Last month, the US Department of Energy announced funding for several research projects for developing new methods of capturing and storing carbon from the air.
“This investment in carbon capture technology research through universities and DoE laboratories will position America as a leader in this growing field, create good-paying jobs, and help make our carbon-free future a reality,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
This is a recognition by one of the world’s largest energy consumers that carbon capture, utilization and storage and related technologies, such as direct air capture are key factors to achieving the ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
China and commodities trader Glencore signed a MoU earlier this year whereby Glencore will use China’s CO2 capture technology at selective coal-fired power stations in Australia and store it in a nonpotable aquifer at a depth of more than 2 km below the ground.
Capturing carbon has been used for decades as a way to help improve the quality of natural gas and in enhanced oil recovery techniques. However, we can now remove and sequester CO2 below ground indefinitely.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage has the potential to play a key role in reducing emissions from the hardest-to-abate industry sectors, particularly energy as well as cement production, metals and chemicals industries.
Recognizing its potential, the G20 announced the Circular Carbon Economy initiative in 2020, championed by Saudi Arabia under its presidency. The initiative is an extension of the circular economy and adds a new category – remove – to the established principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. In fact, Saudi Arabia started a clear path toward energy transition as part of its Vision 2030 and already initiated several emission reduction and environmental programs.
Saudi Arabia also announced that it is committed to becoming carbon neutral and that it wants to derive 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. Saudi Arabia is also working on developing green and blue hydrogen projects. While 42 percent of the Kingdom’s power was produced from oil in 2018, with the remaining 58 percent derived from natural gas, oil will not be used for electricity generation from 2030, with the remaining 50 percent of the power supply coming from natural gas.
Saudi Aramco hosted the first international carbon capture, utilization and storage conference in 2020, under the patronage of Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.
However, efforts on research and technology are a needed component toward achieving progress in carbon capture, utilization and storage and the decarbonization of our planet.
Further research is needed by leading consuming economies such as the US and China to develop effective and safe carbon capture, utilization and storage.
OPEC, as part of its dialogue with the EU, held several roundtables on carbon capture and storage, and started plans to conduct joint research on carbon capture, utilization and storage. This momentum needs to keep moving forward and conduct joint research and prototype projects together.
The world faces a dual challenge: Meeting growing energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon capture, utilization and storage is a key solution for both challenges.
• Fuad Al-Zayer is an independent energy consultant. He is former head of Data Services Division at OPEC and a former head of the JODI Global Initiative at the IEF.