The policy contexts of Carbon Capture and Storage
Instead of paying to store CO2 underground, firms could be paid to sell it to industrial users who could generate economic value from it use. CO2 utilisation could shift the focus of the CCS discourse from the disposal of an inconvenient by-product towards the recycling and re-use of a commodity. Ideally, the CO2 would never reach the atmosphere. Policy makers are increasingly attracted by CO2 utilisation but there remains much uncertainty, confusion and, sometimes, misinformation about the role it could play and what the benefits could be.
Understanding the emissions reductions that arise from different CO2 utilisation options can often be complex and not all CO2 utilisation is equally beneficial from a climate perspective. The IEA has published a framework for considering the issues that are relevant for considering what role CO2 utilisation could play in climate change mitigation. With the notable exception of (certain approaches to) CO2 enhanced oil recovery, current and potential uses of CO2 in existing analyses have yet to satisfy three main criteria:
- Have an emissions reduction benefit.
- Provide sufficient revenue, for example to help close the finances for investment in large-scale CO2 capture equipment.
- Be scalable to a level that is meaningful in climate change mitigation terms.
The framework is proposed to unite practitioners and policymakers around a common understanding of how and what CO2 utilisation can achieve and, potentially, over what timeframe. However, the role that CO2 utilisation will ultimately play in the economy will likely depend on technological developments and incentives in other policy areas, such as competitiveness, innovation and energy (or feedstock) security.