The acceleration of CCUS technology is critical to reducing carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions and reducing the costs of tackling the climate crisis.
It helps achieve climate goals.
Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 helps the world avoid the worst of climate change’s impacts, and CCUS is a necessary part of achieving that goal.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), summarizes its findings into seven pathways for limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C. Six of the seven mitigation pathways include some level of CO2 removal. The only scenario not utilizing CCUS requires radical changes in human behavior. The world cannot meet its Paris Agreement emission reduction goals without carbon management technologies. Between the different mitigation pathways identified in the IPCC report, there is a broad range of deployment levels for CCUS, with a median average of 665 gigatonnes of CO2 that needs to be captured and stored this century. Approximately 40 million tonnes of CO2 are captured and stored annually, so this must increase more than 100-fold by 2050 to meet the scenarios laid out by the IPCC.
CCUS is one of the only solutions for decarbonizing hard-to-abate industries.
CCUS is one of the most mature and cost-effective solutions to reducing emissions from industries such as iron and steel, cement, and chemicals. These sectors are among the hardest to decarbonize due to their industrial processes and high-temperature heat requirements, both of which emit CO2. Several reports, including from experts at the Energy Transition Commission and the International Energy Agency (IEA), conclude that achieving net-zero emissions in hard-to-abate industries like these may be impossible or, at best, significantly more expensive without CCUS.
CCUS enhances the power grid's reliability and reduces emissions from fossil-fuel power generation.
Decarbonizing power generation is crucial to achieving net-zero emissions, and CCUS plays an important role in two key ways.
- CCUS-equipped power plants are able to supply flexible, low-carbon electricity that complements the intermittent nature of many renewables, such as solar and wind. This enables power grids to decarbonize while maintaining their reliability and resilience.
- CCUS is essential for reducing emissions from the existing global fossil fuel power fleet. Without CCUS retrofit or early retirement, coal- and gas-fired power stations – current and under construction – will continue emitting CO2 at rates that will consume 95% of the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario carbon budget by 2050.
Industrial CCUS enables and complements technology-based carbon dioxide removal.
CCUS deployed at industrial point sources provides the foundation for technology-based carbon dioxide removal. This includes techniques that remove historical CO2 emissions from the atmosphere such as bioenergy with CCUS (BECCS) and direct air capture with carbon storage (DACCS). Investment in CO2 transport and storage infrastructure today will facilitate and benefit carbon dioxide removal in the future as they will utilize the same infrastructure.
CCUS is a safe and effective technology with dozens of large-scale commercial facilities already in operation across the globe.
CCUS is a proven technology that has been working safely and effectively since the 1970s, and more than 260 million tonnes of CO2 has already been safely injected underground. Currently, there are more than 30 large-scale, commercial CCUS facilities in operation across the globe.
Geological storage of CO2 is safe, and there are abundant storage resources to support widespread CCUS development.
With more than 12,000 billion tonnes of potential CO2 resources identified, there is an abundance of underground storage resources at our disposal. Most of the world’s key CO2 storage basins have been well assessed, and almost every high-emitting nation has demonstrated substantial storage potential.
Geological storage of CO2 uses the same forces and processes that have trapped oil, gas (including naturally occurring CO2) and other hydrocarbons in the Earth’s subsurface for millions of years. According to the IPCC, CO2 retained in appropriately selected and managed geological reservoirs is very likely to exceed 99% over 100 years and is likely to exceed 99% over 1,000 years.
It helps the economy.
CCUS is the conduit to a new energy economy of hydrogen production and CO2 utilization.
CCUS is a critical component in the cost-effective production of low-carbon hydrogen, which may be an essential energy source for residential heating and flexible power generation in the energy transition.
CO2 utilization will expand investment in carbon capture technologies and can be used to permanently sequester CO2 at locations where transportation pipelines are impractical or not economically feasible. It can allow businesses to engage in the circular carbon economy.
CCUS creates jobs, sustains communities, and facilitates a just energy transition.
One of the main challenges to achieving a just energy transition is that job losses from high emissions industries may be concentrated in one place. In contrast, low-carbon industry jobs are created elsewhere. Even where geography is not a barrier, mass job losses are rarely followed quickly by wide-scale opportunities. CCUS facilitates a just transition by allowing existing industries to transform to low-carbon opportunities and make sustained contributions to local economies while moving toward net-zero.
CCUS is cost-effective, and costs will continue to decrease with further deployment.
The IPCC found it would be 138% more expensive to reach global climate goals without the deployment of CCUS, on average across the models examined.
The exact cost of CCUS varies based on the project. In general, the higher the concentration of the CO2 in the flue gas waste stream, the lower the cost to capture. Indeed, the IEA has estimated that as much as 450 mt of CO2 can be captured and stored globally with a commercial incentive as low as $40 per tonne of CO2. In some applications, such as natural gas processing, ethanol, and fertilizer production, the cost of CCUS can be as low as $20 per tonne of CO2.
Technology improvements and economies of scale will also drive costs further down as successive CCUS facilities come online. We have already seen this in the past decade as the cost of capture reduced from over $100 per tonne at the Boundary Dam facility (2014) to below $65 per tonne for the Petra Nova facility (2017).