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Germany makes significant progress in advancing carbon capture

January 10, 2023 Work Area: Carbon Capture

“Better to put CO2 in the ground, than in the atmosphere” said German Climate Minister, Robert Habeck, at a press conference in Norway last week, as the German and Norwegian governments agreed to cooperate further on accelerating the deployment of carbon capture, removal and storage technologies. The Joint Declaration marks the beginning of a significant year for carbon management in Europe, and particularly in Germany as the country ramps up its efforts to achieve climate neutrality by 2045. 

Carbon management technologies, which include carbon capture and storage as well as negative emissions technologies like direct air capture or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, can play a key role in various decarbonisation applications. As Clean Air Task Force has outlined, leading studies have found that Germany will not be able to achieve its 2045 climate neutrality goals without carbon management, meaning the development and implementation of carbon management technologies must be a top priority. The German government is beginning to recognize that reality and take action to address it.

A German Carbon Management Strategy 

We saw significant political progress for carbon management in Germany in 2022, sowing the seeds for major steps forward in 2023. In December, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) published its Evaluation Report of the country’s CO2 storage law (KSpG), asserting that “the technology for capturing, transporting and storing CO2 is already mature and proven,” but that the legal framework in Germany prevented its widespread application, since it prohibits the construction of CO2 storage sites in Germany. Germany has also not yet ratified a London Protocol amendment that would allow for the export of CO2 for offshore storage abroad. 

Amending the KSpG to enable the storage of CO2 in Germany, either offshore or onshore, is a key priority for 2023, which the BMWK seeks to address. In order to do that, the BMWK will prepare a Carbon Management Strategy, which will provide the political framework for the deployment of carbon capture, removal and storage technologies in Germany. As CATF outlined last year, a German Carbon Management Strategy is a critical component required to meet Germany’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2045. In order to ensure carbon capture, removal and storage technologies can sufficiently scale in the country, five key points must be addressed

  1. Clear targets for carbon management deployment 
  1.  Identification of those sectors where carbon management must be prioritised 
  1. Inclusion and participation of civil society  
  1. Prioritisation of shared CO2 infrastructure to ensure shared climate benefits 
  1. Proactive engagement with the international community on carbon management 
Source: BMWK, Evaluation Report, (p.141) Graphic translated by Clean Energy Wire 

While the Carbon Management Strategy has yet to be published, the BMWK provided an outline of the key aspects it will cover in December’s Evaluation Report. Continued active civil society engagement and participation in the development process of the strategy will be imperative in its successful deployment. In October last year, the BMWK held the first of several planned stakeholder workshops on carbon capture, utilisation and storage, which CATF attended. As further engagements are planned in 2023, ensuring the Carbon Management Strategy and broader deployment of carbon capture, removal and storage is focused on achieving maximal climate benefits will be a top priority. 

CO2 Infrastructure plans pressing ahead 

On the heels of the political progress seen in 2022, major CO2 infrastructure projects have been announced in Germany, showing the ambition of key industrial players seeking to decarbonise their industries.  

A Map of possible CO2 Sinks, – Sources and – Networks in 2045 

Source: BMWK, Long-term Scenarios for the Transformation of the Energy System in Germany (p.43) 

Major infrastructure projects, such as Open Grid Europe’s CO2 Netz, which would deliver a nationwide CO2 pipeline network, was unveiled in April. This would enable CO2 captured by Germany’s industrial emitters to be transported for storage abroad, potentially via CO2 export terminals, such as a planned project by CO2 Management AS in Bremerhaven or the Delta Rhyne Corridor project which would transport CO2 to Rotterdam in the Netherlands where it would be stored offshore. Other cross-border projects are also in the works, such as Equinor and Wintershall Dea’s plans for a CO2 pipeline between Germany and Norway. With a planned capacity of up to 40 Mt/year, these projects also serve as indicators of the long-term ambition to establish a carbon capture and storage industry in Germany. 

Other major projects such as the C Zero Hub in Duisburg and EU2NSEA, a major cross-border carbon capture and storage project, involving eight EU Member States have recently applied for Project of Common Interest (PCI) Status to the European Commission. This comes on the back of the inclusion of CO2 infrastructure in the Trans-European Energy Infrastructure (TEN-E) regulation, following a joint campaign by CATF and Bellona. 

Germany needs a robust, long-term carbon management strategy to transform its industry to enable climate neutrality and the federal government is beginning to take action to that affect. Achieving major cuts in emissions over the coming decades while preserving the thousands of jobs Germany’s industrial sector provides will be a key challenge for the country, but with continued support for carbon management from the government, it is a challenge that Germany can overcome. 

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