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Why CCUS technologies are instrumental as the world transitions to clean energy

Why CCUS Technologies are Instrumental as the World Transitions to Clean Energy

Posted by Jeff Rose on Oct 20, 2021

There is a growing global urgency to shift to a more sustainable energy future with increased dependence on renewable energy sources, improved energy efficiency and reduced global carbon emissions. Squarely in the middle of these climate resiliency strategies are carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) report that stressed the critical and immediate need for technologies that capture CO₂ to offset accumulating carbon while energy storage and renewables ramp up to meet demand. 

CCUS technologies capture CO₂ stemming from cement and steel industries, fossil fuel hydrogen production and power generation before it reaches Earth’s atmosphere. The captured CO₂ is compressed then injected into deep, subsurface rock layers where it may potentially be used as feedstock to produce a range of products, from concrete and ethanol to carbonates and plastics. There is bipartisan support within Congress and the Administration for the advancement of energy and environmental policies that promote CCUS technologies and infrastructure. These investments will help efforts to decarbonize our economy, support critical research and development and spur innovation that will drive solutions for decades to come. 

Accelerating CCUS Today 

World leaders, politicians and policymakers from across the globe are convening for the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Glasgow Oct. 31-Nov. 12 to discuss climate targets and progress on reducing emissions. In advance of this, a growing number of companies have made announcements regarding carbon reduction to net-zero emissions in next two to three decades. But it will take decades to fully transition to zero-carbon energy. To help bridge that gap, CCUS is a critically needed midterm mitigation measure to ensure equitable energy access with large-scale carbon reduction. 

To avoid future large-scale climate change impacts and risks, the UN IPCC report estimates it’s necessary to remove volumes ranging from 100 billion to one trillion tons of carbon already in our atmosphere by the end of the century. The report states that CCUS technologies could mitigate 1.5 to 6.3 gigatons of CO₂ equivalents, per year by 2050. Notable progress in CCUS technologies has been made in recent years, but capabilities will need to evolve and scale up significantly to capture and sequester or utilize billions of tons of CO₂ in a very short amount of time. This will hinge on a policy and regulatory environment that fosters full commercialization of CCUS technologies with adequate financial mechanisms.

Rapidly advancing CCUS will require government and industry alignment and support, public-private partnerships and global collaboration. There needs to be further expansion of financial incentives such as the existing 45Q tax credits available to companies that capture and store carbon in geologic formations or use CO₂ as part of enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Key investments include crucial infrastructure, such as pipelines to transfer captured carbon to storage facilities and investments in R&D efforts that inform the development of long-term sustainable carbon capture programs. For example, to implement effective and efficient CCUS, comprehensive geological characterization must be conducted to determine where captured carbon can be safely sequestered.

Transitioning to clean energy will take time, effort and money. If CCUS plays an important role, it will be because there was smart and timely investment at state, national and global levels. It’s not the only approach to meeting our collective carbon reduction objectives, but it is one we can use immediately to get on the fast track toward net-zero emissions. 

About the Author
Jeff Rose is Battelle's Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy. Battelle is a leader in geologic CO₂ storage. We provide safe and permanent saline storage solutions with our multi-disciplinary team of project managers and subsurface geotechnical experts.