They were a long time coming but well worth the read when they did. Perhaps the importance of the words has yet to be properly recognised, but if European industry wants a prosperous future, they should be stimulating discussions in boardrooms across the continent.
A press release was issued on 15 June 2023 that marked a breakthrough for everyone involved with CCS. Its opening sentence announced:
“Aker Carbon Capture and Ørsted, a global leader in renewable energy, have signed the contract to develop a large-scale carbon capture project for the Ørsted Kalundborg Hub in Denmark.”
This was confirmation that the first-ever Final Investment Decision for a CCS project within the European Union had finally been taken.
The second sentence was even more welcome:
“Aker Carbon Capture will deliver five ‘Just Catch’ units, additional equipment such as liquefaction systems, and temporary CO2 storage and on-/offloading facilities, with an expected total contract value above EUR 200 million.”
At long last, here was proof that CCS deployment can bring very significant commercial opportunities for European business.
The contract worth “above EUR 200 million” will enable a CCS project intended annually to capture 430,000 tonnes of biogenic CO2 for permanent storage below the North Sea.
By some estimates, Europe will need 1,000 projects of similar size to commence over the next 20 years if CO2 emission-reduction targets are to be met. Many times this number will be needed globally.
So why have so few European companies, the potential suppliers of CCS equipment and beneficiaries of future contracts, taken any sort of initiative to promote CCS deployment?
CCS has had few political advocates in Brussels and still has none at all in many national capitals. Why have businesses that have so much to gain not invested a small proportion of their marketing budgets in raising public awareness of the need for CCS? Why have they not taken the initiative individually or collectively to put CCS on the political agenda?
There are exceptions of course.
CCS Europe was launched in April this year to step up advocacy for the technology. Our membership includes a range of organisations that expect to be involved in meeting the needs of a growing CCS industry.
Aker Carbon Capture is amongst them, and so is GE, which is currently contracted to undertake FEED studies for CCS projects. Baker Hughes, Air Liquide, and Norsk Hydro all look forward to supplying equipment. Danish Shipping and CO2 Management AS have interests which include the transportation of CO2, whether by pipeline. ship, barge, train, or truck.
These are businesses with commercial foresight, but where are the others? Are company directors in Europe just waiting for the Chinese to move in and fill the space they should be occupying? It’s not as though this hasn’t happened before!
Hundreds of CCS projects will be required to meet our net-zero ambitions; vast sums of money must be invested.
But it is realisable. As a train buff, I like to point out that in the 19th century, tens of thousands of miles of railway were built across Europe in a few short years by men with spades and picks (and a bit of gunpowder), and our construction technology has improved quite a lot since then.
The building of carbon capture plants and the introduction of CO2 transport infrastructure must soon become routine and taken for granted. For this to happen we still have to secure widespread political support; we still have to persuade governments to put in place the financial mechanisms and support strategies that can secure the investment.
Demonstrating that CCS deployment creates jobs and promotes economic growth is the most convincing argument we can make.
We need European businesses to beat the drum for CCS, to step up their own advocacy, and to join CCS Europe to make it happen.
The press release from Aker Carbon Capture points the way forward.
It should be the first of many. But we are not at the tipping point yet, and we will not get to it unless we up our game and do more to convince policymakers of the need to pay attention.
It is a business that stands to gain enormously, and it is a business that should be exploring ways of strengthening our advocacy. European companies need to wake up, smell the enormous CCS opportunities, and take steps to realise their potential.
Director, CCS Europe