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Net-zero boundaries and borders: renewed global interest propels CCS into promising new era

Dr Philippa Parmiter, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage Programme Manager, previews the SCCS Annual Conference on Tuesday 21 June.

Little did we know when we held our last SCCS conference, back in 2015, that within weeks the UK Government would cancel its flagship £1bn CCS commercialisation competition, a serious setback that reverberated across the global carbon capture community.

Today, carbon capture and storage and a burgeoning carbon dioxide removal (CDR) sector are firmly back on the agenda, both in the UK and beyond. As the UK’s independent advisor, the Climate Change Committee, has put it, CCS is a ‘necessity not an option’ if we are to limit global heating in line with the Paris Agreement.

More and more agree. Four of the seven initiatives selected to share €1.1bn in financing in the EU Innovation Fund’s first call for large-scale projects involve CCS. In the US, the Biden administration has emerged as a significant supporter, announcing a $3.5bn direct air carbon capture programme and a $2.3bn geological carbon storage initiative last month alone. In the UK, £1bn has been set aside to develop two CCUS clusters by the mid-2020s. In Iceland, meanwhile, Carbfix - who the conference will hear from - has attracted global media attention, and the backing of tech giants including Microsoft and Stripe, for its CO2 mineralisation operations. Another pioneer, Norway, is leading the way on open access CO2 transport and storage infrastructure via its Northern Lights and Longship projects.

This increased global activity has inspired our 2022 conference to examine boundaries and borders: climate change transcends them, but politics and regulation don’t. As CCS becomes incorporated into emissions trading systems, national greenhouse gas emissions accounting and carbon offsetting markets, it is ever more vital to pin down ‘ownership’ of CO2 at each stage in the process - whether by the emitting organisation or country, the transport and storage operator, or the storing organisation or country. We will also look at carbon dioxide removal more broadly and the widening range of CCS applications being developed, including for energy-from-waste facilities and negative emissions technologies such as CCS of biogenic CO2 emissions and from the air via DACCS.

Here in Scotland, although the Scottish Cluster wasn’t chosen for Track 1 of the UK Government’s renewed CCS funding, it has been designated a reserve cluster. Our conference will hear from the Scottish Government about the importance of CCUS in Scotland’s transition to net zero; from Scottish Enterprise, its inward investment agency on the CCUS supply chain in Scotland; and from Storegga, owner of Pale Blue Dot, lead developer of the Acorn CCS and Hydrogen project, a cornerstone of Scotland’s decarbonisation plans.

The emergence of hydrogen as a key alternative to fossil fuels, for the decarbonisation of heat (industrial and residential) and transport, is another hallmark of the seven years since our last conference. Here, CCS can be an important transition technology, enabling production of low-carbon hydrogen made using natural gas, until production of green hydrogen can be made from renewables in sufficient volume. We are delighted that two pioneers of industrial applications of CCS - ArcelorMittal and HeidelbergCement - are joining us.

As we emerge from pandemic restrictions, we hope you will join us and re-engage with the CCS community in person in the conducive surroundings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, or online - the conference is a hybrid event, so we will seek input and questions from those attending virtually as well as those in the room. There has never been a better time to discuss how CCS and CDR can contribute to net zero, discover what is happening in a range of industries, and identify what needs to happen in terms of policy and legislation to accelerate deployment of these vital technologies.

Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage Annual Conference - Tuesday 21 June


With a secretariate based at ECCI, SCCS is the UK’s largest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) research group. A partnership of six research institutes, its scientists and professional staff engage in national and international research projects to support the deployment of CCS as a climate mitigation technology. SCCS provides a link between academia, industry and government.