Insights and Commentaries
CCUS: Essential for Achieving Carbon Neutrality in China
3rd August 2021
On the 25th July 2021, the Global CCS Institute co-hosted the First CCUS Strategy Forum under the Context of Carbon Neutral Perspective with the China CCUS Professional Committee in Beijing. The forum brought together over a thousand policy makers, industry executives and academics to discuss the future of CCUS in China.
China’s ambitious 30/60 targets (carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060) is a huge task, which draws carbon into the spotlight when discussing low carbon developments and the energy transition. With the world’s largest industrial system, China is faced with the challenge of realising decarbonisation while maintaining a strong economy, all within the next four decades.
Forum speakers made it clear that, as a proven technology, CCUS is an essential part of the climate solution package. While renewables will continue to play a substantial part of the climate solution, fossil fuel consumption in major emission-intensive industries in China – including coal-fired power stations, steel, cement and chemicals – cannot be easily replaced. CCUS can play a role in helping these vital sectors align with national climate goals. Exploring the question of CCUS in pursuit of carbon neutrality, the forum agreed that the technology suite will be an indispensable ‘safeguard policy’.
The Forum identified and discussed several challenges for CCUS deployment in China, including:
Scale and commercial viability
- “Large scale” and “commercial operation” are terms repeatedly mentioned across CCUS discussions in China. It is generally agreed that China has established sufficient operating experiences from pilot and demonstration projects and has abundant storage resources, indicating a readiness to move to large-scale deployment. However, operating projects in China remain at pilot scale or lab scale, which do not demonstrate economies of scale for whole-chain deployment. Although the recent announcement of China’s first one million tonne per annum CCUS project in Qilu provides an optimistic outlook, there are still challenges facing wide-scale commercial deployment including a robust policy and regulatory framework.
- It is recognised that advocacy is critical to break bias against CCUS. Efforts are needed to help improve the understanding of the role of CCUS in achieving carbon neutrality in China.
- The lack of a regulatory framework for CCUS is a key barrier for large-scale CCUS deployment.
Private sector engagement
- The private sector is yet to enter the CCUS space. The private sector’s proven ability to commercialise emergent technologies (renewable energy and electric vehicles) will be important for CCUS.
14th Five-Year Plan Period: A Critical Moment
With less than a decade to realise carbon peaking, the next five years is critical. “Deployment in advance” - a phrase encapsulating the idea that the timely deployment of CCUS is predicated on industrial preparation and investment in the short-term - is viewed as integral to meeting China’s climate ambitions. It is essential in this timeframe that different ministries coordinate efforts to promulgate climate policy and create an investment environment in which green financing and climate financing is available to projects.
To support commercial deployment, preparatory work needs to be done to create enabling conditions. Policy and regulation areas, including CCUS standards on technology, environment, security and risk, market tools, and more specifically, integration of CCUS into national carbon market or CCER scheme, call for joint efforts and immediate actions.
2021-25 is a critical period in which to explore economically viable large-scale CCUS projects. While the government is to provide policy support and guidance, industry is encouraged to explore more innovative models for CCUS, which may better suit the Chinese context.
International collaboration can play an important role in promoting CCUS. The Forum expressed openness and willingness to share knowledge and support joint research and development project with the broader international community. While the government provides a platform for Chinese companies through bilateral and multilateral climate change collaboration frameworks, industry can work with foreign partners to explore a Chinese pattern for CCUS.
The Forum sent positive signals across the climate change space in China. The unprecedented attendance (compared to previous CCUS events) and engagement from new sectors, including finance, is indicative that CCUS is of increasingly broad interest. It was encouraging to see several senior government officials (Director-General level) speaking. With a rapidly growing community and a broad set of stakeholders starting to work on the barriers to large-scale deployment, the current outlook for CCUS in China is positive.
This piece was written by Yi Wu, the Institute's Beijing-based Client Engagement Lead, with support from Tony Zhang and Matt Steyn.