EU clarifies funding scope for CO2 capture technology
10 July 2019 | Mitigation
The European Commission has clarified how it intends to support carbon capture and storage (CCS), a key technology in the fight against global warming which supporters say will enable deep emission cuts in heavy industries such as cement, steel and petrochemicals.
Future EU funding for CCS is likely to focus on transport infrastructure like CO2 pipelines that can collect emissions from several industrial plants, said Artur Runge-Metzger, director at the European Commission’s climate action directorate.
“We know there will have to be a public subsidy for CCS to make it happen in the coming years,” Runge-Metzger said.
“We’re preparing the ground,” he told participants at a EURACTIV event on Monday (8 July).
CCS technology involves capturing carbon emissions from polluting factories and burying them underground, usually in depleted oil and gas fields. The technology, spearheaded by Norway, was initially touted as a silver bullet to cut emissions from coal power stations but failed to take off as renewable energies became cheaper.
Still, CCS is seen as one of the few options available to address emissions from process industries such as cement and petrochemicals, which are heavily carbon-intensive.
In the past, the European Commission has poured money into CCS demonstration plants, splashing more than €500 million over the last decade into costly projects that ended up never seeing the light.
Those projects were not commercially viable, Runge-Metzger admitted, citing high running costs as one of the main reasons behind their failure.
Now, the Commission has changed tack and is looking at supporting entire carbon storage and utilisation value-chains that can benefit several industrial installations at the same time, Runge-Metzger told participants at the EURACTIV event.
“If you look at past Commission programmes, we were always looking at covering the capital expenditure” of CCS demonstration plants or research and innovation programmes, said the German EU official.
The next generation of CCS funding will “go beyond that and also look at operational expenditure,” he told participants at the EURACTIV event.
A key area of interest is pipelines and transport systems for CO2 that can serve several industrial installations, Runge-Metzger pointed out. “If you want to couple different sectors, you need pipelines,” the official pointed out, drawing parallels with railway networks that link up different cities together.
“Very clearly, we will look at networks in some of the funding instruments,” the EU official said, citing money available under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to support CO2 pipelines, such as the one currently being developed by the Port of Rotterdam Authority. Similar CCS infrastructure plans eligible for EU funding include the Northern Lights project in Norway and and a hydrogen transport hub in the north of England.
But national governments also have an important role to play, Runge-Metzger stressed. “Don’t expect that Brussels is going to solve it all. That is not going to work,” he warned, reminding that national authorities are responsible for running the infrastructure networks on their territory.
“From our end, we are ready,” the EU official said.