Brussels, 27 March 2013
Consultative Communication on the future of Carbon Capture and Storage in Europe
What is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a set of technologies that captures the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from industrial plants based on fossil fuels, transports it to a suitable storage site and stores it in underground geological formations with the aim of removing it from the atmosphere for good.
Why do we need CCS?
The European Union has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, as is necessary to limit the increase in global temperatures to below 2 degrees. There are several ways to achieve de-carbonisation, including energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energies and carbon-free energy sources. However, in the context of increasing demand for energy, which is likely to be met in a large part, by fossil fuels, widespread introduction of CCS is likely to be one of the necessary mitigation options.
The role of CCS in cost efficient climate mitigation has been confirmed by the 2050 Energy Roadmap and by the Roadmap for moving to a Low Carbon Economy in 2050, both published by the European Commission in 2011, in which all scenarios imply the use of CCS.
What is the purpose of the Communication published today?
Today's Communication summarizes the state of play of CCS development and identifies the barriers that have prevented the technology from progressing in Europe at the pace initially foreseen in 2007. The Communication then discusses some of the possible options to promote the timely demonstration and early deployment of CCS in Europe and to strengthen its long-term business case. Stakeholders' views are welcome on what would be the best policy framework to ensure that the demonstration and further deployment of CCS, if proven commercially and technically viable, take place without further delay.
How technically mature is CCS?
Globally, more than 20 small-scale demonstration CCS projects are successfully operating, of which two are in Europe (in Norway), and none in EU territory. Most of them are industrial applications, such as oil and gas processing or chemical production, which capture CO2 for commercial reasons. Eight of these projects have the full CCS chain, five of which are made economically feasible through enhanced oil recovery, where the CO2 is used to increase the extraction of crude oil.
However, CCS has yet not been applied at a large scale for mitigation of climate change. Bringing costs down and securing a business case therefore remains a challenge.
Why has CCS not gained ground yet in the EU?
The implementation of the envisaged demonstration projects in Europe has proven more difficult than initially foreseen. A series of factors are responsible for this situation, but mainly the lack of a long term business case and the cost of the CCS technology. At current carbon prices which are very low, and without any other legal constraint or incentive, there is no rationale for economic operators to invest in CCS. Some projects (those that envisage onshore storage) have faced strong public opposition. While sufficient storage capacity probably exists in Europe, not all capacity is accessible or located close to CO2 emitters. Some Member States have decided to ban or restrict CO2 storage from their national territories. In addition, an adequate transport infrastructure is necessary to efficiently connect CO2 sources to sinks.
How much will CCS cost?
According to recent Joint Research Centre assessments, the first generation CCS power plant is expected to be about 60-100% more expensive than a similar conventional plant, depending on the capture technology selected. Once CCS power plants start being deployed, costs will decrease benefiting from R&D activities and the building of economies of scale. The cost of CO2 capture for industrial applications will also vary according to application, but may, in many cases, be lower than for power generation due to a higher concentration of CO2 in the flue gas.
Operational cost estimates of CCS vary, depending on the fuel, technology and storage type, but most calculations for current costs fall in the range of €30 to €100/tCO2 stored (on average 40 €/ton CO2 avoided for coal power plants; and 80 €/ton CO2 avoided for natural gas power plants. In addition the costs of transport and storage must be taken into account.) These costs are expected to substantially decrease as the technology is proven on a commercial scale.
For further information: IP/13/272