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Circular Carbon Technologies Must Help Meet 2050 Emissions Goals

Carbon management technologies have a huge potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but policymakers must act quickly and give these technologies the visibility they need to deploy and help halt global warming, ministers and experts speaking at a forum on the topic said.

Ministers and experts spoke at the first High-Level Roundtable on Carbon Management Technologies on September 27, hosted by the International Energy Forum (IEF) in collaboration with the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) and the Clean Energy Ministerial Secretariat (CEM).

The roundtable examined how best to accelerate the deployment of technologies such as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) and other circular carbon models in industry practice, and energy and climate policy in the Gulf region and across Europe, North America and Asia-Oceania. CCUS involves a series of technologies to capture CO2 from energy flows, waste gases, or the atmosphere and inject it into geological structures for permanent storage or convert it into products such as plastics or concrete, in addition to nature-based solutions.

overhead shot of a series of turbines

"CCUS is, of course, one of the solutions we in the oil industry have to combat the effects of climate change," said H.E. Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Oil, Bahrain.

As part of its nationwide climate strategy, the United Arab Emirates has a target of 5 million tons of captured CO2 to be injected by 2030, equivalent to the capture capacity of 5 million acres of forest, said Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure.

CCUS projects benefit from government support to offset a variety of risk factors, such as high-upfront costs, poorly developed markets and ill-defined policy or regulatory frameworks — all of which have slowed uptake, experts said.

G20 Energy Ministers endorsed the Circular Carbon Economy Platform in September 2020. The G20 Climate and Energy Ministers Meeting in July 2021 explicitly recognized the need for investment and financing for advanced clean technologies including CCUS and carbon recycling.

"Definitely, the world is getting together on one fact," said UAE minister Al Mazrouei. "We need to do things faster, and we need to do more on this important subject."

An international CCUS mechanism to broaden the scope of CCUS policies, possibly under the aegis of the IEF, would help catalyze investment and advance development, said Joseph McMonigle, Secretary General of the IEF.

"The quest to achieve climate neutrality, for instance by building a vibrant hydrogen economy by 2050, depends on economy-wide uptake of CCUS and international collaboration to focus on high-impact areas," he added. "In short, it's time to green light CCUS."

Adam Sieminski, Senior Advisor to the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) Board of Trustees said: "The circular carbon economy and the CCUS framework represents an integrated and holistic approach toward realizing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions targets. Governments can and must play an important role to achieve CCUS deployment."

That has been the strategy in Norway, said Lars Andreas Lunde, Deputy Minister for Norway's Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. Norway has invested heavily in CCUS technology in its early phases, with two-thirds of financing and risk taken on by the government, with the full knowledge that these early stages are not profitable.

"These are complexity and expense issues," said Mr Lunde. "In an early phase, we needed state support. Carbon capture and storage especially CCUS should be profitable on the longer end."

The roundtable follows up on the release of a new IEF report entitled, "Strategies to Scale Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage." CCUS capacity needs to grow from 40 million tons today to at least 5,600 million tons by 2050 to meet Paris goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2.0 degrees by 2050, according to the report. CCUS has the potential to account for, at least, one-fifth of the CO2 emissions cuts required to meet that goal.

A network of pipes

The report points to the critical role of market forces in bringing CCUS to scale and highlights the need for measures to de-risk CCUS finance and incentivize clustering in industrial parks to improve synergies across different industries. CCUS must be incorporated into large-scale industrial planning, national recovery plans, Environmental, Social and Governance standards, and Nationally Determined Contributions for countries as they plot their pathways to net zero, the report says.

"The IEF report on strategies to scale CCUS … speaks to the timeliness and versatility and the relevance of these technologies and the leverage government and industry stakeholders can seize," said Dan Dorner, Head of CEM.

The roundtable concluded that CCUS forges a link between energy security, affordable energy access and climate change mitigation. It provides a versatile technology to reduce emissions in hard-to-abate sectors and offers investors incentives and more predictability across value chains without stranding jobs or assets, experts said.

From the US perspective, Maria DiGiulian, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy said the current administration was pumping investment into research, development and deployment in different types of carbon capture, use and storage options.

"Whether CO2 is captured from a point source or through direct air capture technologies, secure and reliable CO2 storage is critical in helping us to meet our climate goals," she said.

"Our focus is to expand carbon capture into the natural gas space and in hard-to-abate industrial sectors such as ethanol, hydrogen, cement, paper and steel production."

"For the production of synthetic fuels and chemicals with CO2 as a feedstock, the sourcing of low carbon hydrogen will be critical. There is significant potential in applying carbon capture to help advance a cost-effective and low-carbon hydrogen economy," she added.

The UK is already quite advanced in its planning for a series of CCUS projects tied to major industrial clusters, said Alex Milward, Director for CCUS at the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The UK will announce the first wave of industrial clusters that will receive government support to be operational by the mid-2020s before the COP26 meeting in November, he said.

The UK has a target of storing 10 megatons of captured CO2 per annum by end of 2030, he added.

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