NOTICE: the CCS has a role to play in an approach geared towards energy transition
OPINION: The role that carbon capture and storage (CCS) should play in the decarbonisation of economies has become a sensitive topic in the debate on energy transition.
Critics see CCS as a way for oil companies to continue to justify making profits from fossil fuels, by questioning the effectiveness of storage methods.
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The opposition generally extends to blue hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas but with carbon dioxide captured and stored.
There is arguably a growing consensus among oil industry leaders that the transition to a carbon-free global economy is real and that their industry has a role to play.
Fortunately, climate change deniers have already lost their side of the argument.
On the other side of the spectrum, the idea of a total load for clean energy is appealing, but it’s also important to consider the challenges.
An early over-reliance on renewables and electrification could see the demand for solar panels, batteries and wind turbines creating a new set of environmental challenges.
As marine biologist and author Helen Scales points out in a new book titled The Brilliant Abyss, the rampant growth of renewables raises questions about the supply of certain rare metals that will be increasingly in demand as a result.
The scale of the electrification task is also daunting, even in countries where existing infrastructure is approaching a natural renewal date.
It is not a question of arguing against the energy transition, but in favor of a more oriented approach, which maximizes what is achievable.
While CCS and blue hydrogen are by no means perfect for decarbonization, they are ready-made solutions based on existing technology and are offered by a mature industry that already has decades of CCS experience.
It is in the interests of these oil companies to apply their technical prowess to ensure that the next generation of storage facilities are virtually fail-safe.
A series of recent reports suggest that green hydrogen – produced without CO2 – will soon be cheaper than blue hydrogen.
This is exactly what the world needs, but most of these reports also envision an important transitional role for blue hydrogen along the way.
It is precisely because of the urgency of the climate crisis that society as a whole must seek pragmatic solutions.
In heavily populated coal-consuming countries like India and China, very significant short-term emission reductions can be achieved by switching to natural gas.
In the more developed parts of the world, voters in the Rust Belt regions are reluctant to abandon old industries, but can be convinced of the kind of low-carbon regeneration that now comes with the promise of future jobs.
In the Tees Valley in the UK, the Conservative Party’s unprecedented electoral swings have been attributed, in part, to heightened optimism about the employment prospects of a new decarbonization center project comprising the CSC, the blue and green hydrogen, as well as a new manufacturing site for wind turbine blades.
Governments appear to be making their own choices, as evidenced by the Dutch decision to allow 2 billion euros ($ 2.4 billion) in grants for a Rotterdam CCS project called Porthos.
CCS projects can make an important contribution to decarbonization. But to ensure that this is only a passing phase on the path to zero emissions, a carbon pricing mechanism that will help give the global economy that final push is badly needed.
(This is an upstream opinion piece.)