March 2, 2024

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) will “play a key role in decarbonization” as companies execute plans on their net-zero emission targets, according to a recent report by S&P Global Ratings.

In a sample of 25 of the highest-revenue oil and gas companies, all of them plan to use at least one among the options of CCS, CDR, or carbon credits to meet their decarbonization goals, the rating firm said in a report authored by its Sustainability Research team.

Carbon Capture and Storage

CCS is a group of technologies that separate carbon dioxide from other gases, then capture and store it in a permanent facility, as defined in the report. The technology can be deployed in power generation and industry to capture carbon dioxide directly from processes and transport the gas in pipelines to long-term geological storage sites. The captured and stored carbon can also be used in the energy sector, such as for extracting oil and gas in depleted reservoirs. Another use would be the production of blue hydrogen by capturing the carbon dioxide formed by steam methane reforming and a water-gas shift reaction, it said.

The report said that CCS-based solutions are seen as “having stronger permanence characteristics” than nature-based solutions (NbS) as they are considered less vulnerable to the accidental release of carbon dioxide, provided they are “well managed.” However, CCS is generally behind in technological readiness compared to solutions such as reforestation, the report said. Storage is a major factor in decarbonization decisions as well, as there is enough storage capacity for CCS to handle “decades of emissions”, the report said.

Of the companies in the sample, CCS capacity in 2022 represented seven percent of their scopes 1 and 2 emissions, with most activity coming from oil and gas majors in the USA and Europe, the report said. Plans for the deployment of CCS and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) would see capacity rise from 50 million tons currently to 325 million tons by 2030, which include targets for enhanced oil recovery and solutions to capture emissions from other companies. Of the firms in the sample, only 60 percent revealed their expected future capacity and only 56 percent identified the specific investment costs required, while 24 percent said they would use the captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery, but “often these aims are expressed in vague terms”, the report said.

According to the World Economic Forum, scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that a company causes by operating the things that it owns or controls, while scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions created by the production of the energy that an organization buys.

Carbon Dioxide Removal

CDR is a group of both nature-based and technological solutions that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently store it in terrestrial, geological, or ocean reservoirs, as defined in the report. Examples of CDR include planting trees in the process of afforestation and reforestation, as well as improving soil quality. CDR technologies often do not directly reduce emissions, the report noted.

In the report sample, 92 percent of the oil and gas firms plan to use CDR mainly through nature-based solutions, but a “high proportion of companies’ disclosure lacks details”. The companies in the report focused on afforestation and reforestation solutions.

Technological CDR solutions such as direct air carbon capture and storage, which removes and stores carbon from ambient air, are at much earlier stages of development, with “technical and economic challenges still to be overcome”, the report said.

Wide Range of Estimates

The life-cycle costs of all the decarbonization solutions in the report have a wide range of estimates, showing the “state of technological readiness, the specific application, and the uncertainty involved”. In addition, CCS and CDR could have other environmental consequences such as increasing water demand in ecosystems, the report said.

“In general, large oil and gas companies are exploring different business models for carbon capture, which may include sequestering emissions from other companies’ activities, not necessarily capturing their own emissions”, the report said. Further, the rating agency said that CCS investments are “prudent and affordable” for large companies but “not transformational”.

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