EU revives carbon capture hopes in push to be climate neutral

  • EC, ministers, industry to discuss Sep 5 in Oslo
  • CCS, power-to-gas tech rivals for green gas demand
  • EC must publish EU CO2 storage update by end-Oct

The EU is reviving its hopes that carbon capture and storage technology can play a significant role in its plans to decarbonize its economy by 2050, and is planning a high level meeting on September 5 in Oslo to discuss this. With the final files of the EU’s clean energy package in force since July, the EU’s focus is turning to both implementing the new rules intended to cut its emissions to 2030, and working on its longer-term climate strategy. The policy choices made will have big implications for natural gas, which European Commission officials have repeatedly said can only have a role in the EU’s energy mix after 2050 if it is decarbonized.

The Oslo meeting aims to assess the role of CCS in the EU’s strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy. The meeting will also “highlight the urgent need to develop early CCS projects” to speed up wide deployment in Europe, according to co-hosts the EC and the Norwegian government.

The EU’s hopes last decade that CCS would be a major decarbonization option for fossil-fueled power plants have now faded, as none of the proposed large-scale CCS-enabled demonstration plants made it to operation. The EC still sees a role for CCS, however, particularly for energy-intensive industries and “in the transitional phase” for producing carbon-free hydrogen, it said in its long-term EU climate strategy published in November. The gas industry favors the pre-combustion approach over CCS, arguing that it allows better economies of scale than post-combustion processes on power plants. The carbon capture element is also already a standard industrial process, with around 76% of the world’s 70 million mt/year dedicated hydrogen output made by removing carbon from natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency. This decarbonized hydrogen gas can be used instead of natural gas in industrial heat processes and can be transported in natural gas grids.

More policy support needed

The EC has said CCS will need “a much larger research, innovation and demonstration effect” to succeed, as well as “coordinated and forceful action” to address public concerns about CO2 storage in some EU countries. It has to report by the end of October on how national governments have implemented the EU’s 2009 CO2 storage directive, which aimed to reassure the public that storage sites would be secure.

CCS will also have to compete for EU funding and other support with other technologies like power-to-gas facilities, which can use renewable power to electrolyze water to produce renewable, “green” hydrogen.

National governments have to submit their own long-term climate strategies looking at least 30 years ahead to the EC by January 1. This should reveal which technologies they favor, and their expectations of them.