Emission management

Europe Wants To Export Its CO2; The Question Is: Who Wants It?

The sites with the most CO2 emissions to capture are often far from the best rock to sequester it, leading to design projects for transport ships.

Conceptual image of Mitsubishi's demonstration test ship for liquefied CO2 transportation.
Conceptual image of Mitsubishi's demonstration test ship for liquefied CO2 transportation.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

A big problem with carbon storage is getting it where it needs to go.

The International Energy Agency, which has called for a 100-fold growth in CO2 storage to reduce the risk of drastic climate change, is based in Paris, at the heart of Europe where onshore storage capacity is scarce.

The mismatch is between where the gas is produced and where it can be sequestered in Europe and Asia. Pipeline projects are up against stiff opposition by landowners, even in North America, which has led to projects to build ships to export the unwanted gas, and even trucks to transport it.

Europe needs to find a way to sequester CO2 as it burns more coal to generate power because of curtailed Russian gas flows to the continent and consequently, surging power prices.

One plus for storage is the rising cost of CO2 emissions in Europe. Over the past 2 years, coal use has risen as it has replaced natural gas, which has significantly lower emissions, as a fuel. The rise in coal use increases the reward for storing gas in the ground rather than emitting it into the atmosphere.

But Europe is up against a problem. Its only onshore CO2 disposal site is in Denmark, said Jeff Erikson, general manager for client engagement for the Global CCS Institute, which promotes storage. The group is tracking large offshore storage projects under development in the North Sea.

For onshore or offshore disposal, transporting the gas is a problem which has inspired projects to build vessels to move the unwanted gas to storage sites.

Erikson said the US might offer a disposal option for Europeans. Disposal capacity is likely to expand quickly in the US due to incentives offered to companies capturing CO2 from industrial exhaust streams. That income is driving most of the proposals for storage.

Development of CO2 tankers is also going on in Asia, where oil companies are developing large offshore storage sites for their own use and for disposal of CO2 from industrial centers such as Singapore, which has no room for storage, Erikson said.

In China, to speed the opening of CO2 storage sites, trucks have been transporting CO2 for injection while a pipeline is being built to supply the sites, he said.