CCUS capacity of up to 10 gigatonnes/year needed by 2050, Energy Transitions Commission says.

By Dale Lunan

A new report released July 12 by the London-based Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) says carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies will play “limited but vital roles” in a transition to a lower-carbon global energy system.

“Massive clean electrification is the backbone of global decarbonisation,” the ETC said as it released the report, Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage in the Energy Transition: Vital but Limited. “However, electrification, hydrogen and sustainable low-carbon bioenergy combined cannot reduce gross emissions completely to zero.”

Additionally, the ETC noted “it is almost certain” that cumulative CO2 emissions between now and 2050 will exceed the so-called “carbon budget” required to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and that carbon removals will  be needed alongside “deep and rapid” emissions reductions.

And it is there, the report suggests, that CCUS can play three “vital but limited” roles in the energy transition: decarbonisation of hard to abate industrial processes; delivery of direct air carbon removals that are required to meet global climate change objectives; and provision of low-cost decarbonisation solutions in certain sectors and geographies where CCUS holds an economic advantage over other options.

“As a low-carbon, but not zero-carbon, technology, CCUS has a complementary role to play in decarbonisation alongside massive clean electrification, hydrogen and sustainable bioresources,” ETC chair Adair Turner said. “Collective action by government, corporates and investors is needed now to ensure that CCUS can scale-up and play this vital but limited role in industrial decarbonisation and deliver some of the carbon removals essential to keeping 1.5°C alive.”

By 2050, the report suggests, global CO2 capture, storage and/or use capacity must be in the 7-10 gigatonnes/year range, with about half coming from the hard to decarbonise cement, steel and hydrogen production sectors. But today, only about 40 mt/yr of CO2 is being captured from about 30 facilities worldwide.

“Early deployment in the 2020s is essential to achieve sufficient capacity by 2050 and reduce overall costs,” the ETC says. “Much of the growth – particularly of direct air capture – will occur after 2030 but significant development in the 2020s is needed to make this future build-out feasible.”

A “plausible but ambitious” deployment trajectory, the report says, would see about 0.8 gt/yr of capture capacity operating by 2030, using a suite of technologies at more than 300 facilities. “Achieving this will require action from governments and industry to reduce project development time, develop shared transport and storage infrastructure and ramp up investment.”

The full report from the ETC is available here.