THE FOR­GOT­TEN FRON­TIER

WHILE CAR­BON CAP­TURE, STOR­AGE AND UTIL­I­SA­TION IS NOT EX­ACTLY NEW SCIENCE, IT’S STILL VERY MUCH ON THE PE­RIPH­ERY OF OUR GREEN CON­SCIOUS­NESS. WILL THE AM­BI­TIOUS PARIS AGREE­MENT TAR­GETS RE­VIVE EF­FORTS TO SCALE UP THE IM­PLE­MEN­TA­TION OF THIS CRIT­I­CALLY IMPORTA

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY AYSWARYA MURTHY

While car­bon cap­ture, stor­age and util­i­sa­tion is not ex­actly new science, it's still very much on the pe­riph­ery of our green con­scious­ness. Will the am­bi­tious Paris Agree­ment tar­gets re­vive ef­forts to scale up the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this crit­i­cally im­por­tant tech­nol­ogy?

If you aren't an oil & gas pro­fes­sional or par­tic­u­larly clued in to the cli­mate de­bate, you might be for­given for not re­mem­ber­ing all the en­ergy around Car­bon Cap­ture, Uti­liza­tion, and Stor­age (CCUS) re­search in Qatar a few short years ago. Big in­vest­ments, pres­ti­gious col­lab­o­ra­tions, in­dus­try tie-ins – you name it, we had it. And we weren't too shy to talk about it ei­ther. But over the last cou­ple of years, what with all the belt-tight­en­ing and re­struc­tur­ing, some of these “ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties” have been silently placed on the back burner, none the wiser for it. How­ever, some­thing else has been hap­pen­ing over the last cou­ple of years as well – the Paris Agree­ment and the un­prece­dented com­mit­ment to cli­mate ac­tion. And all things con­sid­ered, it's time not only to put CCUS back on the agenda, but to push it near the top of the list.

CCUS is pretty self-ex­plana­tory. It's the process of cap­tur­ing car­bon diox­ide (CO₂) from power plants and in­dus­trial process emis­sions and putting them to use in other ap­pli­ca­tions that re­quire CO₂, for ex­am­ple in En­hanced Oil Re­cov­ery (EOR) which re­quires 70 MtCO₂ an­nu­ally; two-thirds of this cur­rently come from nat­u­ral CO₂ sources and can be re­placed with cap­tured car­bon. EOR is the prac­tice of in­ject­ing CO₂ in oil fields to en­hance hy­dro­car­bon pro­duc­tion (es­pe­cially into ma­ture oil fields in or­der to ex­tract oth­er­wise in­ac­ces­si­ble oil) while stor­ing the in­jected CO₂ per­ma­nently un­der­ground. Ded­i­cated un­der­ground stor­age (with­out util­i­sa­tion) is the other op­tion, but ad­mit­tedly a less pop­u­lar choice.

De­spite the first large-scale CCS plant com­ing on­line way back in 1972, there are only 15 in op­er­a­tion glob­ally to­day (not count­ing the In Salah CO₂ Stor­age Project in Al­ge­ria which was shut down in 2011); most of them came on­line af­ter 2013 and an­other six are sched­uled to open by the end of 2017 (all but six of the whole port­fo­lio of projects

will pri­mar­ily feed into EOR). This is real al­beit be­lated progress in the face of se­ri­ous road­blocks like mas­sive cap­i­tal costs, lim­ited pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory sup­port and nil-to-neg­a­tive pub­lic per­cep­tion of the tech­nol­ogy. These 21 plants to­gether will be cap­tur­ing 40 MtCO₂ an­nu­ally from this year; by 2050 we'll need to cap­ture one hun­dred times that every year. If not, we'll have to in­vest at least an ad­di­tional $3.5 tril­lion in power gen­er­a­tion in or­der keep global tem­per­a­tures within rel­a­tively safe lim­its. But there are con­cerns that this mo­men­tum is stalling.

The lack of ad­e­quate sup­port cou­pled with first-of-a-kind tech­nol­ogy chal­lenges have con­tributed to the can­cel­la­tion of 22 ad­vanced large-scale CCS projects since 2010. Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­cent com­mod­ity mar­ket down­turn has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the in­ter­est and ca­pac­ity of oil, gas and coal com­pa­nies to in­vest in CCS. No in­vest­ment de­ci­sions on large-scale projects have been taken since 2014 and few new projects are be­ing brought for­ward. And although more than $30 bil­lion in fund­ing was an­nounced for large-scale CCS projects be­tween 2007 and 2010, only $2.8 bil­lion in pub­lic funds was ac­tu­ally in­vested be­tween 2009 and 2014.

At COP22 in Novem­ber last year, where there was a no­tice­able shift in talks from ne­go­ti­a­tion to im­ple­men­ta­tion, CCS was dis­cussed at the high­est lev­els. At the GCC pav­il­ion at a high-level min­is­te­rial panel, the en­ergy min­is­ters of Saudi Ara­bia, the US, the UAE, Canada and Aus­tralia got to­gether to speak about the up­take of CCS in their re­spec­tive coun­tries and the fu­ture of large-scale im­ple­men­ta­tion of the tech­nol­ogy. The Mid­dle East's only large-scale CCS plants are in Sau­dia Ara­bia and the UAE and all of the six up­com­ing plants are in the US, Canada and Aus­tralia. It was some­what ironic that min­is­ter af­ter min­is­ter, from US En­ergy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz to Saudi Ara­bia's Min­is­ter of En­ergy, In­dus­try and Min­eral Re­sources Khaled Al Falih, stressed the im­por­tance of CCS while in the same breath in­sist­ing that ad­di­tional pol­icy sup­port was need to get it off the ground.

