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CCS and EU: the Netherlands as CCS leader

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The European Union wants to achieve 50 megatons less CO2 emissions per year by 2030 compared to 1990. So there is a lot of work to be done. Carbon Capture & Storage gives the Netherlands an excellent opportunity to profile itself as a CCS leader within the European Union.  

In this diptych we look at CCS in the EU. In this first article we explain how and why the Netherlands can become a CCS leader. Next week we will list all CCS projects in the EU.  

CCS is the underground storage of CO2, a necessary technology to achieve the Dutch and European climate goals. In many scientific reports from, among others, the IPCC and the IBO Climate, say that CCS forms a large part in reducing CO2-emissions. 

The Netherlands has the advantage that there are sufficient storage locations, such as empty gas fields at sea, while there are also many energy-intensive industrial clusters where CO2 can be captured. Because emitters and storage are geographically close to each other, the Netherlands has an advantage over other countries. After all, this makes the transport of CCS easier, cheaper and better for the environment. That is why various CCS projects are being developed in the Netherlands, such as Porthos, Aramis en North Cape

Role and importance of CCS 

The importance of CCS was therefore previously calculated by the IPCC and endorsed by NGO’s Clean Air Taskforce (CATF) and Bellona Europe and the IBO Climate. In addition, EBN describes in a whitepaper that CCS is safe. Therefore, this technique has enormous potential to help in achieving the EU climate goals.  

Is it the holy grail? No. CCS is a transition technology that can help heavy industry reduce emissions and produce blue hydrogen. In order to turn back 'climate time', negative emissions are necessary, and CO2 capture and storage can also play a role here. The ultimate solution lies in further electrification of the industry and the production of green hydrogen. Unfortunately, these solutions are not yet ready to be implemented, which is why the Netherlands and Europe must make use of techniques such as CCS in order to achieve the short term climate goals.  

Subsurface: CO2 storage under the North Sea 

The Dutch subsoil and location make The Netherlands extremely suitable for underground storage of CO2. As the largest producer of natural gas in the EU, this is the opportunity to position our country as a CO2 specialist towards 2030.  

North Sea gas has been produced in the Netherlands for many years. We can fill these (partly) empty gas reservoirs with CO2. In this way you seal it hermetically under thick layers of salt and sand. Within the Porthos project, extensive research has been done into possible risks of underground CO2 storage and how to limit or avoid it altogether. The conclusion: CCS can be done safely and efficiently.  

Infrastructure and pipelines 

There are several ways to transport CO2. It can be liquefied and then taken by ship to a CCS facility. The second option, namely transport via a pipeline, is much more climate-friendly. Not only because the CO2 is not transported by boat, but also because the infrastructure already exists. Pipelines that we now use in the Netherlands to transport natural gas for households and industry can be reused for safe CO2 transport with a few adjustments. As a result, a large part can be transported via those pipelines, instead of via shipping. It will then also be possible to connect with the heavy industry in North Rhine-Westphalia and the port of Antwerp.   

Direct capture thanks to geographical location 

CO2 can be captured directly in Rotterdam, where it is led to the sea via treatment installations on land for storage.In addition, the industrial clusters around Antwerp and in the Ruhr area are a stone's throw away. In this triangle we find the largest concentration of energy-intensive industry in the EU. Mainly metal and cement producers, who produce essential raw materials for the energy transition. Deploying CCS in this triangle means achieving the climate goals for the EU.  

Because Carbon, Capture & Storage is an interim solution, the industry must look for ways to become more sustainable without CCS. CO2 storage is therefore a smart temporary solution with quick results. There are not only possibilities in the field of CO2 storage: in the future captured CO2 can also be used as a raw material for building materials.  

As the largest gas producer in the EU, the Netherlands is fully equipped to fulfill the role of CO2 storage.  

Where are we now: the Netherlands and the EU 

This all sounds great, but currently underground CO2 storage projects in the Netherlands are standing still or are slowly getting off the ground. Porthos, for example, is at a standstill pending a nitrogen ruling, while the IBO Climate has advised to earmark these types of CCS projects being ‘of national importance’. The European Union has also designated Porthos as a project of common interest. This means that a great reduction in CO2 emissions, outweigh a relatively small amount of nitrogen emissions building these CCS projects.  

We now have to make great strides quickly by applying CCS, so that much less CO2 is released into the atmosphere. This starts with intervention by the Dutch cabinet to get projects back on track. This requires commitment and a sense of urgency from all those involved. In addition, help the industry to switch to hydrogen as quickly as possible, or to electricity where possible. Only in this way the Netherlands can utilize the full CCS potential and become a CCS leader in the EU. 

In this diptych we look at CCS in the EU. In this first article we explain how and why the Netherlands can become a CCS leader. Next week we will list all CCS projects in the EU.

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