As the global energy industry begins to shift further towards renewables and creating a net zero energy economy by 2050, discussions and debates have arisen around the topics of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

During a virtual conference attended by gasworld entitled ‘CCS and Waste-to-Energy – Connecting Decarbonisation and the Circular Economy’ questions were raised about the nature of CCS/CCUS and whether focusing on the ‘utilisation’ aspect of carbon capture is currently redundant, as such a small proportion of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that needs to be captured will ever end up being used.

When asked by host Chris Davies, former Member of the European Parliament, if this was a fair viewpoint, Suzana Carp, Political Strategy Director at energy foundation Bellona, agreed, stating that the nature of permanently sequestering the CO2 provides an environmental benefit as it is.

She continued, saying, “Maybe before we start building new cities with materials made completely with CCU technologies we should start to decarbonise the cities we have now to try to see if we can reach a net zero status.”

Recognising that there is a common goal between CCS and CCUS proponents to minimise waste, Carp said that, for as long as there is waste being incinerated, Bellona continues to advocate for emissions to be captured and stored.

The same question was posed to CCUS advocate Maria Velkova, Policy Officer for Low Carbon Innovation at DG Climate Action.

Velkova stated that, despite the utilisation aspect not being able to help with all CO2 emissions, the option of utilisation should not be discarded.

“We don’t want to discard the option of utilisation because, for example, there is the option of producing synthetic fuels, which, together with advanced biofuels, for example, can serve aviation,” she added.

Such fuel solutions for the aviation industry include synthetic biofuels, the likes of which are currently being pioneered by companies like Formula One legend Paddy Lowe’s Zero Petroleum.

Continuing, Velkova said, “After 2050, if we think in the even longer term, there will be a problem with actually sourcing carbon.”

“We need to invest in the solutions that can really bring this carbon on the grid but let this carbon circulate entirely in the economy without being emitted. And these are the utilisation options.”

Believing that it’s best for CO2 to be utilised rather than stored, she concluded by saying that she agreed that a vast amount of CO2 that will be captured still has to be stored in the run to 2050.

Regarding CCS, Davies concluded the discussion on a pragmatic note, stating that, as a former CCS ‘rapporteur’ in the European Parliament, he remembers the decision by the European Council in March 2007 when European Governments said that they wanted to see up to 12 CCS demonstration projects in operation by 2015.

Critical of the progress made thus far, Davies said, “Here we are, six years later, climate change very high now on the agenda and, far from having any of those projects completed, not a single final investment decision had been taken to build a single one.”

He added that this is unsustainable and that there is a ‘gaping hole’ in European climate policy that must be filled.