Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is one of the only technology solutions that can significantly reduce emissions from coal and gas power generation and deliver the deep emissions reductions needed across key industrial processes such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing, all of which will remain vital building blocks of modern society.
These technologies involve the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fuel combustion or industrial processes, the transport of CO2 via ship or pipeline, and either its use as a resource to create valuable products or services or its permanent storage deep underground in geological formations.
CCS technology will play an important role in meeting energy and climate goals. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), CCS accounts for 7% of the cumulative emissions reductions needed globally to 2040. This implies a rapid scale-up of CCS deployment, from around 30 million tonnes of CO2 currently captured each year to 2.3 billion tonnes per year by 2040.
Furthermore, the use of CCS with renewable biomass is one of the few carbon abatement technologies that can be used in a ‘carbon negative’ mode – actually taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.
“I hate that phrase ‘carbon negative’. How can you sell that?” Dr. Nils Røkke (left), Chairman of the Board of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) and SINTEF’s Executive Vice-President of Sustainability, tells gasworld in an exclusive interview.
“If you go to the street and say to someone ‘do you want to employ carbon negative technologies?’ they will most certainly say no. That’s why I’ve coined them ‘climate positive’ technologies. That’s much better in my view.”
Based in Norway, Røkke is the coordinator of several large European CSS projects, he chairs many large project initiatives within climate change technologies and until recently, he was joint programme coordinator of the EERA CCS Joint Programme. Before that he worked as gas turbine design and development manager in Rolls Royce Marine.
In his own words he has “been dealing with power generation equipment, combustion and pollution all [his] career”.
gasworld sat down with Røkke to hear his thoughts on an innovation and research agenda for climate positive technologies, how Norway’s CCS project is progressing and what technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere should be being investing in.
gasworld (GW): Let’s talk firstly about Norway’s CCS project. Where is this currently at?
Dr. Nils Røkke (NR): There are now two capture plants in the plan – a waste-to-energy plant and a cement plant.
They will both capture about 400,000 tonnes per year – that’s equivalent to removing about 150,000 cars from the road per plant, so 300,000 cars in total from these two plants.
And where is this project currently at? I think it’s at a crucial time. At present the Norwegian Government is pursuing this through FEED (Front End Engineering and Design) studies which is undertaken by the cement plant and the waste-to-energy plant monitored by the relevant ministries and agencies.
The interesting part of this for Europe is there is more space for storage than these two plants can make use of meaning that there will be a possibility in say 2023 or something like that to deliver CO2 for permanent storage somewhere in Europe.
If you do CCS, you really need to store. Just to capture and release again doesn’t make any sense.
In my view, it will be a milestone that it is actually possible to deliver CO2 somewhere in Europe isolated from the emissions emitting it to atmosphere.
GW: What are the next steps for this project?
NR: The next steps, the most important one, is to figure out what it really costs, and we will see that towards end of this year.
There will be the proposal for investment which will be put forward to the parliament in fall next year (2020).
“CCS is not an optional technology, it is mandatory technology. I think we can change the European mindset by showing them it is possible.”
That will be the proof in the pudding if the parliament agrees to the investment into the complete value chain – two capture plants, a transportation network, including ship transport, pipeline and the storage offshore in Norway.
GW: What’s the Norwegian Government’s ambition behind this project?
NR: CCS is a really important technology in terms of getting to the Paris agreement goals and I think there are different drivers behind this project, but of course there is the need to reduce emissions in Norway. This will be reduced by 0.8 million tonnes per year.
There is also the need that this technology is taken up and used elsewhere, so deployment outside of Norway is important. That’s why there is a possibility to store CO2 from other sources.
Also the driver to be able to deliver natural gas from Norway in the future in a sustainable way. That is also being able to provide a solution for emissions that are emitted when you use natural gas.
It will also enable the possibility to produce massive amounts of hydrogen from natural gas and store the carbon in the natural gas as CO2. This is a complimentary technology to electrolysis of water using renewable power. It is safe to claim that without the hydrogen economy it will be near impossible to reach the Paris Agreement targets of towards 1.5 degree warming.
GW: What’s the European mindset about capturing and storing CO2? Do you think Norway can change it?
NR: The mindset on CCS is diverse in Europe I would say, but when we see the national plans to achieve the 2030 and 2050 target from European countries, I think most countries will realise that the CCS is needed.
CCS is not an optional technology, it is mandatory technology. I think we can change the European mindset by showing them it is possible.
Countries in Europe are starting to look at CCS. The UK is passing a law to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. I saw Theresa May saying we need to use CCS and also technology to suck CO2 out of the air
You can see this also in the Dutch discussions, they have taken steps to say that they need to become climate neutral by 2045.
Denmark has also now said it will reduce its emissions by 70% by 2030. That means that they need to have CCS in place to offset emissions from industry.
Finland has said climate neutrality by 2035.
There is a beauty contest ongoing in Europe, which I think is a very positive one, and when the countries do their maths, they will see that CCS is needed to reach these targets.
GW: To enable these countries to reach their climate goals, what technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere should be being invested in?
NR: We recently held a workshop with the Mission Innovation initiative (a global initiative working to accelerate clean energy innovation) and this was actually a question that came up.
I think this is an area where there has been very little research conducted. The Royal Society launched a report in October 2018 about greenhouse gas removal technologies and they list everything from CCS to weathering to biochar.
“There is a beauty contest ongoing in Europe, which I think is a very positive one, and when the countries do their maths, they will see that CCS is needed to reach these targets.”
But it all depends on resource base. Do we have enough terrestrial biomass? I don’t think so. Do we have enough marine biomass? Maybe.
Well what other technologies are there which could remove CO2 from the atmosphere? This is an area the world really needs a research and innovation agenda to look at how much we need to offset with these carbon negative or ‘climate positive’ solutions.
The world needs to work out how it will reach climate neutrality and we must ensure that its done sustainably and we don’t ruin our ecosystem of the world.
GW: You just mentioned an innovation and research agenda. How would this look? How could it be implemented in Europe?
NR: I think it could be a new topic for the Mission Innovation, the initiative between 24 countries to double the effort in clean energy research, to also include this as a challenge. We need to have a global focus on this.
A research and innovation agenda really needs to look at the resource base because it all comes back to resources.
If you’re going to do direct air capture and storage (DACS) to the scale the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has in its 1.5 degree report, it’s going to require massive amounts of renewable power which comes back to the resource base.
It’s about the resource and biomass. I think the biomass area needed for that transition is equivalent to the forest area of Russia for instance. It’s hard to imagine.
Then you have the direct air capture technology which has a very good acceptance by people who think this is a great idea, but this comes with a cost because you need to use renewable energy, so electricity, to make this work. You also need to have heat to make this process work.
Do we have enough renewable energy in the future to fuel these kind of direct air capture systems? Which by the way also need to store the CO2.
When it comes to other technologies for climate positive, like biochar for instance, you need then to think about a system where the whole agriculture sector must to change to basically manage carbon.
These are really tricky questions I think for our generation. How are we going to achieve this?
It’s strange to me that we don’t have a more forceful research and innovation agenda for these technologies which are going to be needed to become climate neutral, hopefully somewhere in the middle of the century.