2023 has been a significant year for carbon capture and storage in Europe, with the number of proposed projects crossing the 100 mark. Numerous countries, such as France, Germany and Austria, committed to develop carbon management strategies, a crucial step CATF has advocated for at both the national and EU level. Meanwhile, the EU’s industrial carbon management strategy is expected soon. Momentum is also building in projects that were announced in earlier years, with two final investment decisions in Ørsted and Porthos, and construction underway as part of project ANRAV in Bulgaria.
In Brussels, carbon capture and storage is now a core part of climate policy. The European Commission’s Vision for an European Union 2050 Long-term Strategy listed carbon capture and storage as one of seven strategic building blocks, multiple carbon capture projects were selected in the EU’s Innovation Fund, and carbon capture was put at the centre of the European Commission’s Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) proposal. This landmark act proposes an annual CO2 storage injection capacity target of 50 Mt CO2/yr by 2030, an obligation on oil and gas producers, as well as provisions for accelerating permitting, expanding member state coordination and enabling data sharing on CO2 storage sites. Finally, 14 CO2 network projects were selected as part of the EU’s list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) and Projects of Mutual Interest (PMIs).
The announcement of 27 projects, as well as these policy wins, signals progress, however, this progress is not set in stone, and much will need to align for these projects to progress from proposals to reality. 2024 must see more projects take final investment decision and European countries must roll out the necessary policies and regulatory frameworks needed to the unlock deep emissions reductions these projects could provide.
2023 key takeaways
Significant but uneven CO2 storage growth
The North Sea region has seen a commendable expansion in CO2 storage capacity. Yet, for equitable storage access across Europe, similar efforts need to be extended to regions like the Mediterranean.
Crucial role of supportive policies
Policy supports are key enablers for projects, as seen with Denmark’s decision to provide enduring 20 year financial support for projects and the EU Innovation Fund’s grants. However, uneven policy backing, particularly for storage sites, presents continuity risks, necessitating comprehensive, harmonised interventions.
Advancements in carbon capture and storage technologies
The year witnessed the arrival of innovative capture approaches, with numerous proposed projects employing technologies such as oxyfuel combustion and cryogenic capture.
Progress is clear but barriers remain
Only two projects have reached final investment decision, and achieving the NZIA’s 50 Mt/yr storage target will require rapid project advancement. Barriers include inadequate policy support and, most critically, a lack of funding. Additionally, overcoming supply chain issues, public acceptance challenges, and CO2 infrastructure limitations, among other factors, will be essential.
CO2 storage capacity grows in the North Sea and onshore storage emerges as a viable storage option
The 2023 project announcements in Europe would add approximately 73.5 million tonnes of CO2 storage injection capacity a year. These storage projects are getting bigger, aiming to leverage economies of scale – the average storage capacity for 2023 projects is 40% larger than those announced in 2022. However, all of these storage projects are located in countries around the North Sea. This is a concerning aspect of CO2 storage development, as the need for CO2 storage is not limited to countries around the North Sea Basin. CATF research shows that prices could be up to 300% higher in a CO2 export focused scenario. Meanwhile, capture projects in Croatia and Greece are dependent on storage in the Mediterranean, as such it will be vital that storage in the Mediterranean is made available.
A notable development is the announcement of several onshore storage projects in Denmark, such as the Norne Carbon Storage Hub and the Ruby Storage Project. These initiatives mark a significant shift from the sole focus on offshore storage in Europe. Onshore CO2 storage can be considerably cheaper than offshore storage, which means that developing these resources could be key to maintaining critical industries by significantly lowering the costs of decarbonisation. These early onshore storage projects have a vital role to play in demonstrating the safety and efficacy of onshore storage as well as key learnings for community engagement.
CO2 transport innovations: Full-chain projects announced and other transport modalities emerge
An interesting trend in 2023 has been the announcement of several full-chain carbon capture and storage projects. These projects integrate all stages of the value chain — from capturing CO2 at the source, transporting it a storage site, and finally sequestering the CO2 in geologic reservoirs – which has long been an oversight in carbon capture and storage planning. In addition, we also see the appearance of multiple transport modalities beyond pipelines alone, both as an interim solution during pipeline infrastructure construction and as an export option for offshore storage or storage in other countries. Some interesting examples include:
- CO2 export by ship through the Grand Ouest CO2 (GOCO2) project.
- The transport of liquified CO2 from the Avedøre Combined and Heat Power Station via truck to the export terminal.
- CO2 rail transport in the UK and Germany.
Export hubs and CO2 shipping routes are also beginning to take shape, with transport via sea emerging as a key transport modality. Still, the success of capture projects in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe will be dependent on nascent storage projects in the region to be rapidly progressed. In order to make storage available broadly, it is imperative that Europe create a Europe-wide CO2 transport and storage infrastructure that will ensure that all, or nearly all emitters can access the CO2 transport and storage network. This should ultimately lead to cost reductions all around.
Cement and lime sectors lead both in terms of projects and the deployment of new technologies
The cement and lime sectors are prime examples of industries that require carbon capture and storage for decarbonisation due to their unavoidable process emissions — 60% of emissions for cement production and 70% of emissions for lime production. With the ETS price poised to increase as free allowances are phased out and the cap tightens, these sectors’ proactive stance is exemplary for other industries in Europe. So far in 2023, there have been 7 large-scale lime and cement projects announced throughout Europe, totaling a potential emissions reduction of 6.3 Mt CO2/yr.
Some of these carbon capture projects, such as Grand Ouest CO2 (GOCO2) in France, IFESTOS in Greece as well as GeZero in Germany, also have the potential to connect to both more dispersed as well as smaller emitters. As they are located near other emitters, they could be prime candidates to act as entry points for CO2 into wider decarbonisation clusters which can lead to economies of scale and lower costs.
Advancements in CO2 capture and storage technologies
2023 has also been a year where many innovative carbon capture and storage projects were announced. One notable breakthrough is the adoption of oxyfuel combustion, a technique that is gaining momentum as the technology of choice for decarbonising cement and lime production due to its lower heat demand and potentially lower costs compared to amine capture. This method is showcased in plans for the complete decarbonisation of Europe’s largest lime plant through project EVEREST, and through the GO4ZERO project in Belgium, which will deliver massive emissions reductions of over 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year through the deployment of three state-of-the-art oxyfuel kilns.
The proposed IFESTOS project in Greece is also unique, combining first- and second-generation oxyfuel techniques with post-combustion cryogenic capture technologies. Similarly, KOdeCo Net-Zero, in Croatia, will also employ cryogenic capture technologies, with the aim of delivering more efficient capture and electricity savings. This project synergizes with Croatia’s pioneering geothermal CCS project, which has applied for PCI status and will be powered by renewable geothermal energy. Another standout initiative is Co2NTessa, which plans to modify an existing plant using the Polysius PureOxyfuel, a second generation oxyfuel technology developed by ThyssenKrupp.
An opportunity to seize momentum
So far this year, some 25.2 Mt of capture capacity, and 73.5 Mt of storage capacity were announced in the UK, European Economic Area (EEA), and EU. The storage projects in particular are key to close the storage gap in Europe. Europe has a long way to go to meet modelled demand which shows a need of between 300 and 500 Mt of CO2 to be captured and permanently stored per year by 2050. It will be crucial that policy supports are rolled out across Europe to support the development of carbon capture and storage projects so that they can overcome the multitude of challenges they face as well as ensure that storage capacity is spread equitably across Europe. If Europe can seize on this growing momentum in the carbon capture space, millions of tonnes of carbon pollution will be prevented from reaching the atmosphere while protecting and creating jobs.