Paul Si­mons, Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA), who spoke at the be­gin­ning of the panel, said that CCS was not op­tional for Paris Agree­ment tar­gets. In the midst of the un­prece­dented en­ergy trans­for­ma­tion chal­lenge that the world was fac­ing, he com­pared CCS to a sleep­ing gi­ant that could de­liver es­sen­tial emis­sion re­duc­tions both in the power sec­tor and in­dus­try. But to re­alise this, many ef­forts needed to come to­gether. “Po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment and fi­nan­cial sup­port should be made clear thor­ough poli­cies, sub­si­dies and in­cen­tives,” he said.

It’s in the num­bers

It is known that even if the tar­gets in the in­di­vid­ual Na­tion­ally De­ter­mined Con­tri­bu­tions (NDC) of all the coun­tries are met, av­er­age global tem­per­a­tures will rise to about 3-3.5°C above pre-in­dus­trial tem­per­a­tures; much higher than the rel­a­tively safer 1.5 C rise that the Paris Agree­ment is aim­ing for. The IEA projects a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion by CCS (15% to 20%) within the port­fo­lio of cli­mate change mit­i­gat­ing tools in the 2°C sce­nario by the year 2060. This sce­nario calls for more than half of CCS

THE IEA'S 2°C SCE­NARIO CALLS FOR MORE THAN HALF OF CCS DE­PLOY­MENT TO BE IN POWER GEN­ER­A­TION AND OF THIS AL­MOST 75% SHOULD OC­CUR OUT­SIDE OF THE OECD.

de­ploy­ment in power gen­er­a­tion and of this al­most 75% should oc­cur out­side of the OECD. In En­ergy Tech­nol­ogy Per­spec­tives 2010, it was noted that CCS will need to con­trib­ute to 20% of to­tal emis­sion re­duc­tions by 2050 for GHG to be re­duced in the most cost-ef­fi­cient man­ner. To en­able CCS to meet this one-fifth con­tri­bu­tion, it will be nec­es­sary to de­ploy around 100 CCS projects by 2020, and over 3,000 projects by 2050. This goes to show how es­sen­tial CCS is to the low car­bon en­ergy tran­si­tion strat­egy. It's dif­fi­cult to achieve 2C with­out CCS; im­pos­si­ble to go be­low 2C with­out it.

And as the pres­sure mounts on coun­tries to ratchet up their cli­mate goals in the NDCs, this will be­come more ob­vi­ous. “In this first round, most NDCs talk about de­ploy­ing ex­ist­ing, low-cost tech; all the low-hang­ing fruit, as they say. It's never go­ing to be enough,” says Brad Page, CEO of the Global CCS In­sti­tute. “We ab­so­lutely need to de­ploy all tech­nolo­gies that are at our dis­posal. CCS is nec­es­sary tech­nol­ogy and yet, while in ex­cess of a tril­lion dol­lars worth of in­vest­ment has be com­mit­ted to­wards re­new­ables since 2006, only a frac­tion of that has been al­lo­cated to­wards CCS. It's not a com­pe­ti­tion but there needs to be pol­icy par­ity to en­sure CCS along­side re­new­able en­ergy and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency ini­tia­tives can help us reach Paris Agree­ment tar­gets.” In other words, CCS needs to be al­lowed to com­pete on a com­pa­ra­ble ba­sis with other clean tech­nol­ogy solutions. Contrary to pop­u­lar be­lief, re­new­able en­ergy is not the only weapon we'll ever need in our fight against cli­mate change. Some in­dus­tries like steel and fer­tilis­ers are im­pos­si­ble to de­car­bonise with­out CCS, be­cause the CO₂ emis­sions are not re­lated to en­ergy use but rather to pro­cesses. So for a vast ma­jor­ity of the in­dus­trial sec­tor, which ac­counts for a quar­ter of the global CO₂ emis­sions, CCS is the only so­lu­tion. There is a school of thought that also con­sid­ers CCS a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive when the eco­nomic cost of de­car­bon­i­sa­tion is too high, like rel­a­tively young and high-out­put coal plants that will have

“IN THIS FIRST ROUND, MOST NDCS TALK ABOUT DE­PLOY­ING EX­IST­ING, LOW-COST TECH­NOLO­GIES; ALL THE LOW-HANG­ING FRUIT, AS THEY SAY. IT’S NEVER GO­ING TO BE ENOUGH.” BRAD PAGE Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Global CCS In­sti­tute

(Source: UN work­ing paper on ‘Strength­en­ing the le­gal and reg­u­la­tory frame­work in the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil coun­tries to pro­mote the de­ploy­ment of car­bon cap­ture, uti­liza­tion, and stor­age', by Dr I-Tsung Tsai, 2014)

A high-level min­is­te­rial panel with the en­ergy min­is­ters of Saudi Ara­bia, the US, the UAE, Canada and Aus­tralia at the GCC pav­il­ion in COP22, Mar­rakech

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