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Carbon capture, utilization and storage in the European Union

Panel: 1. Processes and technologies to meet future challenges

Authors:
Guillermo Martinez Castilla, European Commission, The Netherlands
Anca Itul, JRC European Commission

Abstract

Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) has been widely acknowledged as an essential technology to achieve the 2050 climate targets. In addition, a recent study from the Global CCS institute reveals that Years 2022 and 2023 have seen unprecedented advances for CCUS technologies across the world in several fronts. According to the European Union (EU) most recent pathways towards a climate neutral energy system, CCUS technologies represent a key strategy to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors such as cement and steel manufacturing. More specifically, the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) was proposed by the Commission in March 2023, which sets an annual injection capacity target of at least 50 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. Thus, an accelerated deployment of CCUS technologies is expected within the upcoming years, which opens up new challenges in terms of technological and economical aspects, logistics and supply chains, as well as trans-boundary policies, standards and other regulations.

The present work provides a review of the current status, value chains and market positions of CCUS technologies in the EU as compared to the rest of the world. The methodology followed includes a systematic review of literature studies and of research and development projects both at EU level as well as globally. Additionally, the work makes use of previous analyses of the European Commission based on data from the European Patent Office concerning CCUS innovations. Lastly, an assessment of the technology readiness level (TRL) of CO2 capture, utilization, transport and storage technologies is carried out based on the widely applied definitions by the European Commission and the US Department of Energy.

The study shows that at a global level, the US, Canada and Japan are the leaders of the cumulative public R&D funding for CCUS technologies for the last 10 years, while the EU ranks firth worldwide with a 10% share (with Germany, France and the Netherlands as frontrunners). Within the past five years, the US leads the ranking regarding attraction of venture capital (VC), while the EU managed to secure 18% of the global VC investments on CCUS. When it comes to CCUS-related high-value inventions, EU holds the historical second place after the US, with France currently at the forefront of the EU Member States.

At the technical level, several capture technologies are available commercially such as amine absorption, pressure swing adsorption and cryogenic separation, with others such as calcium looping, polymeric membranes and oxy-fuel combustion moving towards TRL 7-8 with more than 35 demonstration plants within the EU. Similarly, pipeline transport is already deployed at a full-scale and commercially available, while shipping is gaining momentum in the North Sea at the demonstration level. From the cost perspective, CCUS costs remain high and largely dependent upon the technology and emitting source characteristics. Nonetheless, a clear pattern can be noted in the fact that exploiting economies of scale and sharing infrastructure lead to cost reductions, with novel business cases arising under varying policies.

Lastly, this work concludes with an overview of the main barriers identified and some recommendations for R&D investments to overcome these barriers and aim for a full-scale deployment of CCUS technologies. These include: i) advancements in materials and process integration, to enable high and flexible capture rates with low energy requirements, while ensuring environmental friendliness of the capture technologies, ii) more robust life cycle assessments to evaluate the environmental impact of CO2 utilization pathways, together with demonstration scale operations, iii) developments of storage capacity potentials, and iv) an in-depth supply chain analysis and materials demand forecast.

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