Blog: Navigating the Non-Technical Challenges and Opportunities in CCUS - By Matthias Honegger

Matthias Honegger

We are excited to announce the forthcoming publication of our white paper on the non-technical challenges and opportunities in developing Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) hubs and clusters. This document is an important outcome of the CCUS ZEN project. By delving into the multifaceted aspects beyond the technical realm, we highlight features that are crucial for the success of CCUS initiatives.

The white paper explores non-technical issues in the two CCUS ZEN focus regions: the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea region. Differences in economic geography and varying levels of CCUS socio-political maturity reveal an evolution from early-stage questions of fundamental legal permissibility to later-stage questions of political support. Differences in the concentration of CO2-sources from industrial clusters and their distance to potential storage sites on land or offshore, allowed us to examine implications for transport requirements and cost.

Understanding the Non-Technical Terrain

The white paper underscores that the journey to advancing CCUS development extends beyond technological prowess. It encompasses a spectrum of non-technical aspects, including social, political, economic and legal challenges, alongside issues related to monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV). Ignoring these factors could potentially slow or halt progress, emphasizing the need for their careful consideration.

Adapting to Dynamic Non-Technical Factors

The white paper reveals that non-technical challenges are often dynamic, evolving with changes in public narratives, political climates, regulatory shifts and financial support mechanisms. Their influence on the possibilities of securing necessary funding is strong and can determine the overall financial viability of CCUS projects.

Proactive Engagement: A Key Strategy

An important avenue for aaddressing these challenges is through proactive engagement with various stakeholders, including regulators, local communities and civil society organizations. Time allocation for such interactions is essential and should be integrated into the broader scope of engineering and business development to avoid delays in operationalization.

Social and Political Challenges: Building Public Acceptance

A significant finding is the low level of public awareness and acceptance of CCUS, particularly underground CO2 storage. Effective communication strategies are needed, involving the dissemination of accessible, credible information through multiple channels. Given that publics in both the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean regions place trust in research institutions and NGOs, we recommended involving these entities in communication efforts.

Economic and Carbon Accounting Challenges

The white paper highlights ambiguities in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines for national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, especially regarding emerging CO2 removal methods like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). The lack of comprehensive guidance for MRV methodologies across CCUS hubs and clusters presents another challenge, impacting the credibility and integration of these projects into carbon markets. The IPCC is addressing this during its seventh assessment cycle.

Legal Challenges: Navigating Diverse Regulations

The diverse and inconsistent national regulatory frameworks, especially regarding CO2 storage permitting and cross-border CO2 transfers, pose significant legal and practical challenges, where administrations and industry associations may need to work together to prevent delays. The intricacies of international agreements and protocols, such as the London Protocol and the Helsinki and Barcelona Conventions, further complicate the legal landscape to be addressed by the responsible government administrations.

Recommendations for Overcoming Challenges

A central recommendation is to continue advancing bilateral state agreements and private contracts that clarify responsibilities and to advance coordination within networked hubs and clusters, particularly in cross-border CO2 transfers. Recommendations also emphasize the importance of communicating progress to the public and highlighting the climate benefits of individual CCUS projects.

We believe that considering non-technical aspects of CCUS development can be crucial for the successful and sustained implementation of CCUS projects.

The full white paper offers more detailed insights for stakeholders involved in the development of CCUS value chains.

Honegger, M., Oh, S., Schmitt, F., Poralla, M., Ombudstvedt, I., Ostgaard, L., Viguier, R., Palfi, E., Bell, R., Evensen, D., Chalmers, H., Karimi, F., and Dahlberg, U. (2023). Making CCU and CCS hubs and clusters happen: Overcoming non-technical challenges. Perspectives Climate Research on behalf of the CCUS ZEN Project, Freiburg i.B., Germany.