The world is racing against time to capture the carbon needed to meet global targets. The most pressing need is developing the CCS value chain.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is both possible and needed should the world have any chance of reaching the temperature targets set out in the Paris Agreement. It’s estimated that six gigatonnes of CO2 must be captured and stored annually from 2050 and onwards. This amount is equivalent to filling two million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.
It’s safe to say a lot of work remaining. There is some good news: the capabilities and storage space currently exist to reach this goal.
“Storage isn’t an issue. It is 100 percent safe to store CO2 underground. It does need some monitoring, but it can stay there in perpetuity. The process of offshore storage has been around for nearly 30 years. Equinor’s Sleipner Vest field in the North Sea was the world’s first offshore CCS plant with operations starting in 1996,” Mr Johan P. Tutturen, Senior Technical Advisor, Green Transition Group, at Clarksons, said.
And now the bad news. CCS is expensive. Mr Tutturen added that innovations to make the process more efficient and hopefully cheaper are being developed but it is still a work in progress. A lot more investment in the value chain is needed.
“CCS needs to build up a new logistics chain because the emitter needs to capture, liquefy and condition CO2 before either it is pipelined to final sequestration or transported by a CO2 carrier to its destination. This creates a huge need for transportation infrastructure. Carbon is transported in a liquid form where it is cooled and pressurised to exact requirements. This requires specialised ships and equipment,” Mr Tutturen noted. “While the process of transporting carbon has been around for 30 years, only four vessels currently operate with that capability.”
The next step for CCS is to optimise the logistics chain. While work is carried out to improve efficiency across the board, the Northern Lights project just may provide a roadmap for future large-scale CCS efforts.
The Northern Lights project features a partnership between European energy giants Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies. It is a component of Longship, the Norwegian Government’s full-scale carbon capture and storage project.
Critically, Northern Lights stakeholders are developing solutions across the logistics chain. That includes the construction of vessels capable of transporting liquified CO2 and building terminals. Agreements are in place with capture facilities to ensure no gaps in the program.
“One of the most important lessons from the Northern Lights project is establishing a logistics chain. Many parts to this process must be figured out early,” Mr Tutturen stated. “You must identify and agree with the CO2 emitter on a capture plan. You need to have all the tools in place for transportation, including a vessel. There is a need for equipment when it comes time for storage.”
Slated to begin in 2024, the Northern Lights project is billed as the first-ever cross-border, open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network. It will be able to receive CO2 captured from across Europe. Importantly, the development of the CCS value chain now provides a foundation for similar projects elsewhere in the world.
“The Northern Lights project is something that can be duplicated. Those participating in the project deserve credit as building this value chain is cost-intensive. Those participating in the project can be an invaluable resource to other countries and regions thinking about trying something similar,” Mr Tutturen said. “A lot of interesting work has been done and a lot more remains left to do. This is the tip of the iceberg.”
There is also the opportunity for Norwegian firms assisting in the development of the Northern Lights logistics chain to take the lead on upcoming CCS projects elsewhere.
“The whole value chain of CCS offers opportunities for Norwegian businesses. Pump manufacturers, geological surveyors, sink owners, design companies and many other companies have in-demand capabilities to share with the world. Everything along the value chain has an important role and Norway is in the pole position to assist CCS efforts globally,” Mr Tutturen concluded.
While there is a consensus about the value of removing CO2 from the environment, global policies present an issue. Namely, CO2 is classified as a waste. This was a large hurdle for the Northern Lights project to overcome.
“CO2 is regarded as waste, meaning one country cannot ship it to another for disposal without an agreement. The Northern Lights project saw Norway reach agreements with the Netherlands and the UK to dispose of CO2 capture elsewhere. This can provide a framework for other countries to work from,” Mr Tutturen explained.
An amendment to the London Protocol which would allow transborder export of CO2 has yet to be ratified which means bilateral agreements are still required. These are more time-consuming to complete and can deter potential partners from joining.
Countries have been slow to ratify the London Protocol amendment due in part to their own limited CO2 transportation framework. Regulating localised CO2 transport, addressing liability and providing incentives or subsidies are not fully developed across the globe.
Mr Tutturen argues that governments should expedite approval of the London Protocol amendments because it can allow them to accelerate and coordinate their domestic CCS policy efforts.
“CO2 should not be seen as waste. It should be classified as a commodity since there is real value in removing it,” Mr Tutturen pointed out. “There is a global understanding that something needs to be done as it relates to CO2. This is our challenge. Ultimately, it should cost more to emit CO2 than it does to capture and store it, but we aren’t there yet.”
The Potential for CCS in Asia
As far as CCS projects are concerned, Asia is still in the preliminary stages. The consensus is that it will play a significant role in the region’s decarbonisation efforts with several countries and energy companies trying to gain a better understanding of how everything will work.
In China, the first offshore CCS demonstration project began operations in June. Located nearly 200 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong, oil and gas company CNOOC Limited is capturing and processing CO2 produced at its oilfield before injecting it into a saline water layer under the seabed.
Meanwhile, TotalEnergies, one of the Northern Lights partners, signed an agreement with Malaysia energy giant Petronas and Japanese firm Mitsui & Co. to explore the possibility of jointly developing the first integrated CCS project in Malaysia. All three companies touted the potential for this to support emitters throughout the Asia Pacific region.
At the start of 2023, the Japanese government set a target to increase CO2 storage capacity by 6-12 million tonnes annually from 2030. The country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) signed a memorandum of cooperation with the state-owned Japan Organisation for Metals and Energy Security and Petronas that could see CO2 shipped to Malaysia as soon as 2028.
The news came nearly two years after METI launched the Asia Capture, Storage, and Utilisation (CCUS) Network, an organisation focused on capacity development and knowledge sharing focused on Southeast Asia.
Earlier this year, Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced new rules for CCS as it looks to provide clarity for those wanting to develop projects. It is one of the first countries in Asia to roll out legal and regulatory frameworks covering CCS projects.
- In 1996, Equinor’s Sleipner Vest field in the North Sea was the world’s first offshore CCS plant
- Work on the CCS logistics chain is needed to reduce the cost and make it more affordable for emitters to participate
- Northern Lights is the first-ever cross-border, open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network
- The Northern Lights project features a partnership between European energy giants Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies
- An amendment to the London Protocol allowing transborder export of CO2 has yet to be ratified
- CNOOC Limited launched the the first offshore CCS demonstration project in China this year
- TotalEnergies, Petronas and Mitsui & Co. agreed to explore the possibility of developing Malaysia’s first integrated CCS project
- Norwegian companies helping to develop the Northern Lights logistics chain to take the lead on global CCS projects
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