The Contribution of Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies (CCS)

By Beatrice Coda, Policy Officer, Low Carbon Technologies Unit, Directorate General for Climate Action, European Commission
Winter 2013

The Contribution of Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies (CCS) to the Decarbonisation of European Energy Systems Towards 2050 

The EU is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 as a part of the efforts needed by developed countries to reduce their emissions by a similar degree.

The Roadmap for moving to a Low Carbon Economy in 2050 and the 2050 Energy Roadmap, both published by the European Commission in 2011, indicate that there are several cost-effective pathways to achieve decarbonisation according to the targets agreed, including energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energies. However, forecasts of global energy demand growth indicate that the reliance from fossil fuels will continue for many decades to come. In the context of increasing demand for energy and in order to reconcile the rising demand for fossil fuels, widespread introduction of carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) in the power generation and industrial sector is likely to be a necessary mitigation options in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The role of CCS in cost efficient climate mitigation has been confirmed by the two above mentioned Roadmaps, in which all scenarios imply the use of CCS in the power generation sector by 2050. The Roadmap for moving to a low Carbon Economy by 2050 shows also that a delay in the deployment of CCS would result in a significant increase of the amount of investment needed to reach the required emission reductions, in line with the conclusion of similar assessments conducted at global level . Furthermore, according to the assessments of the two Roadmaps, CCS starts to contribute on a broader scale to reducing CO2 emissions from industrial processes in the EU after 2030. The application of CCS in certain industries, particularly in cement, steel, refining sector, could therefore represent an interesting option for the early deployment of the technology in view of the expected lower costs in comparison to power generation sector. The deployment of CCS in industrial processes may also help to increase public understanding and acceptance of the technology given the very visible link between jobs in local communities and continued industrial production.

In close co-operation with industries and Member States, the EU supports the demonstration and development of CCS, both financially and with regulatory steps. Following the European Council's decision back in 2007 to support up to 12 large-scale demonstration projects by 2015, the European Commission took a number of steps to establish a common regulatory and demonstration support framework: the CCS Directive was adopted to provide a legal framework for CO2 capture, transport and storage.

Moreover two funding instruments were set up with the aim to channel substantial funding to commercial-scale demonstration projects: the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) and the NER300 programme, which is funded by the sale of 300 million ETS allowances.

Despite considerable efforts to take the lead on CCS developments in Europe, of the 12 CCS large-scale projects currently operating in the world, none of them are situated in Europe and even the most promising EU demonstration projects are stopped or are facing delays. Bringing costs down and securing a business case in Europe remains still a challenge. The Consultative Communication on the future of Carbon Capture and Storage in Europe, published by the European Commission in March 2013, provides a summary of where we are today taking into account the global context and discusses the available options to encourage CCS demonstration and deployment, in order to support its long term business case as an integral part of the EU's strategy for low carbon transition.

The Communication indicates that the development of CCS in Europe has been affected by lack of business case in view of the low carbon prices over the last few years. The ETS carbon price is currently the main support instrument for CCS at European level, as the CO2 emissions captured, transported and stored are considered as not emitted pursuant to the ETS Directive. In the first competition round the NE300 funding programme, no CCS projects were selected as Member States were unable to confirm projects, the reasons being among others, funding gaps in the national and/or private contribution, and delays in the permitting procedures. A number of projects also faced public opposition, especially in Poland and Germany. In general a recent Eurobarometer survey shows that the European population is unaware of CCS and its potential contribution to mitigating climate change. While sufficient storage capacity probably exists in Europe, some Member States decided to ban or restrict CO2 storage from their national territories, while only few Member States in Europe are currently leading efforts on CCS development.

The success of the CCS demonstration projects is seen as critical first step to ensure timely deployment of this technology and to establish a positive perception of CCS as a cost-effective, climate- friendly technology among investors and the general community. For CCS demonstration to happen within the shortest possible delays action needs to be taken on several fronts, in particular on the policy support and for the improvement of the business case for CCS large scale projects; this requires coordination of efforts among private and public sector.

The consultative Communication has spurred a debate about the possible determining factors and policy measures, at EU level as well as at national level, for the successful demonstration and subsequent deployment of CCS by 2020 in the power generation and industrial sectors. Following the consultation, the European Commission will consider the need to prepare proposals, if appropriate, in the context of its work to on the integrated policy framework for climate and energy in the period up to 2030.

The time for CCS in Europe is running out. "No action" is not an option.