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TEN-E Revision: Geologic storage inclusion is a must for climate neutrality

January 27, 2021 Work Area: Carbon Capture

The European Commission has released its proposed revision of the Trans-European Energy Infrastructure regulation, also known as EU TEN-E, in mid-December. The TEN-E regulation defines the criteria for the next round of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), necessitating TEN-E to be fully compliant with and enable to deliver on climate ambition.

While the update and revision of the TEN-E regulation to be in line with climate ambition is welcome, the European Commission’s draft neglects geologic storage as an integral part of the value chain of carbon capture removal and storage.

Carbon capture removal and storage technologies will form an important cornerstone of Europe’s path towards climate neutrality, as various modelling scenarios from organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, and the European Commission’s own analysis have shown. With the research clear, these findings now need to be reflected in regulation around global infrastructure planning.

Carbon capture removal and storage technologies will progress the decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors such as cement and steel production. Scaling these technologies is also crucial for the transformation towards a hydrogen economy, and will enable drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere to deliver negative emissions. Currently multiple carbon capture and storage projects are under way, such as Northern Lights in Norway and Porthos in the Netherlands, aiming to provide the transport and storage infrastructure for multiple sources of emissions, a model also known as ‘hubs and clusters’.

The scale-up of carbon capture removal and storage technologies requires large amounts of investment, enabled through supportive policy frameworks and public funding programs to draw in private sector investment.

A supportive policy framework consists of incentives for the build-out of the full carbon capture removal and storage value chain including infrastructure as anchors for the decarbonization of multiple sources of CO2, and dedicated deployment policy to enable the progression from one-off demonstration projects towards large-scale deployment and a carbon management market. Recently, the European Union has taken positive steps to design supportive policy, for example with the launch of the Innovation Fund. However, the fund does not have the requisite scale for the EU’s climate ambitions as signaled by the first round of applications.

According to the research from 2019, Europe possesses close to 500 Gt of storage capacity, more than 100 years of current total emissions. It is unlikely that geologic storage clusters will be developed in every single country. Moreover, not all countries possess the necessary saline geologic storage resources demonstrating that some countries will store CO2 from other countries’ hard-to-abate and industrial sources. Providing support for the development of geologic storage resources will be imperative for achieving climate neutrality.

The TEN-E regulation should therefore be amended to:

  • Ensure continued inclusion of carbon dioxide networks in the TEN-E revision. The revised TEN-E Regulation will continue to support infrastructure for the transport of carbon dioxide for the purpose of the permanent storage of carbon dioxides. This acknowledges that carbon capture and storage is an important technology for the decarbonisation of energy intensive sector”, wrote the European Commission in the factsheet accompanying its proposal in December. As the negotiations between the European Parliament and the European Council serve to finalize the TEN-E revisions, a first step is to ensure the continued inclusion of carbon dioxide networks, as was suggested by the European Commission.  
  • Include the full infrastructure value chain of carbon capture and storage including geologic storage of CO2 along with CO2 transportation networks. While CO2 utilisation is an option, geologic storage needs to be developed at scale for carbon capture and removal technologies to deliver on net-zero emissions ambition and limit the overall cost of decarbonization.
  • Recognize the need for multiple modalities beyond pipelines for CO2 transport. This needs to be included and reflect the full range of CO2 transportation modalities such as pipelines, ships, truck and train as well as connecting and/or docking facilities, allowing all European regions and industries to connect. This would allow for flexibility of siting and application, diversifying the risk of relying on a single mode of transportation for carrying CO2.
  • Regulate non-discriminatory third-party and open access to CO2 transportation networks and storage.
  • Include the retrofitting of pipelines for CO2 transport.

These updates would reflect that the development and widespread adoption of carbon capture removal and storage technologies is expected to be achieved through member-state cooperation, with the relevant infrastructure created across borders to form a CO2 network. This means different transport modalities beyond pipelines will need to be supported to enable industrial emitters across Europe access to CO2 storage sites and cross-border transportation of CO2 at a lower cost.

Carbon capture removal and storage technologies will be imperative for achieving net-zero emissions. To date, the technologies have not been deployed at commercial scale. The first step towards this goal will be to get the policy framework right.

Read our factsheet for policymakers here

Update: Blogpost updated on April 14th to include the recommendation for the continued inclusion of CO2 networks in the TEN-E revision.


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