UK supermajor Shell, China’s state-owned Sinopec, compatriot steel manufacturer Baowu and German chemical company BASF have their sights on an open-source carbon capture, utilisation and storage project in eastern China.

The quartet intends to conduct a joint study to assess the technical solutions and develop a commercial model for the project. The study will also explore to establish high-integrity and verified low-carbon product supply chains and propose enabling policies. If successful, it will be China’s first large-scale open-source CCUS project with a potential capacity of tens of million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

If successful, this project could lead to the capture of CO2 emissions from industrial companies in the East China region. These emissions could then be shipped to a receiving terminal on CO2 carrier ships, before being transported to onshore and offshore storage sites through short pipelines. This could offer a flexible, efficient and integrated decarbonisation solution for companies in the region, noted Shell.

Significant geological potential

China has significant geological potential for storing carbon, with an estimated 2400 gigatonnes in storage capacity, second only to the US. It currently has more than 40 CCUS pilot projects with a total capacity of 3 million tonnes although many of these projects are small developments linked with enhanced oil recovery.

Shell said that in a net-zero emissions energy system, a little more than 1.3 Gt of CO2 a year will need to be captured and permanently stored in 2060. This means CCUS capacity will need to increase more than 400 times in the next four decades.

“While this is technically possible, as many of the CCUS technologies in China are close to or have reached commercialisation, the main challenge lies in creating conditions to support substantial investment in large-scale CCUS, particularly as a solution to industrial decarbonisation,” said the UK energy giant.

The four companies have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to explore the feasibility of developing an open-source CCUS project in the East China region. An open-source project could potentially offer industrial companies in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River contractual opportunities to capture and store their CO2 emissions, added Shell.

“Carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers a way to reduce emissions in hard-to-abate sectors and we are actively exploring such opportunities with our partners,” said Huibert Vigeveno, Shell’s downstream director.

“This project is also in line with Shell’s strategic approach to provide decarbonisation solutions to individual market sectors, as well as our ambition of having access to at least 25 million tonnes a year of CCS capacity by 2035.”

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