February 16, 2023 • 3 min read
CCUS: Top five takeaways from COP27
What impacts will COP27 have on the carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) sector?
Chris Behan, Project Lead for our CCUS growth team shares his thoughts.
1. To meet net-zero targets, CCUS projects must see a 12-fold increase by 2030
At the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt one of the key takeaways was the scale of the task to achieve net zero targets.
For CCUS, the challenge is proving that it’s both technically and economically viable at scale. There are approximately 50 Mega tonnes (Mt) per annum of CCUS in operation today, and we’re working on projects tallying another 50Mt.
However, discussions during COP highlighted that between now and 2030, there needs to be a 12-fold increase in CCUS projects to be on track to meet net-zero goals.
We’ve never seen a task this large or urgent before. But it’s a positive sign for the future of the CCUS industry. The demand for CCUS is clear, so now we need to focus on delivering these projects.
2. Negative reputation around CCUS could halt its growth
One clear challenge is the need to improve public perception of CCUS. Current knowledge is limited which can lead to misconceptions about its role in our energy mix.
But net zero doesn’t just affect the energy industry. It’s a huge societal shift. And the more knowledge people have, the more likely projects will proceed. But there are multiple media channels that need to make that happen. As well as face-to-face community engagement sessions.
Discussions highlighted the need for governments and industries to work together on joint communication plans to engage and educate the public on CCUS. COP27 made clear the number of CCUS projects will grow. But without action to correct the dialogue and strengthen awareness, we’re bound to see greater resistance.
3. Standardization is a must to speed up the rate of development
COP27 reinforced the need for standardization across CCUS technologies. This was a key theme across multiple panels and forums.
We need to replicate designs and build in parallel, across the supply chain. Historically the delivery of a large-scale CCUS plant has taken up to 10 years. To meet net-zero targets, we’ll need to build three plants a year, every year, until 2050. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s possible if we work together to standardize key parts of projects.
I left Sharm-El-Sheik encouraged about the future of CCUS and the recognized need for it. However, there was still a sense of uncertainty around whether it can happen quickly enough and whether policymakers can move faster.
4. CCUS will be a valuable decarbonization tool on the road to net zero
It’s not realistic to make a clean-cut switch to renewables in the short term. It’s going to take time to generate and store enough renewable energy for processes we can electrify. Let alone processes requiring other feedstocks.
We’ll need to see advancements in energy storage, through battery technology and the hydrogen economy. But we’re not there yet. We still need to provide the energy, chemicals and resources the world needs right now while decarbonizing. And CCUS makes this transition possible with a lower CO2 footprint.
Numerous discussions throughout COP27 highlighted the importance of deploying CCUS as a decarbonization tool to reduce CO2 emissions in the meantime.
5. Private investment will be crucial for rapid deployment of CCUS projects
There was no specific CCUS legislation that came out of COP27. But learnings from sessions I attended like the First Movers coalition forum showcased the importance of investment to increase deployment of CCUS.
The First Movers is a coalition of 65 global companies that have committed US$12 billion in purchase commitments for technologies to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors. These sectors account for 30 percent of global emissions. The market capitalization of these companies is around US$8 trillion. So, you can imagine the amount of investment they can raise.
We’ll need around US$4 trillion in investment in CCUS technologies between now and 2050 to drive down capital and operational costs. But if we succeed in reducing these costs, the rate of development will increase to align with net zero targets.
There’s a lot of expectation around COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. In particular, the need for new policies to enable further investment in CCUS. Without them, projects won’t happen fast enough.
The world needs collective and decisive roadmaps to achieve net zero. It’s no longer enough to discuss what we need to do; we need a clear direction on how we do it. Net zero is a huge challenge, but it is possible. And CCUS has a key role to play in getting us there.