Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is rapidly gathering momentum, with the number of projects under development or in operation nearly doubling this year, according to a new report from the Australia-based Global CCS Institute.

In its annual report on the current state of CCS, the Global CCS Institute revealed 71 new CCS facilities were added to the project pipeline in 2021, taking the total number of commercial facilities in operation or under development to 135.

This includes 27 that are fully operational, four under construction and 102 facilities that are under development.

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North America is leading the pack for proposed CCS development, with more than 40 new projects announced this year, which the Institute said could largely be credited to CCS tax credits, as well as the Biden administration’s stronger climate commitments, including rejoining the Paris Agreement.

Unlike mineral or hydrocarbon exploration, exploring for pore space does not yet generally justify risking tens of millions of dollars.

The Global CCS Institute highlights barriers facing the technology

Several new countries now also have CCS facilities under development, according to the Global CCS Institute, including Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, and Sweden.

The report also revealed that, as of September, the carbon dioxide capture capacity of all CCS facilities under development had grown from 75 million tonnes per annum to 111 million tpa, marking a 48% increase over 2020. If built, the projects in development would also nearly triple the roughly 40 million tpa CCS capacity from the 27 facilities currently in operation.

Rapid buildout needed to hit climate goals

"The momentum we have seen over the last year towards CCS is considerable, however more is required if we are to reach climate goals", said Guloren Turan, general manager of advocacy and communication at the Global CCS Institute.

“The International Energy Agency's Sustainable Development Scenario foresees 15% of emissions reductions to come from CCS, requiring a one-hundred-fold increase in the capacity of operational facilities by 2050. While the acceleration of CCS adoption is promising, more urgency in the deployment of the technology is needed to reach 2050 climate goals."

In order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the Global CCS Institute’s report claims installed CCS capacity will need to rise from roughly 40 million tpa currently to more than 5.6 gigatonnes by 2050, requiring between US$655 billion and US$1.28 trillion in capital investment.

While claiming the figure appeared daunting, the report notes there is capacity to reach that target in the private sector, highlighting that private sector investment in the energy sector in 2018 alone totalled about US$1.85 trillion.

Time constraints

With sufficient capital likely to be available, one of the biggest constraints on meeting climate targets is time, with large infrastructure projects, such as CCS facilities or pipeline networks, usually taking 10 years from concept to operation, the report highlights.

Another barrier to the speed of the rollout to CCS identified within the report is the identification of suitable geological structures in which to store the captured CO2.

“Unlike mineral or hydrocarbon exploration, exploring for pore space does not yet generally justify risking tens of millions of dollars,” the report states.

“Government can assist by supporting the collection of geological data and making it available. Today’s CCS facilities benefited from geological data collected during oil or gas exploration and/or from government funded programmes.”

COP26 climate talks loom

The Global CCS Institute released its annual report slightly early this year, to coincide with crucial climate talks at the COP26 summit in Glasgow next month.

The role of CCS and how to enable the technology is likely to form a topic of debate among world leaders at the international climate summit, with the Global CCS Institute stating more governments had committed to CCS than ever before in 2021, with the technology featuring in more than 80% of countries' long-term low emission development strategies.

Gobal CCS Institute chief executive Jarad Daniels claimed the dramatic rise in projects under development this year has reinforced the critical role of CCS in achieving net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

"Although much more is required, commitment to climate action is progressing steadily and we're seeing growing interest and support for CCS,” Daniels said.

“As we accelerate toward net zero emissions by mid-century and establish clearer interim targets, CCS will be integral to the decarbonisation of energy, industrial sectors such as cement, fertilisers, and chemicals, and will open new opportunities in areas including clean hydrogen and carbon dioxide removal."