The Second Europe CCUS & Hydrogen Decarbonisation Summit
The 2nd Europe CCUS & Hydrogen Summit was back in Brussels after the first successful edition. This time, after major economic and political disruptions around the world, Europe needs to decarbonise its industry as well as diversify its energy matrix. It is more important than ever to be more independent and have more control over the final prices for consumers.
The summit was divided into two days. The first day presented a general overview of the European goals and strategy focusing later on CCUS. The second day focused on hydrogen and its potential was discussed.
The chair welcomed all attendees to the event and discussed the need to achieve the net zero goals and the possibilities the new technologies could bring to this purpose.
It was good to see how natural hydrogen and geology were mentioned as key factors to reach the European goals. Our profession needs to have a bigger role in these kinds of events and also to be taken into account by policymakers.
The first session of the morning was focused on the energy sources in Europe and the Net Zero Strategy.
CCUS technology is a reality, but it must be implemented at a commercial scale. Europe needs to accelerate this to ensure the 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets are still on track. Speakers highlighted that there are 72 CCU projects in Europe and a capacity storage of 80MTCO2/y. Even if this is good, it is not enough to fulfil the already mentioned targets.
Moreover, Europe has 2 million km of pipelines on its territory which will facilitate the implementation of hydrogen as well as CO2 storage. During the session, it was emphasised the need to be ambitious about these projects, the change of regulations and funding programmes that will make possible this implementation (blending, repurposing of existing gas infrastructures).
Ongoing projects that will convert waste into sustainable chemicals were presented.
Session 2 was more oriented to energy transition and demand. Several important topics were discussed. On one side, it is key to speed up the energy transition. However, on the other side, Europe should not compromise its energy supply and security at any cost. In addition, another key point for the energy transition to succeed is that needs to be affordable. Some examples from the Middle East were shared in which the price of electricity could be around 11 $/MW/h. This might surprise those Europeans who we are paying thirty times more for electricity.
The northwest of Europe is probably the most important hub for the decarbonisation industry. A combination of a now declining but powerful oil and gas industry, big and modern ports, high-tech companies, facilities as well as good connections (due to no significant geographical barriers), make the countries around the North Sea a lighthouse for innovation, research, and implementation.
Representatives of projects focusing on transitioning to a lower carbon economy participated in the summit. The UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway are the countries where this technology is developed the most. Besides, they are a strong demand, due to their industrial net, so they need to think ahead to be able to achieve the green deal targets.
At the end of this session, a panel discussion was held on demand and energy transition. There was an interesting debate on policy and possibilities for the near future. Important questions were raised, for example: What low carbon is? (There is not a clear definition of what it is); Are we able to switch to green hydrogen? A common framework and more funding are needed?
Of course, there are still many uncertainties as the big switch would need some common European regulations and technical guidelines on use, maintenance, and energy storage.
Even if we are moving slowly towards the correct direction, it is clear that gas and blue hydrogen will be needed in the future. The transition would mean a maybe slow but steady change.
After the lunch and networking break, the talks continued with Session 3 and focused on the implementation of CCUS as a decarbonisation player in the European industry. Examples from end users who are already working on this implementation were shared.
As mentioned before, examples in this session were from the northwest part of Europe, where this technology is more developed.
In the Netherlands, the Rotterdam port plays an important role. Two port offshore projects will be constructed. In addition, there is the possibility of further exploring old oil fields to assess the potential of storing CO2.
In Norway, the existing expertise and experience from the oil and gas industry will be implemented in the CCS. It is indeed a similar scenario as in the Netherlands but with a different approach. The technical approach is similar in both technologies. However, the business plan is completely different. It was also highlighted that Norway has been working on CCS for 26 years in the oil industry through the EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) and other technics.
The UK’s potential is also pretty significant due to the amount of oil fields they have offshore.
Capture and storage technics will be key concerning emissions. In the future, society will still need plastics or energy. Our focus should be on eliminating emissions.
The first day closed with session 4, which focused on investment opportunities. Governments are investing a lot in decarbonisation projects. However, there should be an opportunity for private capital investors too. This brings another topic to the table: a workforce with new and strong skills will be needed. Some of the workers might come from sister industries, but many others will be new.
The second day of the event was dedicated to hydrogen as it is considered the fuel of the future for its big potential to contribute to zero emissions.
The first session provided a global view of the state-of-the-art projects and answers to how this energy carrier can contribute to the energy transition.
The first presentation gave some information on how industries are acting on emissions, especially heavy industries (cement, refineries, steel). Most of them have decarbonisation plans but there are many uncertainties that they still need to figure out (little space, skills, scarce capital).
After this, EFG Executive Director Glen Burridge presented natural hydrogen as the hidden opportunity to achieve the decarbonisation goals. Natural hydrogen is a resource of natural existence in nature and is sometimes trapped in the subsurface. The great potential of natural hydrogen is due to its low price (estimated costs ~ $ 0.5-2/kg). Furthermore, it is completely green. Even if there are many things to work on, there are already some projects exploring this resource in several European countries such as Spain, France and Germany.
This topic is relatively unknown to many scientists outside of geoscience. Nevertheless, it can become an inflexion point if its huge potential is confirmed. Natural hydrogen caught much attention, and it initiated discussions among stakeholders.
Later, it was reviewed the hydrogen market and outlook for the current year and close future. The value chain in the Netherlands is key to achieving the EU targets, as well as enabling the hydrogen infrastructure. Some examples were given from the UK, India, and Scotland about how some countries are performing with their implementation of hydrogen.
In the afternoon it was held the last session of the event. On this occasion, hydrogen transport and storage were discussed.
As it was stated before, a key point will be the usage of gas distribution networks to deploy a large-scale hydrogen economy. Good capacity storage will be crucial for the full implementation of its potential. There are more advances in salt caverns. However, it is necessary to study in detail the depleted fields and the saline aquifers.
Europe is moving in the right direction, but not all the work is done. Many decisions need to be taken at the EU level, agree on common regulations and unify different criteria across the EU, support the investment in R&D, and support the SMEs who are also contributing to this new age energy.
Alberto Sanchez Miravalles is a Spanish Geologist with several post-grades courses in Geotechnical and Oil & Gas Engineering in Complutense and Politécnica universities of Madrid, respectively. Alberto has international experience and good skills in exploration, rock mechanics, water remediation and geotechnics. Nowadays, he is working for the European Federation of Geologists in Brussels as a project officer in charge of the management of EU projects. Besides, Alberto collaborates with the ICOG (Spanish Association of Professional Geologists), as courses developer and online teacher.
This article has been edited by María A. López.
Disclaimer: This article expresses the personal opinions of the author. These opinions may not reflect the official position of the European Federation of Geologists (EFG).