A think tank that aims to understand and increase carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, policies, and networks worldwide has released its annual report. The Global CCS Institute’s report, Global Status of CCS 2021, discusses CCS in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states among other insights. This article summarizes the report’s key findings for the region and discusses whether CCS is enough to bring about net-zero emissions in the next few decades.
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The State of CCS Around the World in 2022
The Global CCS Institute’s aim is to accelerate CCS deployment worldwide, citing the technology’s potential to tackle climate change and deliver climate neutrality as key motivations for this work.
The organization’s annual “status” reports summarize existing projects, policies, and networks contributing to CCS development around the world, as well as forecasting the future of CCS technology and policies.
The 2021 report provides an analysis of the global project pipeline for future CCS projects, policy around the world, financial aspects of CCS deployment, and various emerging trends. It breaks down insights into four regional overviews for North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates).
Globally, the report states that the CCS project pipeline (new CCS projects yet to break ground) is growing more robustly than ever before. Projects in development last year could have reached an annual capacity of 75 million tons of carbon captured in total. This capacity would soar by 48% to 111 million tons of carbon captured each year if current pipeline projects are finished.
Despite this growth, the report argues that CCS projects around the world still have far too little capacity to effectively bring about net-zero emissions. Only 40 million tons of carbon is captured each year at present; this would have to increase to 5,600 million tons to keep global warming below the already compromised minimum figure of 2 °C.
According to the authors of the report, this extra capacity would require between €655 billion and €1,280 billion in capital investment over the next few decades.
An Overview of CCS in the GCC
GCC states are already contributing a fair amount of CCS capacity to the world’s supply. Around 3.7 million tons of CO2 is captured in just three facilities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a staggering 10% of all carbon captured around the world. In comparison, all CCS projects in Europe combined account for just 4%.
CCS in Gulf states benefits from the concentration of sources of CO2 emissions in the region. This means that fewer CCS facilities are required to capture carbon from more industrial activities. The report also argues that gulf states will benefit more from a network-based approach to CCS due to the high concentration of carbon emitters along the Gulf coast. This would help to reduce the costs of CCS infrastructure.
According to the report, GCC states are poised for a significant increase in CCS activity between now and 2030. The report cites international climate commitments and the United Nations as one key driver of this expected increase, but also developments toward bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) gaining momentum in the region.
The authors also cite a “desire by Both Saudi Aramco and [Abu Dhabi National Oil Company] to continue reducing their carbon footprint” as a driver of future CCS capacity increases.
A new, G20-endorsed “circular carbon economy” plan developed by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Saudi Arabia is also causing optimism, according to the think tank.
The Global CCS Institute says that current trends suggest that the GCC region could capture around 60 million tons of carbon each year in the future.
Will CCS Save the World?
CCS has been proposed by many think tanks, including the authors of the present report, as a technological solution to climate change – one that would not require human society or economies to change in any meaningful way to be implemented.
But critics say that leaders promoting CCS are trying to have their cake and eat it at the same time: they say CCS promises we can burn fossil fuels as much as we like because technological solutions will prevent us from damaging the world any further.
Policy focus and investment on CCS – which nearly always occurs at the emission source – does nothing to address the weight of carbon in our atmosphere and oceans today. This carbon is already killing us.
Despite the attention it gets, CCS is still a very new technology. With current methods, CCS will never achieve more than a token amount of carbon capture.
Critics say that investing in CCS merely provides political cover for industry and government leaders to continue to burn fossil fuels, emit greenhouse gases, and contribute to the climate catastrophe we now face.
One of the largest environmental NGOs worldwide, Greenpeace, is strongly opposed to CCS policies. The organization claims that CCS will only keep the world’s economy dependent on fossil fuels, stifling attempts to restructure the economy away from carbon for the good of the planet.
The debate is by no means over. Another large Environmental NGO, the Bellona Foundation, argues that CCS is a justified climate mitigation action, as it can quickly and effectively cut carbon emissions while the world transitions away from fossil fuel-based energy sources.
References and Further Reading
Agaton, C. P. (2021). Application of real options in carbon capture and storage literature: Valuation techniques and research hotspots. Science of the Total Environment. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148683.
Beck, S., and M. Mahoney (2017). The IPCC and the politics of anticipation. Nature Climate Change. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3264.
Global Status of CCS 2021. (2021) Global CCS Institute. [Online] Available at: https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/
Røttereng, J-K. S. (2018). When climate policy meets foreign policy: Pioneering and national interest in Norway’s mitigation strategy. Energy Research & Social Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2017.11.024.