Carbon Capture Utilisation Storage: Revesting The Future Of Energy

The lockdown has reinforced the value of good health and a sustainable environment, this has accelerated the world towards net-zero greenhouse emission. A keyway to ensure a clean and healthy society is to invest in clean energy technologies, which can prove to be beneficial in the short and long run. One of these inventions, the world and India must re-look into is “Carbon Capture Utilisation Storage” (CCUS).

CCUS refers to a set of technologies that involves capture of Carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point and non-point sources, including power generation and industrial facilities that use either fossil fuels or biomass for fuel. This technology enables CO2 to be captured directly from the atmosphere. If not being used immediately, or on-site, this technology works on capturing, compressing, and transporting of CO2 through ships, railways, trucks and more recently pipelines. This is then used in a range of applications or injected into deep geological formations like oil and gas reservoirs, and saline formations which trap the CO2 for permanent storage. The extent to which CO2 emissions are reduced depends on how much of the gas is captured from the point/non-point sources and how much is used.

Given that CCUS is based on reusing and making efficient the existing energy sources, it has the potential to be used across the spectrum:

· This set of technology works as a solution for energy dense dependent sectors, which find it hard to bank on renewable sources. Common among these are cement plants, iron and steel, as well as chemical manufacturing industries. In fact, large oil and gas companies have the required engineering expertise, skilled project management personnel and financial capacity to accelerate CCUS development and deployment.

· CCUS technology can be retrofitted to existing energy and power plants, that is, existing infrastructure can accommodate CCUS technology. These industries will otherwise emit 600 billion tonnes of Carbon-dioxide across the next 50 years, as per International Energy Agency (IEA).

· It is one of the most cost-effective and economical ways of reducing emissions from verticals that use non-renewable sources of energy. This transition will also enable companies to gain traction as an environmentally conscious organisation in the international market, a recognition which is becoming mandatory across the governments.

· In a move towards alternative sources of energy, innovators across the country are looking at Hydrogen based fuel cells. As per IEA, global Hydrogen use in the sustainable development will increase by 700% to 520 Megatonnes (Mt) by 2070. We thus need efficient ways to produce low-carbon Hydrogen. Presently there are only 2 ways this is possible, one of them in CCUS (the other is from water electrolysis harnessed from clean electricity). Adopting CCUS is a need of the hour for long term energy technology adoption.

· As per IEA’s report “CCUS in Clean Energy Transition”, CO2 emissions from power and industrial facilities in China, Europe and the US finds that 70% of the emissions are within 100 km of potential storage. This implies that CO2 produced can be used in-situ without excessive investment in infrastructure for CO2 transportation. If we look at this economic advantage, this makes carbon storage and reuse even more practical, thus strengthening the case of deploying CCUS technology.

· CCUS is an acknowledged innovation challenge, in the Mission Innovation Programme, which is a global initiative of 24 countries and the European Union to accelerate the global clean energy innovation, in which the Department of Science & Technology, government of India is an active partner. Seeing these developments, CCUS comes across as one playing an important role in the four key pillars of global energy transitions alongside renewables-based electrification, bioenergy, and hydrogen.

· Captured CO2 can be used in a plethora of ways, including to generate clean aviation fuels. Recognising this potential, deployment of CCUS has risen by 300% since 2008-09 financial crisis, with the range of potential applications vastly expanded (data source: IEA).

· The use of the CO2 for an industrial purpose can provide a potential revenue stream for CCUS facilities. Till now, the vast majority of CCUS projects have relied on revenue from the sale of CO2 to oil industries for enhanced oil recovery. However, there are many other potential uses of the CO2, including as a feedstock to produce synthetic fuels, from manufacturing in chemical industries to building materials.

· Lastly, deploying CCUS technology in one sector can have positive and significant spill-over benefits for other sectors or applications, namely technical learning for personnel associated with this technology, cost reduction across the supply chain, and infrastructure advancement.

Despite the potential, there are issues which need to be addressed in the CCUS domain. While it is used in industries functioning in natural gas production and fertiliser manufacturing, where the CO2 can be captured at relatively low cost. However, in other areas such as cement and steel, CCUS remains at an early stage of development. These are just some of the sectors where CCUS technology is crucial for tackling emissions, primarily due to a lack of alternatives. While this technology helps, it is difficult for these heavy-duty industries to become completely renewable. The major drawback is inadequate research and development (R&D) in this domain, as well as inadequate R&D in general. Domestically, India needs to work on a better pipeline infrastructure, minimising transmission losses, enabling technology sharing with countries, more financial allocation in the Union and State Budget, and working on simplistic rules and laws to facilitate FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), etc.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 7 and 13 focus on the need for all to have access to clean energy. Demand for energy continues to grow as the population expands and energy delivers well-being and better living standards to all. CCUS today is in a strong position to contribute to economic outreach of clean energy today, than after the global financial crisis of 2008-09. While man-made solutions are only part of the solution, it is a good start.

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