IEA and UK kick-start a new global era for CCUS

IEA And UK group photo

Ministers and senior representatives from more than a dozen countries, CEOs of major energy companies and the financial community gathered in Edinburgh to identify practical steps to accelerate investment and deployment of CCUS (Photograph: Toby Phillips

EDINBURGH, Scotland – The International Energy Agency and the Government of the United Kingdom are holding a global summit on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) today, bringing together global energy leaders, including Ministers and senior representatives from more than a dozen countries, CEOs of major energy companies and the financial community, to identify practical steps to accelerate investment and deployment of CCUS.

The International CCUS Summit, co-chaired by Claire Perry, UK Minister of State for Clean Energy and Growth, and Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, signals the start of a new era for CCUS, a technology that is critical to meeting climate goals and can also strengthen energy security and boost economic growth.

The Summit is held just days before the start of the COP24 climate negotiations in Poland, and brings together ministers and senior officials from across the globe, as well as CEOs and executives from leading energy industries, including BP, China Energy, Equinor, J-Power, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Occidental Petroleum, Peabody and Royal Dutch Shell.

Renewables, efficiency, and a broad range of clean energy technologies – all deployed at scale – are absolutely critical to meeting climate goals, and have seen some significant progress in recent years. But CCUS has been a little-used tool in the energy toolbox. However, there is no other technology solution that can significantly reduce emissions from a large and relatively young fleet of coal power generation. There is also no other cost-effective technology solution capable of delivering the deep emissions reductions needed across key industrial processes such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing, oil and gas production all of which will remain vital building blocks of modern society.

“Today at this seminal summit, the UK is setting a world-leading ambition for developing and deploying carbon capture and storage technology to cut emissions,” said Minister Perry. “It shows how determined all countries are to unlock the potential of this game-changing technology that representatives from across the globe are gathered here today in Edinburgh. The time is now to seize this challenge to tackle climate change while kick starting an entirely new industry.”

“Without CCUS as part of the solution, reaching our international climate goals is practically impossible,” said Dr Birol. “CCUS can also enhance energy security and boost economic prosperity. Yet up until now, progress has been muted and if this continues the challenges we face in the energy sector will become infinitely greater. That is why the IEA is bringing together industry, governments and our own technology network – as well as the investment community – to make CCUS a reality.”

Dr Birol will challenge participants to report progress by the next IEA Ministerial Meeting, in November 2019, stressing that this is an area the IEA has identified as a major priority and is committed to helping steer forward. The IEA will produce a report on the progress of CCUS investments to underscore the new momentum behind the technology by then. Last year, the IEA held a first international CCUS summit, which was co-chaired by Rick Perry, the US Secretary of Energy, on the sideline of its last ministerial meeting.

The need for action is pressing and will require an unprecedented political and economic effort. Last year, CO2 emissions rose after three flat years, and initial IEA estimates point that emissions will once more rise in 2018, reaching record highs.

While there are fewer than 20 large-scale CCUS projects in operation, there are today no technological barriers to their development. Clear policy frameworks will be central to supporting investment while new business models are showing that CCUS is increasingly cost-competitive across a range of sectors.

In order to meet climate goals, while also tackling air pollution and ensure universal energy access, as outlined in the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, then almost all new investment would need to be zero-carbon or be offset by the early retirement of another emitting facility – or would require new technology like CCUS or hydrogen.

The existing energy-using infrastructure – such as power plants, industrial facilities and buildings – will emit a total of 550 Gt of CO2 emissions which are essentially locked-in over the period to 2040. That equates to almost 95% of CO2 emissions permitted in the Sustainable Development Scenario over the outlook. The rest equals just one year of current greenhouse-gas emissions.

“In practice, these facts mean that there needs to be a systematic preference in new investment that targets sustainable energy technologies – but also, and at the same time, we must be much smarter about how we use our existing energy system,” said Dr Birol. “CCUS needs to be part of the solution, along with hydrogen, improving energy efficiency, and in some cases, retiring capital stock early.”

In fact, CCUS represents a massive untapped opportunity. For example, the IEA estimates over 450 Mt of CO2 emissions could be captured for use or storage each year with an incentive equivalent to less than $40 per tonne of CO2. Increased investment in and deployment of CCUS, especially where there are opportunities to act at low cost, could help to trigger further cost reductions.