe.

“Now is the time to transfer skills from a challenged oil industry to revolutionise carbon storage.

“Our report also suggests lessons that Europe could learn from developments in North America, where a CO₂ pipelines infrastructure and the use of CO₂ in enhanced oil recovery – as a profitable business model which also stores carbon – is driving the delivery of CCS for both industrial clusters and power generation.

“If Europe wants to remain a leader in tackling climate change, and maximise the contribution of its science and industry expertise to international action, then it must overcome the business barriers to CCS deployment.”

The report delivers a ten-point plan for EU and Member State policy makers:

• Rapidly deliver a renewed New Entrants Reserve financing instrument (NER400) of the EU’s Emissions Trading System to support new industrial and power generation CCS projects

• Support the creation of CO2 transport and storage infrastructure through the EU’s Projects of Common Interest, including pipeline construction and CO₂ shipping

• Create capture-to-storage CCS cluster plans for Europe’s industrial regions

• Provide specific funding, through the EU or Member States, to construct regional carbon capture clusters

• Reward CO₂ transport and storage with clear pricing mechanisms

• Undertake analyses to identify tariff incentive mechanisms for CCS

• Develop a CO₂-Enhanced Oil Recovery plan for the North Sea

• Encourage the research community to take lead on defining future research and development (R&D;) needs for cost reduction with strategic industry input

• Ensure R&D; priorities are informed by industry needs, with feedback from demonstration projects being developed worldwide

• Support existing CCS networks and bodies and their work to exchange information between industry and academia; government and regulators; and financiers and insurers.

Key findings of today’s report include:

• CCS needs to be valued by EU and Member State policy makers as a “high-leverage” climate change mitigation technology; it is unique in enabling the decarbonisation of thermal power generation and essential industrial/manufacturing processes.

• Effective business models are needed to support the development of CO₂ transport and storage, in parallel with policy mechanisms that aim to encourage CO₂ capture from large emitters. The minimum capture target should be 220 million tonnes of CO₂ per year by 2030, with low-carbon CCS electricity tariffs.

• For CCS to deliver at least cost it needs to be undertaken at large scale, with clusters of carbon emitters sharing CO₂ transport and CO2 storage infrastructure.

• CCS “insurance” against carbon pricing is essential to the survival of multiple industrial sectors across the EU. CCS secures industrial output and millions of jobs as well as enhancing energy security and providing back-up to intermittent renewable energy.

• CO₂-Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO₂-EOR) offers a profitable route for the UK and Norway to diversify offshore employment and solve infrastructure blockages for CCS. It also incentivises CO₂ capture from diverse sources. If regulated properly, the carbon storage benefits of CO₂-EOR easily outweigh perceived negatives of extra carbon production.

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