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Industrial Clustering Can Enhance CCUS Uptake

Serkan Birgel
Nov 04, 2021

GHI Blog

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the story of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) has been one of “unmet expectations.” To meet the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, 5,635 million tons per annum (Mtpa) of CO2 must be stored by 2050, which “equates to 70–100 new facilities every year” according to an article in The Electricity Journal. As of late 2021, approximately 300 million tons of CO2 (MtCO2) or 0.3 gigatons of CO2 (GtCO2) have been stored underground. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that in all scenarios limiting global warming to 1.5°C, between 100 GtCO2 and 1,000 GtCO2 of CO2 removal (CDR) is needed over the 21st century. This situation may be remedied in part by the adoption of CCUS technologies and industrial clusters gaining traction globally.

What Is Industrial Clustering?

Industrial clustering, industrial parks, or other forms of industrial symbiosis (which maximize the use of resources in line with circular economy principles) present an opportunity to colocate the sourcing and storage of carbon. Economies of scale and the networking of infrastructure and resources can coordinate CO2 transport infrastructure (onshore and offshore pipelines, shipping, rail, or trucking) and nearby storage sites (onshore or offshore). This scenario combines resources and key infrastructure to strengthen the economic case for CCUS projects through optimization and abatement of high risk, low return scenarios.

An example of CCUS in industrial clustering is the Humber Zero carbon capture and storage (CCS) network project in development in Northeast England. Within an existing industrial cluster, the Humber Zero project will combine CCS technology on latent heat and power plants with hydrogen production and capture up to 8 MtCO2 annually. The captured carbon is to be transported via pipeline and stored in empty natural gas fields and saline aquifers 20 miles offshore. Reportedly, up to 720 MtCO2 can be stored indefinitely. The Humber Zero CCS project is part of a wider endeavor to decarbonize energy-intensive industries known as the Zero Carbon Humber initiative. The UK has set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and the Humber region itself emits 12.4 MtCO2 per year. Without CCUS, emissions from current industrial practices cannot be reduced in line with the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy net-zero targets.

What about Direct Air Capture?

According to the Global CCS Institute’s database, at least 26 carbon capture projects in the world are operational, with an annual capacity of around 37 Mtpa. As of this blog’s writing, the project database does not include the recent announcement of the world’s largest direct air capture (DAC) project, which began in Iceland in September 2021. Costing up to $15 million, the Orca project has an annual capacity to capture 4,000 tons of CO2 per year (0.004 Mtpa). Its capture technology is a high temperature aqueous solution, and the process is powered by renewable geothermal resources. Captured carbon is mixed with water and stored in a nearby basalt rock formation. Eventually, the mixture is mineralized.

The IEA expects DAC and bioenergy with CCS projects to eventually gain momentum beyond the initial focus of CCUS technology via fossil fuel plant retrofits and hydrogen production. However, as with all technologies developing during the energy transition, much will depend on the creation of viable business models for CCUS and DAC expansion.