Carbon capture and storage (CCS) will play a key role in decarbonising liquefied natural gas in the push for net zero, but the rate of progress remains too slow and requires more concerted action, according to consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.

Numerous CCS projects are currently progressing, with the aim of significantly reducing the carbon emissions of not only oil and gas assets but also from power generation and industrial sectors including cement and steel.

WoodMac estimates carbon capture could account for around a third of the required emission cuts needed to get the world to net zero by 2050.

But this is far from being a done deal: CCS today accounts for less than 1% of annual global carbon emissions.

“Ratcheting this up to one-third will require not only major cost reductions and continued advances in technology, but also policy and carbon price support to make the economics work,” said Wood Mackenzie Asia Pacific Vice Chair, Gavin Thompson.

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With LNG projects among the most emission-intensive assets in the energy sector, many companies are now actively working to lower the carbon intensity of their portfolio, spurred by demands from stakeholders and the finance sector.

Looking at how CCS can play a part in ensuring the long-term viability of LNG projects in Asia Pacific, Dan Toleman from WoodMac’s Global Gas & LNG team, said: “It’s no secret that LNG has a carbon problem, with a combination of gas processing, CO2 venting and gas use in liquefaction all contributing to this.

“At the same time, consumers across Asia are increasingly seeking out LNG with lower emissions, encouraged by domestic policy changes and end-user appetite for ‘green’ LNG.”

Reality check

The LNG industry is responding by moving to increase carbon mitigation efforts, including the utilisation of CCS.

“This is positive but needs a reality check: The pace of change is still too slow and much more needs to be done. CCS alone is no silver bullet for the LNG industry and carbon capture is only part of the solution. A range of other technologies, including renewables, electrification and batteries, will also be required to effectively decarbonise LNG projects,” said Toleman.

He noted that CCS can reduce emissions from an LNG project at both the reservoir and liquefaction stages. Reservoir CCS projects capture CO2 produced by high-carbon fields and inject this into a reservoir. Through this, reservoir CCS can reduce the overall intensity of LNG projects by 25% to 50% for projects supplied by fields with more than 10% CO2.

Post-combustion CO2 from gas used in the liquefaction process has traditionally been vented rather than captured.

Although highly variable by project, measures to capture and store post-combustion CO2 can reduce emissions produced via the liquefaction process by as much as 90%, according to Wood Mackenzie.

“The benefits of CCS needn’t be restricted to carbon capture at the LNG project itself. CCS opportunities could become available to offset both upstream and plant emissions if producers can take advantage of a commercial swap where they can inject carbon from a cheaper source in their portfolio and use credits to offset LNG emissions. Globally, we estimate the impact of such swap arrangements could exceed both reservoir and post-combustion CCS,” said Toleman.

He cautioned that the most effective and efficient ways to reduce emissions will vary from plant to plant, with multiple factors determining whether CCS is the optimum solution for any given project.

“Cost is clearly the critical factor and CCS isn’t cheap. Adding CCS to newbuild projects has major cost benefits compared to retrofitting to an existing facility, with newbuild post-combustion CCS up to 80% cheaper than retrofitting an existing project," Toleman said.

“Capturing reservoir CO2 is lower cost than adding CCS to remove carbon emitted by combustion of gas in the liquefaction process. The availability of a suitable reservoir with existing infrastructure will also impact the viability of a reservoir CCS project, while CO2 injection into an onshore reservoir is more competitive versus offshore fields,” Toleman told APAC Energy Buzz, a weekly blog hosted by his colleague Thompson.

Australia ahead

Australia is at the forefront of the region’s CCS projects, which include Chevron’s Gorgon project that is intended to inject more than 120 million tonnes across its life, reducing the emissions intensity of the Gorgon project by around 30%.

Santos is mulling the final investment decision on its Moomba CCS project with a proposal to apply carbon credits to injected CO2 to offset emissions from Barossa and Darwin LNG.

In addition, Woodside has suggested the Angel field at the North West Shelf could be utilised for CCS.

Within Asia, BP has proposed CO2 injection to enhance recovery at the Tangguh project in Indonesia, while TotalEnergies is considering CCS for its Papua LNG project, with CO2 being captured from the Elk and Antelope fields.

Petronas is also working on reservoir CCS at its Kasawari field offshore Malaysia, aimed at offsetting emissions from its LNG Complex at Bintulu, Sarawak.

Toleman argued that the push to decarbonise LNG should also encourage greater industry collaboration and drive the need for optimum regulatory support.

“Governments can also do more and LNG producers across the region will also want to see clear policy support for CCS. Tax incentives such as 45Q tax credits in the US have helped make CCS projects competitive," he said.