Although in 2019 the CO2 levels in Europe decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a notable increase in the second quarter of 2022, when Europe produced 905 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents; an increase of 3% compared to 2021. This uptick has been mainly prompted by five economic sectors: ‘manufacturing’ (23%), ‘electricity and gas supply’ (19%) and ‘households’ (17%), followed by ‘transportation and storage’ (14%) and ‘agriculture’ (13%).
Urgent measures must be taken to lower the CO2 levels and limit the rise of temperature to 1.5ºC to avoid a more dramatic impact of climate change. This is the objective and commitment presented by the EU in 2019, aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Carbon removal strategies and technologies may play an important role in this mission.
What is Carbon Capture and Storage and how does it work?
Today, the most affordable solutions to CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) are based on natural carbon removal solutions, mainly involving forestry and agriculture. These solutions are generally closer to the mass deployment scale but they do not reduce emissions generated by industrial processes. Companies like Agreena are contributing to the decarbonization of agriculture by turning soil into natural carbon sinks.
On the other hand, technological Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) solutions aim to capture carbon before it is released into the atmosphere or even from it (Direct Air Capture, DAC). Technological CCS typically follows three steps: the capture of the CO2 produced by industries and other elements, the transportation of it and its storage deep underground. Nowadays, CCS technological projects store approximately 45M tons of CO2 annually (the equivalent of CO2 emissions produced by 10M cars).
CO2 capture normally takes place at stationary sources of CO2, such as power or industrial plants, where a liquid is used to remove the CO2 before it goes out the smokestack. When the captured CO2 is compressed, it becomes liquid and is transported to a storage site. There, the CO2 is pumped more than 2,500 feet down to formations that contain unusable, salty water.
Infographic supplied by Centre for Carbon Removal [http://www.centerforcarbonremoval.org]
New technologies are also in development such as bioenergy in combination with CCS, where biomass removes CO2 from the air through photosynthesis. Also, Direct Air Capture (DAC) removes CO2 from the air through a chemical process. New hybrid approaches blend technology with nature such as the work done by Brilliant Planet, which are using algae as an affordable method of permanently and quantifiably sequestering carbon at the gigaton scale. The critical barrier for mass deployment of all these technologies its their high costs, as the current carbon prices do not provide a viable business model.
Europe’s commitment to enhance CCS processes
Organizations and institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange (IPCC), International Energy Agency (IEA) and National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) claim that keeping the temperature levels agreed in the Paris agreement will be difficult without carbon removal.
The EU is leading the global efforts against climate change and has launched several funding mechanisms for R&D and demonstration projects. Funding schemes focused on supporting CCS include:
- Connecting Europe Facility (CEF): it supports cross-border CO2 transport networks.
- The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF): its mission is to reduce the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic through investments in areas such as clean technologies and renewables, e.g. CCS and CCU.
- The Just Transition Fund (JTF): it supports territories that are facing serious socio-economic challenges arising from the transition towards climate neutrality, i.e. support for CCS and CCU technologies.
- Horizon Europe: it provides support research, pilots and small-scale demonstration projects related to carbon capture, utilization and storage.
- The Innovation Fund: it has a budget worth €25 billion, depending on the price of carbon, for 10 years to fund disruptive technologies in carbon capture, use and storage, as well as in renewable energy, energy-intensive industries, and energy storage. In 2021, it funded two projects related to CCS: Silverstone (CO2 capture and mineral storage) and Kairos-at-C (end to end CCS project).
In 2022, the EU launched a call to fund innovative and cost efficiency projects with enough potential to reduce greenhouse gasses emission.
Another EU funded mechanism, the EIC Accelerator (the European Innovation Council), has also funded several projects related to CCS.
CCS projects funded by the EIC
The EIC Accelerator also funds projects related to carbon storage. Some examples of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects that have been funded by the EIC Accelerator include:
- Carbonoro B.V. (awarded in 2016), whose project CarbonOrO focuses on an innovative low energy technology to capture CO2 from gas.
- Carbon Clean Solutions Limited (awarded in 2018), which has developed a CO2 modular capture process.
- Carbo Culture Oy (awarded in 2019), which developed a project called CARBONCAPS – Efficient and verifiable carbon removal with ecosystem co-benefits. This company converts CO₂ from plants into stable carbon and locks it away for 1,000 years.
- WOODIO OY (awarded in 2020), whose project, WOODRY, uses wood composite set to eliminate CO2 emissions of the ceramics industry.
Some CCS Funds in Europe
UK: the Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund
The Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund (CIF) was launched in 2021, with a total budget worth £1bn. The main objective of this fund is to support UK companies seeking to reduce CO2 emissions in order to meet the 2050 net zero commitment.
The UK government will invest in different business models such as Transport & Storage (T&S), power, industrial carbon capture (ICC), low carbon hydrogen and potentially bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
TechX Clean Energy Accelerator
Net Zero Technology Centre offers an intensive 15-week programme for 12 innovative clean energy start-ups with clear potential to significantly accelerate the transition to an affordable net zero energy industry.
This Acceleration programme is supported by BP, Equinor, ADNOC and Accenture, and it offers grants of up to 100,000 £ to fund Scottish companies focusing on renewable energy technologies, hydrogen, other clean fuels and green chemicals Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage; Digitalisation and oil and gas emissions reduction technologies.
Contrarian Ventures backs talented entrepreneurs working on climate change. With a total budget of €100M, they offer grants of up to €500,000 to fund European and Israel companies that develop disruptive technologies to tackle climate change in several ways, for example, through CCS projects.
Carbon13 is a venture builder against climate change, whose mission is to help entrepreneurs build companies that transform global systems for a Net Zero future. Through these programmes, they support founders at all stages of start-up development, from the very beginning of ideas to pre-seed investment and scale. Participants in Carbon13’s program are pushed to achieve a minimum target of emissions mitigation potential of 10 million tonnes of CO2e per year when at scale.
Their investment represents the first £120,000 of equity investment into a company.
Breakthrough Energy Catalyst
With a budget worth €820M, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst’s mission is to finance large-scale Emerging Climate Technology Projects. They provide funding for disruptive technologies that find new ways to generate, store, and use low-carbon electricity while scaling up existing technologies like wind and solar, advanced nuclear power, geothermal energy, and thermal generation with carbon capture.
Article written by Sara Gavidia, cover image by wirestock in Freepik