Carbon capture, utilisation and storage: what you need to know
As a means of removing the carbon dioxide created by fossil fuel use, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) will be integral to a smooth energy transition. But despite a growing number of CCUS projects in the pipeline, projected capacity is a mere fraction of what’s needed.
CCUS in numbers
Despite significant growth there's still an order-of-magnitude difference between planned capacity and 1.5-degree alignment
43 million tonnes per year
Current operational CCUS capacity
in planned CCUS capacity in 2021
562 million tonnes per year
Total planned CCUS capacity
5 billion tonnes per year
CCUS capacity required by 2050
to align with 1.5 degrees
While good progress has been made, there are still some key issues that need to be looked at:
If it’s been around so long, why is uptake so limited?
A key factor is that sequestering CO2 doesn’t itself generate revenue. What’s more, CCUS costs remain high when compared to the current global weighted average carbon price in the compliance market. Successful projects have found the right balance of cost and incentive, but the future of CCUS will depend on internationally coordinated carbon pricing and incentive structures to make the technology viable.
What will be the other main barriers to uptake?
Until now, CCUS has been dominated by amine-based processes. Capturing carbon dioxide from sources with lower levels of concentration, at scale and more cheaply, will require improved technology. Added to this, the corrosive nature of CO2 can make transportation costly and storage an issue; even when suitable locations can be found, rigorous measures are needed to ensure their integrity.
Can these issues be overcome?
Strengthened net zero targets have built momentum behind CCUS. Hub projects are in the pipeline all over the world, enabling more industries to employ carbon capture and bringing down costs. But above all, rolling out CCUS at scale will require effective policy support and well-structured carbon pricing schemes. Only then will the goal of reaching 7,750Mtpa by 2050 become possible.