Insights and Commentaries
Safeguarding Jobs and Industrial Competitiveness in Europe through CCS
Insights from European Sustainable Energy Week
25th July 2023
The Global CCS Institute moderated a session during the European Sustainable Energy Week in June 2023, organised in partnership with the Zero Emission Platform (ZEP), on “Climate Neutral Europe: Safeguarding Jobs and Industrial Competitiveness”. Representatives from the Directorate-General for Energy of the European Commission, the German Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Action, IndustriAll Europe, Equinor and Aramis CCS shared their valuable insights on the potential of CCS in enabling a just transition to net zero, and the skills necessary for its widespread deployment in Europe.
CCS projects and developments in Europe
Over the last five years there has been a steady growth in the CCS projects pipeline and the rate of growth for CCS is expected to increase further as countries and companies work to achieve their climate commitments. There are currently 247 CCS facilities worldwide in various stages of deployment, more than 100 of which are located in Europe1.
On the policy front, the need for the technology has been most recently illustrated in the European Commission’s Net-Zero Industry Act2, which aims to have a CO2 injection capacity of 50 Mtpa developed by 2030 within the EU, as well as the ongoing public consultation for an industry carbon management strategy that will discuss an enabling regulatory framework for CO2 transport and storage3.
Project developments in Europe mirrors this need. Equinor, a major energy supplier to Europe largely owned by the Norwegian State, has been involved in the CCS arena for 26 years, contributing to large-scale CCS projects like Sleipner and Northern Lights.
The company is leading the planning behind a larger project that will bring together the whole CCS value chain, known as the EU2NSEA project, which is an applicant of the European Commission’s Projects of Common Interest (PCI). The aim of the project is to connect CO2 emitters in Europe with good storage sites in the North Sea by pipelines, with an expected capacity to transport and store 30-40 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
The Aramis CCS project, a joint initiative between TotalEnergies, Shell, Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN) and Nederlandse Gasunie, also aims to contribute to the energy transition in Europe by reducing CO₂ emissions from hard-to-abate industries, providing a 22 Mtpa solution for CO2 transport and offshore storage.
The European Commission noted that as CCS continues to scale up and become increasingly commercial and competitive in Europe, the resulting savings in cost and efficiency of deployment will make this crucial technology more accessible, including in developing countries seeking to curb emissions from industrial sources.
The societal and economic value of CCS: Preserving existing jobs and creating new labour markets
The European Commission made it clear: Keeping certain hard-to-abate industries in Europe requires CCS deployment. The cement sector, which has around 30 000 direct jobs in the EU and 350 000 employees across the whole value chain, has no viable and cost-efficient alternative to carbon capture to decarbonise its processes. CCS is thus necessary to bring the hard-to-abate sectors of European economy along the path of green transition while maintaining their competitiveness and workforce.
IndustriAll Europe, a federation of trade unions representing manual and non-manual workers in 38 European countries, also emphasised the crucial importance of CCS in preserving existing jobs in the hard-to-abate sectors, which employ approximately 8 million workers.
During European Sustainable Energy Week, IndustriAll Europe highlighted that, in the case of CCS, the just transition is about the transformation of the industry. It is therefore important to establish a framework where workers are not passive recipients of corporate decisions or policies but have a stake in the technological or economic change. This contributes to building confidence in the system and generating social acceptance, which is crucial to building the CCS infrastructure.
According to IndustriAll Europe, the just transition framework should include key supportive elements, such as:
- The anticipation of change;
- The right of training for every worker in Europe, regardless of their contract;
- Social conditionalities attached to CCS investments, similar to the strategy of the Biden administration in the United States with the Inflation Reduction Act.
In addition to CCS’ capacity to preserve existing industries and jobs, the panel members also noted that the technology has an important role to play in creating labour markets where a new class of engineers, environmentalists and ecologists will be required.
CCS will also have the capacity to enable new business opportunities tied to CO2 capture, transport, storage and carbon removals. According to the European Commission, the CCS value chain alone could be worth up to €100 billion by 2030.
