|Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies' Otway carbon capture and storage project.
The capacity of carbon capture and storage facilities operating and under development grew 33% worldwide in the last year alone, according to a Dec. 1 report from the Global CCS Institute, an international think tank with the mission of accelerating deployment of carbon capture and storage, or CCS.
Despite the economic and health crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to decarbonize the economy with carbon capture technology continued in 2020, the group wrote. The pressure to achieve net-zero emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change drove an upward trajectory in infrastructure development to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.
"There is also increasing recognition that meeting net-zero emissions targets without CCS is going to be extremely challenging if not outright impossible," said Guloren Turan, general manager for advocacy and communications with the institute and a co-author of the report, during a virtual event Dec. 1. "As a result, government support for CCS both in terms of policy and funding continues to grow, and indeed, CCS was part of a number of recovery packages."
As governments worldwide are strengthening climate policy, shareholders are also beginning to pressure companies to reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions throughout their supply chain, the report noted.
"These global macro-trends have motivated a more thorough analysis of how to achieve net-zero emissions at the lowest possible risk and cost," the report's authors wrote. "It is reasonable to conclude that this can best be achieved when the broadest portfolio of technologies, including CCS, is available. Without CCS, net-zero is practically impossible."
The global pipeline of CCS facilities has grown for three years in a row, with capture and storage capacity nearly doubling within three years and increasing 33% since 2019. A total of 65 commercial CCS facilities are in various stages of development globally, the report noted. Twenty-six CCS facilities are in operation and are capturing 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
"The versatility of CCS was on display throughout the year, as projects were announced in cement manufacturing, coal- and gas-fired power plants, waste-to-energy plants, ethanol facilities and, chemical production," the report stated.
The institute wrote that wider CCS investment could help achieve cost-effective net-zero emissions in emissions-intensive areas such as the cement, iron, steel and chemical sectors. CCS could also enable low-carbon hydrogen production at scale, provide low-carbon dispatchable power and offer a foundation for developing negative emissions technology.
Zoë Knight, group head at HSBC Holdings PLC's HSBC Centre of Sustainable Finance, said on a panel discussion about the report that the need for the financial sector to understand how a decarbonization strategy will play out across industries is also rising.
"We're trying to get better at financing change," Knight said. "We need to be firing on all cylinders to actually mobilize both private capital and public funding for a whole range of activities that are going to get us to that net-zero point. ... The history around climate change thinking on mitigation has led to many investors being slightly old-fashioned in the way they think about it, applying it to power and not really thinking about the application in industry as a whole and particularly in the steel sector or the use in decarbonizing hydrogen, for example."
The report noted the United States is already home to the highest number of operational CCS facilities and hosts 12 of the 17 new commercial facilities added to the project pipeline in 2020. The group highlighted pro-CCS policies in the U.S., including the enhanced 45Q tax credit and the California Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. The group said CCS is gaining support in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region as well.
"As we look around the world at the various regions, there's one theme that resonates across all of that, and that is momentum," said Jeff Erickson, general manager of client engagement at the institute. "We see both public sector and private sector support for an investment in CCS growing in every region."
Still, the acceleration of CCS adoption is not happening quickly enough to reach 2050 climate goals, the organization concluded. Reaching a global goal of carbon neutrality will require a hundredfold increase of CCS facilities by midcentury, the authors wrote.
"The sustained lift in activity around CCS and the increased investment in new facilities is exciting and encouraging, Global CCS Institute CEO Brad Page said in a foreword to the report. "But there is so much more work to do."