September 18, 2019

New Ramboll study on the climate benefits of carbon capture and utilisation technologies

Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) is a developing technological field with potential for industrial innovation in the circular economy of carbon. In close collaboration with several partners, Ramboll Management Consulting analysed CCU technologies with a focus on the utilisation of CO2 to replace fossil carbon in industrial production processes.

By Mie Kjær

How can the EU meet their climate mitigation targets?

One factor that seems promising is Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU). However, a new Ramboll study shows that the conditions to achieve climate benefits from CCU can prove difficult in the absence of a supportive policy framework incentivising more industrial emission cuts.

CCU technologies’ contribution to EU climate mitigation targets

The diversity of CCU technologies makes it impossible to generalise

A relevant solution to the circular economy

CCU is nevertheless a relevant solution for the creation of a circular economy:

- CCU could enable industrial symbiosis, support the replacement of fossil fuels, and reduce the reliance on fossil imports. It is also a relevant solution where carbon is needed, such as in the chemical industry, Samy Porteron adds.

There is often a misconception that CCU technologies could offer similar climate benefits as geological carbon capture and storage technologies (GCCS), where CO2 is stored into the ground for it to never escape. However, aside from a few CCU products the characteristic of CCU compared to GCCS is that the CO2 captured in a product is often re-emitted at the end-of-life of that product.

Some CCU technologies that show climate benefits do exist while others may be discovered in the future.

However, these technologies will not allow society to fully break away from its reliance on carbon. What is more, these technologies are sometimes still unable to break even financially and therefore require public financial support. Consequently, CCU technologies should be compared with other low or even zero carbon technologies, according to Ramboll’s expert:

- In sectors where carbon is not needed, other technologies - such as electrification for the transport sector - can offer better climate mitigation impacts. The environmental costs and benefits of CCU technologies should therefore be weighed carefully against those of other technologies that can serve the same purpose. This matters especially for the EU and other public or private organisations conscious about making environmentally-friendly investments.

New EU fund by 2020

After this study, the EU will continue investigating the potential of various low-carbon technologies and developing the appropriate regulatory framework to ensure their contribution to low-carbon development. The new EU Innovation Fund - designed to finance highly innovative technologies and big flagship projects from 2020 onwards - is hoped to contribute to the breakthrough of technologies with the highest emission reduction potential.

Teams from Ramboll’s Management Consulting and Environment & Health divisions worked on the study with valuable support from IASS Potsdam, Kassel University CESR, CE Delft, and IOM Law.