CCUS ZEN in quest to accelerate CCUS in Europe with cluster plans

As part of its mission to accelerate the roll out of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) in Europe, CCUS ZEN will this year identify two industrial clusters suitable for deployment of CCUS, one in the Mediterranean and one in the Baltic region.

“The first step will be to identify four promising clusters for each region and from those we are going to pick one from each region for a pre-FEED study. We will do detailed mapping of emissions sources,” explains project coordinator Eirik Falck da Silva of SINTEF. “Some of the harbours might stand out as ideal clusters, drawing on, for instance the example of the Port of Rotterdam.”

To this end, the CCUS ZEN partners gathered earlier this month in Copenhagen for a cluster building workshop which involved networking partners from the Baltic Sea region: energy companies, national energy agencies, industry emitters, industry cluster representatives, storage operators, and members of government and local authorities from the Baltic states.

Private sector partners

The hope is that the cluster plans developed in CCUS ZEN will be advanced and compelling enough that commercial entities and government backers will want to take them further. To ensure CCUS ZEN’s outputs are industrially relevant, CCUS ZEN has two private sector partners, Technip Energies from France, which will help with the plans for the Mediterranean, and Ramboll from Denmark, which will work on the Baltic cluster.

“We need to make sure we produce outputs in a form that can be easily picked up by people who want to take them to the next stage. Technip Energies and Ramboll are perfect for that kind of exercise,” says Dr da Silva. “The ambition of CCUS ZEN is to develop cases that are genuinely so promising that the Commission, national governments, industrials look at them and say yes these are our next clusters that could move towards FEED studies and ultimately investment decisions.”

The other key element of CCUS ZEN is knowledge sharing and dissemination. To this end, the project has set up a network of businesses and organisations working in or considering CCUS; it already has more than 50 members.

“This is not an R&D project. Rather, it aims to help people to connect and get to the right information more quickly. We are doing some analysis so the new countries and new developers learn from everything that has happened to date - the UK, Norway and the Netherlands have been working on CCS/CCUS for decades,” says Dr da Silva. “We are trying to extract that knowledge so that countries that have just started to look at this very recently such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland and the Baltic States have a list of recommended actions on how to build clusters and the best way to get a CCUS project started.”

Positive momentum behind CCS/CCUS

The project comes at a time when positive momentum behind CCS/CCUS has increased markedly.

“What feels very different is that we’ve reached a level where interest around CCS/CCUS is broader,” says Dr da Silva. “It’s growing quickly which is very exciting. It’s an industry in its infancy – what’s the best technology, what’s the industrial standard for CO2 transport and so on – nothing has been decided yet. Everyone with a background in CCUS tends to be very busy these days.”

There is also recognition that CCUS is now more competitive from a financial point of view.

“If you are really going to get your CO2 emissions down and you have a waste-to-energy or a cement plant actually CCS might be the cheapest alternative. So I do feel there is a greater acceptance – it’s not cheap but it might be the cheapest option in more cases than people were willing to accept only five or six years ago. It changed rather quickly,” he says.

Nevertheless, further government or EU incentives are needed to help accelerate CCS/CCUS, notably on carbon taxes, he says.

Carbon price

“It is promising that some countries are talking about a carbon price of €200 a tonne by 2030. At that level CCUS is absolutely in business in many places,” he says. “CO2 emissions are waste going into the atmosphere. If you are allowed simply to dispose of your waste into nature that is always going to be cheaper than separating out the waste and storing it. So you are going to need incentives,”

In parallel, there will be improvements to CCS/CCUS technologies.

“Obviously as scientists our ambition is to make it better, more robust, more compact – to keep working on those things. As the designs become more standardised then you will start to see costs creeping down a bit more consistently.”

Another key factor will be to improve the legal framework especially for CO2 storage. This is particularly important for Germany, Europe’s largest economy: it wants to deploy CCS but to transport the captured CO2 to offshore storage in the North Sea rather than storing it onshore.

“We need a legal framework for storage and for cross-border transport and export. This is progressing quite well in some places,” says Dr da Silva. “Today, there can be quite a few rules limiting export of waste products across borders. But, in the case of CCS, it makes perfect sense for CO2 to flow, for example, from Germany into storage in the North Sea.”