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The crucial role of CCUS technologies on the path to net zero emissions

Published on: March 4, 2024

Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) is a set of technologies that have emerged in climate debates as solutions capable of significantly reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the industrial sector.

CCUS is expected to play an important role in the work towards global climate objectives, but challenges remain before these technologies can be deployed at scale.

Hiilidioksidin talteenotto ja varastointi - SwecoTomas Norrena. Picture: Reijo Koirikivi / Studio P.S.V.

The adoption of CCUS facilitates the reduction of CO2 emissions in hard-to-abate sectors, playing a crucial role in thoroughly advancing the green transition,” says Tomas Norrena, Senior Advisor at Sweco Finland.

The Role of CCS in Industrial Emission Reduction

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a solution used to capture carbon dioxide emissions produced from industrial processes or power generation and store it underground in geological formations to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. CCS can be applied across a range of sectors, including cement, steel, fertilisers, power generation and natural gas processing. Several proven technologies for capturing CO2 from point sources are already in place, and they are also commercially widely available.

There are currently 29 operating facilities in the world, according to the Global CCS Institute, with a combined capture capacity of close to 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year — the equivalent of taking nearly 8 million cars off the road. While there are currently more than 100 facilities across all stages of development and a range of sectors, challenges remain before CCS is ready for mass-scale use in the long term.

“There are profitability challenges linked to the CCUS projects, which is one of the reasons why the national and EU level subsidies still have an important role in the market,” Norrena says. “It is essential that the EU provides sufficient subsidies for the industrial actors, so that the European companies remain competitive in the green transition. The on-going development of regulation will also have its own impact on how the market will be oriented.”

Another issue is that appropriate storage locations are often situated at a considerable distance from the actual sources of emissions.

“The possible liquefaction and cost-effective transfer of captured carbon dioxide to the CO2 transfer hubs or directly to the port is crucial when the feasibility of these projects is concerned. In addition to shipping-related costs, Sweco’s experts evaluate constantly the technical solutions for transporting carbon dioxide by truck, pipeline or rail.”

The economic potential of CCU technologies

CCU involves capturing carbon dioxide and repurposing it for other applications — such as creating fuels, chemicals or building materials — effectively turning the captured CO2 into a resource rather than just storing it.

For instance, there are several technology routes available for the production of synthetic methane or methanol. Capturing CO2 for use in plastic production also presents promising opportunities, as the carbon is sequestered within the material for a longer period of time.

With several uses recognised, CCU has the potential to create new business opportunities for various companies, including start-ups, according to Norrena.

“The utilisation of carbon dioxide in the production of synthetic e-fuels while using green hydrogen is currently a highly active topic in the Nordics. It is also possible to utilise the carbon dioxide directly, for instance in the food industry or greenhouses.”

Sweco studies the suitability of different carbon dioxide utilisation routes for industrial clients on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to the production of e-fuels, some of the key factors are:

  • Consumption of the fuel at the target area and the demand forecast
  • Existing infrastructure for distribution and storage of the fuel
  • Client’s current product portfolio and business strategy
  • Suitable investment subsidies

Sweco’s CCUS portfolio: A glimpse into recent projects

Sweco’s experts have assisted clients with projects related to CCUS technologies on a long-term basis for several years, and there are currently several active projects across different sectors. Below is a selection of recent CCUS projects that our experts have worked on.

Pioneering Industrial-Scale CCS in Cement Production

Sweco is assisting Heidelberg Materials’ Brevik Sementfabrikk in Porsgrunn, Norway to reach net-zero towards 2030 with a carbon capture facility scheduled to be in operation during 2024.

The carbon capture in Brevik is a part of the CCS project “Langskip” and the Transport and Storage part of the project will be conducted by Northern Lights with storage sites in the North Sea.

CCUS Sweco

In picture: Kristina Jakobsen, Sweco Norway

Through Brevik CCS, Heidelberg Materials’ plant in Brevik can become the world’s first cement factory with a CO2 capture plant, with an estimated annual capture of around 400,000 tonnes of CO2. The factory in Brevik will thus be a leading example for the cement industry towards a more sustainable direction and make a significant contribution to reducing global emissions,” says Kristina Jakobsen, Brevik CCS Construction Manager at Sweco Norway.

Sweco is performing several tasks during the realisation of this project:

  • Client project manager for civil /client representative
  • Client construction managers for all civil contracts and for mechanical contracts under FLS and Aker
  • Client health and safety coordinator for the execution
  • HSE Manager and site lead for Heidelberg Materials and principal undertaking
  • Site area planning and construction coordination
  • CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
  • Independent control according to technical regulation for structural and geotechnical engineering
  • Leads coordination meetings among contractors and company representatives

“We have summoned experienced resources and project managers for this project, people with many years of experience from industrial projects in the region. This ensures the client a good implementation and control of the project,” says Arild Hauge, Senior Industry Advisor, at Sweco Norway.

Heidelberg Materials’ Swedish CCS plant initiative

Sweco was selected by Heidelberg Materials to assist with the permit application for a CCS plant in Slite, Gotland. The initiative represents a significant step towards climate change adaptation in Sweden. Sweco’s role includes environmental impact assessments and contributing to the plant’s feasibility study.

The goal of the CCS plant is to capture and store around 1.8 million tons of CO2 per year by 2030, which could aid in reducing national emissions. This project, one of Sweden’s most comprehensive climate adaptation initiatives, is part of broader efforts within Sweden to meet climate targets in the construction sector by 2030.

Pre-design of Power-to-Methanol plant in Lappeenranta

Energy company St1 is planning to build Finland’s first commercial-scale synthetic methanol production facility in Lappeenranta, Finland. In this concept, the CO2 would be captured from a nearby factory operated by Finnsementti, the largest cement manufacturer in Finland.

Sweco conducted the pre-design for this Power-to-X (P2X) plant during 2023. The plant will produce about 25,000 tons of synthetic methanol per year when completed.

P2X and CCU study in North Ostrobothnia

Sweco conducted a study on P2X concepts in Raahe as part of the “R4H2 – REACTions for Hydrogen” project, which aims to boost the hydrogen economy in North Ostrobothnia.

The study, initiated in spring 2023, explored CCU opportunities, focusing on emission reductions and new business prospects. Utilising captured carbon dioxide and green hydrogen, sustainable green fuels and chemicals can be synthesised, with Sweco evaluating the most viable P2X pathways.

More information: Tomas Norrena, Hydrogen Business Lead, Industry & Energy, Sweco Finland, tomas.norrena@sweco.fi

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