Industrial applications of CCS

In recent years, analysts and governments have recognised that some of the world’s most carbon-intensive industries may have no alternatives to CCS for deep emissions reduction. This is because much of the CO2 is unavoidably generated by their production processes, not only from fuel use.  

At a combined emissions level of more than 7 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) in 2011, seven large industrial sectors including cement, iron and steel, chemicals and refining accounted for one-fifth of the total of 31 GtCO2 emitted globally. Emissions from each of these sectors are expected to grow by around 35% up to 2050 under current policies. This is primarily because of increasing demand for consumer products and infrastructure and the importance of commodities such as steel, cement, liquid fuels and chemicals for the growth of modern economies. Materials like steel, carbon fibres and concrete are also fundamental to the supply chains of other low-carbon technologies – e.g. wind and nuclear power – that seek sustainable life-cycle performance.

Industrial Applications of CCSEfficiency measures and non-fossil energy options have the potential to reduce the specific emissions from the above sectors’ production by only around 30%. As a consequence, without CCS or an equivalent breakthrough in materials and fuels production, the total emissions from these sectors will increase if economic growth continues at expected rates rather than diminish. CCS can help break the link between economic growth and the demand for industrial output, on one hand, and increasing CO2emissions, on the other hand.

CCS in industrial applications faces additional challenges compared to CCS in the electricity sector due to much higher international competition in the sectors concerned. Despite this, all large-scale CCS and CO2 capture projects in operation before mid-2014 were in fact in industrial sectors. Plants that capture up to 1 MtCO2/yr operate today in the gas processing, refining, chemicals and biofuels sectors. Sectors that have a clear head start in terms of technical maturity have developed the technologies to take advantage of commercial demand for cheap CO2 and their relatively low specific costs of CO2 capture..

The IEA has included CCS in industrial applications in its Energy Technology Perspectives modelling since the first edition in 2006. In the 2014 publication, 50% of the CO2 captured up to 2050 in the 2 Degree Scenario was from outside the power sector. The current focus of our work in this area is policy approaches that can support CCS in trade-exposed sectors and stimulate innovation for a low carbon future, while overcoming competitiveness concerns.

Sector plotted as a function of exposure to international trade in a selection of countries, and the relative impact that CCS would have on production cost‌

Figure 4_4

Note: Trade exposure is measured as a composite of two inputs: published analyses by competition authorities and the trade intensity metric used for the European Commission’s emission trading system [(imports + exports)/(imports + production)]. Cost index represents likely relative increase in production costs, using cost ranges presented in Figure 7. AE = UAE; AU = Australia; CA = Canada; CN = China; DE = Germany; FR = France; GB = UK; JP = Japan; KR = Republic of Korea; MX = Mexico; NO = Norway; US = United States; ZA = South Africa.

CO2 utilisation

Utilising carbon dioxide has received increasing attention in recent years, notably as a potential driver to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS). The allure of CO2 utilisation is straightforward: instead of paying to dispose of CO2, firms that generate large amounts of CO2 could be paid for it, while at the same time avoiding emissions to the atmosphere and any associated penalties. If viable, CO2 utilisation could thereby shift the focus of the CCS discourse from the disposal of an inconvenient by-product or waste towards the production and use of a commodity.

However, not all options for CO2 would actually help tackle climate change. Understanding the emissions reductions that arise from different CO2 utilisation options can often be complex and not all CO2 utilisation is equally beneficial from a climate perspective. The IEA has published a framework for considering the issues that are relevant for considering what role CO2 utilisation could play in climate change mitigation. With the notable exception of (certain approaches to) CO2 enhanced oil recovery, current and potential uses of CO2 in existing analyses have yet to satisfy the three main criteria:

  • Have an emissions reduction benefit
  • Provide sufficient revenue, for example to help close the finances for investment in large-scale CO2 capture equipment
  • Be scalable to a level that is meaningful in climate change mitigation terms

The role that CO2 utilisation could play in the economy will depend on technological developments and incentives in other policy areas, such as competitiveness, innovation and energy (or feedstock) security. If successfully deployed, CO2 utilisation could lower the costs of climate mitigation and shift some of the costs onto willing consumers who would readily pay for the resulting goods and services. Despite this, the risk remains that pursuit of ideal but immature CO2 utilisation options could become a distraction from tackling the various critical challenges that face deployment of CCS with geological CO2 storage, including the need for significant reduction of CO2 capture and other costs via further R&D and economies of scale.

Technology Roadmaps

The IEA has developed and regularly updates a series of global, low-carbon energy technology roadmaps which identify priority actions for governments, industry, financial partners and civil society that will advance technology development and uptake to achieve international climate change goals.

Browse all Technology Roadmaps >

Technology Roadmap: Carbon Capture and Storage in Industrial Applications

Published: 20 September 2011

In sectors such as iron and steel, oil refining, cement and chemicals and petrochemicals, emission can be reduced through efficiency improvements and integration of low carbon energy sources. Crucially, however, carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been identified as the only large-scale mitigation option available that can deliver the additional CO2 emissions reductions that would be necessary to meet the climate goals in 2050.

This roadmap shows that CCS is a key cost-effective option for reducing CO2 emissions in large energy-intensive industries. In fact, much of the promising short-term potential for CCS globally lies not in the power sector but in industrial activities that currently vent highly pure streams of CO2. These activities include hydrogen production for fertilisers or fuel, bioethanol production and natural gas sweetening.

Most studies on the potential application of CCS have focused on the power sector, however, even though all existing operational large-scale demonstrations of CCS are in industrial applications. In the longer-term, half of the global economic deployment for CCS by 2050 is shown to be in industrial applications. In certain sectors CCS is shown to be of particular relevance in developing countries, where it could be a highly cost-competitive emissions abatement option, even in the near term.

Our work on Carbon capture and storage