Can carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies contribute to mitigating climate change? And if so, how can we choose between the various competing technologies for investment? These are some of the issues explored in the fourth scientific opinion of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisers. The Scientific Opinion of the Scientific Advice Mechanism High Level Group (SAM HLG) on Novel Carbon Capture and Utilisation Technologies was published on 23 May.
CCU (aka #useCO2) technologies remove CO2 from the atmosphere and use sustainable chemistry and energy to convert it into various useful products such as fuel, building materials or plastics. The area is of intense interest to SusChem and in the subject of numerous initiatives including the recently launched Phoenix Initiative. However, at present, there are no accurate, reliable methods to determine the climate mitigation potential of these technologies and this has hindered investment in and deployment of these technologies.
The opinion draws on the best available scientific and technical evidence from across Europe. The separate related Evidence Review Report prepared by SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) was also published on 23 May.
The Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) Group of Chief Scientific Advisers was established on 16 October 2015 to support the Commission with high quality, timely and independent scientific advice for its policy-making activities.
Low carbon, LCA
The advisers observe that for CCU technologies to contribute to climate change mitigation, the energy used in CO2 conversion must be of low carbon origin. In addition, and because the converted carbon may be held in the product for a variable amount of time and not always permanently, the assessment of the climate mitigation potential of the technologies also depends on a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach that takes into account the fate of carbon once released from the product.
Commenting on the opinion Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “We need to be ready to take advantage of all possible proven innovative opportunities in the fight against climate change. The opinion will help policy-makers, in the EU and around the globe, to know if and how to make best use of these technologies.”
The opinion was drafted at the request of Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. He said: “We are determined to meet our commitments to curb climate change, and for that we have to explore every possible avenue. This scientific opinion provides a roadmap for specifying how carbon capture and utilisation can be part of this effort.”
The Scientific Advisers recommend:
- The development of a rigorous cross-sectorial and systemic methodology that includes a simplified Life Cycle Assessment to enable the calculation of the climate mitigation potential of various CCU technologies. This should be rolled out beyond the EU, for example through the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- The development and agreement of funding criteria for candidate CCU projects, requiring them to be feasible and green, to be superior to existing alternatives, to demonstrate additional benefits beyond climate mitigation, and to be ready to integrate with existing systems.
- That the EC develops a regulatory and investment framework to enable CCU deployment.
- As well as the SAPEA Evidence Review Report, the opinion drew on a comprehensive review of scientific literature, a wide-ranging consultation with relevant scientific experts and policy, industry and civil society stakeholders.
The opinion was published in the week of the third ministerial meeting of Mission Innovation in Malmö, Sweden. Countries and organisations participating in Mission Innovation, including the European Commission on behalf of the EU, have joined forces to accelerate the clean energy revolution.
The week of the meeting also saw the publication of a summary of the Mission Innovation Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) Expert’s Workshop held in late September 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Workshop brought together 260 of the world’s leading CCUS experts from academia and industry to evaluate the most promising R&D avenues for enhancing CCUS processes.
The goals of the Workshop were to assess current gaps in CCUS technologies and to identify the most promising directions for basic research (Priority Research Directions, or PRDs) that are needed to achieve long-term global carbon management.
The report, ‘Accelerating Breakthrough Innovation in Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage’ includes the 30 PRDs established by experts at the Workshop. These PRDs encompass opportunities for understanding and improving materials, chemical processes, and other scientific and technical areas required to develop the next-generation technologies needed for efficient, cost-effective management of carbon emissions. The PRDs were created from panel discussions covering four subcategories: Carbon Capture; Carbon Utilisation; Carbon Storage; and Cross-Cutting CCUS Topics.
Finally, at the beginning of May a summary report on the first PHOENIX European Stakeholder workshop that took place on 22 March was published.
At the workshop, that was held in Frankfurt, participants discussed the future of CO2 valorisation in the European context with a strong focus on demonstration and subsequent implementation of technologies. The summary as well as the guiding questions for the workshop are now available to download from the Phoenix website.