While the Commission is working to make sure that the societal and economic value of CCS is spread evenly across Europe, the North Sea will be particularly important for the development of CCS infrastructure. According to IndustriAll Europe, CCS funding and investments, like the Just Transition Fund4, should also have a territorial cohesion dimension to support the transformation of the carbon-intensive industry that keeps in mind areas beyond the storage sites available in the North Sea.
EU Member States are expected to update their national energy and climate plans this year5, which will further clarify the technology’s role in the decarbonisation plans of EU countries.
Skills required in the CCS value chain: Challenges and opportunities
According to Aramis CCS, the technology is already attracting talented workers from traditional and new businesses, across a wide age range, who are excited to make a contribution to CCS projects.
As many workers employed in the energy-intensive industries already have knowledge and skills required by the CCS industry, there are no significant issues with reskilling or upskilling. Rather, some of the main challenges identified by panel members concern the necessity to:
- Learn how to better explain the value and the role of CCS. CCS is a flexible technology and will drive emission reductions and innovation across a wide range of sectors, which needs to be better communicated.
- Adopt a more imaginative approach to ensure the attractiveness of the industry, especially to younger workers;
- Learn how to integrate CCS solutions in the existing oil and gas industry. We need the skills already available in energy-intensive sectors, but a change of mindset is required as different conditions and processes apply in the CCS industry.
Among the new skills required by the CCS industry, Aramis CCS noted that workers who are able to understand the policy implications for CCS, as well as the environmental footprint of these projects, will be needed.
As large-scale CCS projects involve several partnerships, skillsets in team building, cooperation and communications will also become essential.
Education is a supporting competency of the EU, and it is up to Member States to define schemes that will develop the skills needed for the CCS industry. Germany already plans to address this issue in the carbon management strategy it is currently working on. However, a robust assessment of the opportunities and limitations that come with the technology, as well as a reliable legal framework, will be needed.
Conclusions: CCS plays a key role in the just transition, robust jobs market
What emerged from the conversations held during the event was that CCS has a key role to play not only in the transformation of energy-intensive industries and sectors but also in securing a just energy transition.
An established CCS market can help safeguard jobs and create new opportunities, although more work needs to be done to make sure that the carbon-intensive industries utilising CCS to meet their climate goals are perceived as part of the solution to tackling climate change. Doing so will attract jobseekers who are proactively seeking to enter positions related to the low-carbon transition. Part of ensuring this will be through the development of clear and specific policy frameworks, and communicating the value and aims of those frameworks effectively.
As CCS deployment scales up, there is a great opportunity to develop a robust job market. A new class of engineers, environmentalists and ecologists, as well as skills in team building, cooperation and communications, will be key to the success of CCS deployment in Europe.
We are living in a critical decade that requires energy-intensive industries to reduce their emissions, and if we do not use all the available technological options, we risk losing the opportunity to maximise their mitigation impact.
CCS is not a silver bullet that can provide a solution to all industrial emissions, but it is an important component of the climate mitigation toolkit we have at our disposal and is needed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
1 See the Global CCS Institute global CCS intelligence database “CO2RE” for more details about the number of CCS facilities: https://co2re.co/FacilityData
2 European Commission (2023), Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a framework of measures for strengthening Europe’s net-zero technology products manufacturing ecosystem (Net Zero Industry Act), COM(2023) 161.
3 See the European Commission’s call for evidence and public consultation on ‘Industry carbon management – carbon capture, utilisation and storage deployment’ open until 31 August 2023 and accessible at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13848-Industrial-carbon-management-carbon-capture-utilisation-and-storage-deployment_en
4 Regulation (EU) 2021/1056 establishing the Just Transition Fund
5 By 30th June 2023, EU Member States were due to submit their draft updated NECPs in line with article 14 of the Regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action (EU) 2018/1999.
This piece was written by Daniela Peta, Communications and Advocacy Associate with the Global CCS Institute.