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All eyes on Europe: Time to stand united for CCS action

26th September 2019

September 5 was an important European milestone for carbon capture and storage (CCS). In the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit and as negotiations on Europe’s 2050 climate ambition unfold, the European High-Level Conference on CCS hosted by the European Commission and the Norwegian Government proved to create significant momentum for the need to accelerate European efforts to deploy CCS.

In Oslo, over 400 delegates joined United Nations Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa, EU Commissioner for Climate Action Miguel Canete, European Energy and Climate Ministers, NGOs, trade unions and energy-intensive industry for a critical discussion. Given Europe’s on and off history with CCS, the conference was very timely, taking place alongside negotiations on Europe’s 2050 climate neutral vision, the increased momentum created by the incoming European Commission and the prospects for a European Green Deal.

Europe can make it happen

The message from the conference was clear and echoed by industry, civil society and policymakers. CCS is needed to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe. The question is no longer “if it’s needed” but how to make it happen. CCS is firmly back on the policy agenda in Europe. This time around, the mindset and expectations have changed.

The conference highlighted how much work remains ahead. Industry needs incentives beyond the current EU ETS price, which at the moment is not enough on its own to accelerate CCS deployment. There is also the need to create a market with customers ready pay the price for low-carbon products. Now is also the time to get priorities straight on the infrastructure element of CCS deployment.

The event was also an opportunity to showcase some of the latest CCS developments and projects. Several promising CCS projects, a total of nine in development across Europe,  are located in Norway, Netherlands, Ireland and the UK.  Some of these projects, the PORTHOS CCUS and Northern Lights, were showcased at the conference.

Allard Castelein, CEO of Port of Rotterdam the anchor of the Porthos CCUS Project, said that commercial FID for this important decarbonisation project will be taken by next year.  One unique feature of the Porthos project is its complementarity with other CCS plans across Europe. Once completed, it will offer a non-discriminatory open access system for industries wishing to capture and transport their CO2 to be stored offshore under the North Sea. The project will also be an important supporter of a new hydrogen economy in the Netherlands and Europe.

Collaboration is a must

Several speakers highlighted the need for European and international collaboration in order to kickstart CCS in Europe.  The long-term liability issue was highlighted as one of the key obstacles that could be resolved through collaboration.

During his remarks, Castelein explained that the Port of Rotterdam is working to build a coalition of the willing to collaboratively resolve some of the challenges of being first movers on CCS.  Castelein also reinforced that there is no competition suggesting that it could be beneficial to create a pan-European taskforce to support and accelerate CCUS efforts.

Furthering the importance of a collaborative approach to CCS, Equinor, on behalf of the Northern Lights project, announced that it signed MOU agreements with seven European companies to develop value chains in CCS. The companies involved include Air Liquide, ArcelorMittal, Ervia, Fortum Oyj, HeidelbergCement AG, Preem and Stockholm Exergi.

Deployment, deployment, deployment

Kickstarting CCS deployment is key. However, this requires a supply chain that works across Europe. Stephen Bull from Equinor, a company that has been involved in CCS projects for decades, said that to make CCS happen in Europe all elements need to be put in place first. This starting from the storage model, one that is permanent, insurable and bankable, business models and the discussion around the economies of scale and CO2 volumes.

“To get to decentralized and continuous development within capture, deployment, deployment, deployment is key to address this”, said Bull.

The CEO of DNV GL Oil & Gas business Liv Hovem called for industry and governments to be “bold”, explaining that with more CCS projects, the cost curve and project costs will go down.

The spotlight was on Norway, the host of the conference. Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Minister Freiberg said that the full-scale CCS project should be seen a catalyst for other European projects and other technology developments internationally. The Norwegian Government aims to make a final investment decision on the full-scale project in 2020.

Funding

Many participants emphasised the need for government and EU support to get the ball rolling, and to specifically to create the business case for CCS investment. Several speakers also urged governments and Brussels to step up support from an innovation perspective.

Some progress is already on the horizon. The Innovation Fund will give important funding mechanism to support CCS deployment. The day following the conference, ZEP hosted a workshop on the Innovation Fund to discuss with various stakeholders.

Value of CCS

The conference also brought trade unions and NGOs to the table. From Germany, the leading NGO WWF Germany explained that CCS will be needed to address remaining emissions from industry and achieve net-zero. All stakeholders agreed that CCS should not be seen as a silver bullet but a must-have technology in the broader portfolio of climate solutions.

The case for CCS was also made in the context of a just transition for industrial regions and communities. As the voice of industry workers, Luc Triangle from IndustriAll emphasised that CCS is about reindustralisation and region redevelopment. He added that CCS is an important technology supporting efforts to decarbonise the European economy while retaining a strong industry and employment and creating clean growth opportunities.

Jonas Helseth, head of environmental NGO Bellona Europa, called for CO2 transport and storage infrastructure to be considered a public good, and asked for suitable regulation to make it accessible. "When you look at CO2 infrastructure, this is what industry will need everywhere. (…) This is a joint task for Europe. It has to be done as public good, one that enables the decarbonisation of Europe", said Helseth.

The conference concluded with words from Trude Sundset, CEO of Gassnova, who said: “I hope everyone leaves this conference feeling a little wiser, a little smarter and a lot more optimistic than before you came. With insight comes responsibility. When we return home, we all have a responsibility to share. And act.”

Now it’s time to walk the talk and get CCS underway in Europe.

 

You can also read IEAGHG’s summary of the event here.

More about the conference: 

Watch the full conference here:

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