Room to grow: Mapping carbon capture projects in the Middle East and North Africa
Carbon management technologies are critical to enabling the global transition to net-zero emissions, and to meeting sustainable development goals and climate targets. In fact, nearly every pathway to net-zero emissions identified by both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) includes a significant role for carbon capture.
While the contribution of carbon management technologies in the energy transition will vary considerably across countries and regions, this suite of technologies will be essential to reducing emissions from industrial and power sources when combined with near-zero upstream methane mitigation, generating critically needed zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia, and enabling negative emissions with direct air capture (DAC).
The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has an opportunity to become a world leader in carbon management, playing a key role in advancing the technology to reduce emissions quickly from its existing production capacity through retrofits, and to enable large-scale, dispatchable hydrogen production that it could use locally as well as export to neighboring regions.
The MENA region is well suited to advance this technology for several key reasons. It has existing experience with carbon management technologies, substantial financial resources to develop technology and infrastructure, large sources of geologic storage, and extensive expertise working in the sub-surface. The region can facilitate the development and wide-scale demonstration of carbon management technologies for industrial decarbonization, and can position itself as a global carbon management leader and supplier of zero-carbon fuels.
CATF’s new carbon management tracker for the MENA region maps 10 total projects, five of which are already operational. This is relatively small compared to the number of announced carbon capture projects in the U.S. and Europe, and also small in relation to the region’s estimated capacity of at least 492 Gt CO2, although there are no reliable storage capacity estimates. Regardless, it’s clear that the MENA region has the potential to scale up projects in the region and play a key role in accelerating the global adoption of carbon capture technology.
We’ve seen renewed momentum for carbon management in recent years, primarily driven by strengthened climate commitments from governments and industry, including ambitious net-zero emissions targets. However, we must unlock more financing to build up carbon management technologies, and demand for pathways to support the flow of capital continues to grow. With the number of projects beginning to increase and the MENA region pioneering and developing more projects, there is a strong foundation from which to build carbon management capacity and facilitate widespread deployment of carbon management technologies.
To accelerate carbon management projects in the MENA region and build towards a carbon management economy, CATF recommends that MENA governments:
- Develop carbon capture and storage potential through long-term modeling of economy-wide decarbonization scenarios — with clear targets and milestones for the amount of CO2 captured and stored as well as for the production of low-carbon hydrogen combined with near-zero upstream methane mitigation
- Clarify the need for CO2 transport and storage infrastructure and set up the regulation and policy network to meet those needs
- Identify, characterize, and permit strategically placed large-scale storage sites around the region, with policy and funding support mechanisms to promote further emissions reduction projects
- Develop risk management strategies and investable business models to encourage the steady expansion of cluster networks
- Introduce policies to enforce low-carbon standards for equipment and exports, as well as policies to encourage defining tradable ‘CO2 storage units’ with a view to creating an international market for CO2
- Define low-carbon and renewable gases with clear standards developed in conjunction with export markets