CO₂ Value Europe just launched the first-of-a-kind quantitative assessment on the contribution of CCU towards climate neutrality in the EU

Graph: quantitative assessment of the contribution of CCU towards climate neutrality in the EU by CO2 value Europe

The EU will not reach climate neutrality without deploying CCU as a climate-mitigating solution. CCU technologies play a significant role in climate neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and by providing alternative carbon feedstock to produce essential products and substitute virgin fossil carbon use in several key sectors of our economy. CO2 Value Europe’s recent scenario development and modelling exercise shows that at least 20% of GHG reduction from technologies will come from CCU by 2050.

As discussed in the last IPCC assessment report, CCU technologies are important climate-mitigating solutions for carbon-intensive sectors (e.g., lime, cement, steel), where no or very few alternatives exist to reduce emissions and move away from fossil resources. Because of their large diversity and high granularity, no exhaustive quantification exists to date on the global climate-mitigation potential of these technologies, but Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA) show that their impact depends largely on the context of their deployment. Indeed, CCU can reduce or avoid GHG emissions, but it can also lead to negative emissions via Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) when CO2 from the atmosphere or biogenic sources is stored permanently in building materials.

CO2 Value Europe, the non-profit association representing the CCU community in Europe, just launched a first quantification of the CCU contribution towards climate neutrality in the EU. The association has performed a two-year exercise, together with international experts to assess the mitigating potential of these technologies, by 1) identifying the main driving forces and key uncertainties related to their deployment, 2) developing scenarios that illustrate the role of CCU in the future, and 3) developing an open access model, together with CLIMACT, that yields quantitative information about the role of CCU by 2050 in the EU.

The key results are summarised below.

What is the contribution of CCU as a climate-mitigating solution?

The current economic and regulatory measures in place represent only 34% of the total effort required to reach climate neutrality in the EU. These measures must therefore be significantly reinforced by additional actions, including societal changes (30%) and technological development (37%). By 2050, CCU will reduce CO2emissions by at least 250Mt (21% of GHG reduction from technologies).

By producing 30% of the chemicals, 18% of the fuels, 76% of the ceramics and 100% of the prefabricated concrete required, CCU will reduce EU industrial emissions by 20% in 2050. Using CCU fuels in the maritime and aviation sectors will reduce their emissions by 35 and 38%, respectively.

How much CO2 can be captured in the EU and for which applications?

In 2050, about 320 MtCO2 will need to be captured in the EU, 55% will be utilised and the rest stored underground. 46% will come from Direct Air Capture (DAC), 23% from remaining process emissions, 23% from biogenic emissions, 2% from CCU fuel combustion and only 6% from the remaining fossil fuel emissions. To substitute fossil-based products and ensure a sufficient non-fossil carbon supply in the coming decades, a faster ramp-up of carbon capture in industries with high process emissions and of DAC is crucial, especially to reach the demand for fuels and chemicals in the late 2040s.

In term of applications, from the 173 MtCO2 utilised, 50% will be used to produce CCU fuels, 42% for chemicals production and 8% will be mineralised in building materials.

How much electricity will be required for CCU applications in 2050?

CCU related technologies require a significant amount of low carbon electricity, but the EU has the potential to produce more than half of the CCU fuels demand by 2050 to move away from fossil fuels, increasing energy sovereignty and reducing GHG emissions.

The domestic production of CCU fuels and chemicals for the transport and industry sectors will require up to 1187 TWh (including DAC, carbon capture at point sources, production of H2 and fuel production) in 2050 which represents approximately 22% of the modelled low carbon (i.e., renewable and nuclear) electricity production in the EU by that year. This share can be reduced by decreasing CCU fuels demand, by improving energy and material efficiency of CCU technologies, by optimizing the deployment of renewable energy systems, by recycling energy from industrial processes and/or by increasing the import of CCU fuels or hydrogen.

Want to learn more?

This exercise is the first stage of a continuous process to monitor and quantify the role of CCU in contributing to climate neutrality in the EU. One of the main results is the creation of CLIMACT 2050 PATHWAY EXPLORER FOR CCU, the first-of-a-kind, open-access CCU model to explore and put in context the contribution of the different CCU pathways in the EU. To read the full report and have access to the model click here.

This exercise is also well aligned with CCUS ZEN's core task, i.e., to develop clusters around Europe where technological solutions like CCU can be implemented at industrially relevant scales and benefit from industrial symbiosis.

Image: First-of-a-kind quantitative assessment of the contribution of CCU towards climate neutrality in the EU by CO2 value Europe.