Climate ambition continues to steadily increase, with countries and companies around the world committing to eradicate their emissions by mid-century.
Although 2050 may be 30 years away, we are now in the most critical decade to transform our economy to limit global warming. In other words, the time for tangible action is now.
As the energy transition takes place, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is gathering momentum and is increasingly expected to play a vital role in our response to climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA), and many others highlight a clear need for CCS in ensuring a safe climate for our world. One of the most reputable organisations on energy and climate, the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario requires 15 percent of all emissions reductions to the year 2070 to come from CCS.
Coming to broader attention recently, CCS is an acronym that isn’t always well understood. In short, CCS covers a set of technologies that can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from any large source – including directly from the atmosphere – and permanently and safely store it underground. During capture, CO2 is separated from other gases. It is then compressed and can be transported via pipeline, ship, rail, or truck to a geological storage site. From there the CO2 is injected into deep underground rock formations at depths greater than 800m.
CCS is a mature, well understood technology suite that has been in operation since the 1970’s, with the first climate-integrated project commencing in the 1990’s in Norway. It can be applied across sectors as diverse as natural gas, hydrogen production, power generation, steel and iron production, and many others.
Encouragingly, the number of CCS projects moving into planning and development across the globe has taken off in recent years. There are now 29 commercial facilities in operation, with more than 140 in early development or under construction. This growth in CCS has been driven by growing climate ambition and the subsequent policies that governments have installed to promote the uptake of this vital technology.
Broadly speaking, the Northern Territory is already part of Australia and the world’s energy future through its natural gas exports, the mining and processing of metals, renewable energy, and its offset programs. The Territory is now making important strides to become a regional leader in CCS and, with it, unlocking extensive opportunities.
The Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct is advancing under the collaborative ambition of Government and the private sector. A CCS hub at Middle Arm will decarbonise existing industry and open up new prospects for clean technologies, processes, and exports.
As our trading partners seek to reduce their emissions, lower-carbon LNG exports – natural gas processed with fewer emissions – will be lucrative.
Further out, clean hydrogen market where we have an early competitive advantage and could be a global leader. Hard-to-abate industries, so called due to their reliance on heat and fossil fuels, including cement, chemicals, and fertilisers, will need CCS to decarbonise.
As our neighbours with limited geological storage deploy CCS, Australia can offer our offshore storage resources for a fee. CCS can also drive carbon dioxide removals, the process of removing CO2 already in the atmosphere, potentially helping us go beyond net-zero to balance out our historical impact on the climate.
This can all contribute to creating and sustaining livelihoods and provide tangible social and economic benefits. Investing in CCS will support jobs in the construction, operation, and maintenance of CCS facilities. A typical CCS project is estimated to need 2,500 employees during construction and 200–300 employees during operation and maintenance, and will support jobs in the supply chain. More than that, CCS can help align emissions-intense industries with net-zero and facilitate a just transition for the communities that host them.
Climate change requires an all-ofthe- above approach, where every mitigation solution is valued. Ultimately, CCS acts as a necessary complement to other pieces of the puzzle, such as electrification through renewables, energy efficiency, and nature-based solutions. However, it’s the versatility of CCS, the fact that it enables both emissions mitigation and removals, that makes it such a unique and important tool in combatting climate change.
As we continue to navigate a changing world in which climate change will remain a significant hurdle, longterm vision and pragmatism will be essential. In this critical decade for action, all options to stop global warming must be deployed.
Carbon capture and storage, and the opportunities it presents should be embraced as essential to the climate and economic future of the Territory.