Development of European CO2 Infrastructure Networks

By Beatrice Coda, Policy Officer, Unit B1, Internal Market I: Networks and Regional Initiatives, Directorate-General for Energy, European Commission
Spring 2015

In the transition to a low-carbon economy, the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology has the potential to become in the mid-term an economically cost-effective way to reconcile the rising demand for fossil fuels, with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The CCS technology has a very large potential of reducing by up to 90% the CO2 produced by the world’s largest emitters: fossil fuel power plants (both gas and coal/lignite) and heavy industry (such as steel and iron, cement, refining, chemicals).

The role of CCS in cost efficient climate mitigation and in the low-carbon transition of the European economy, while contributing to diversification and security of supplies, was reiterated by the European Commission proposal for a 2030 climate and energy framework1, adopted in January 2014, and the European Energy Security Strategy2, adopted by the European Commission in May 2014.

Both documents acknowledge the importance of CCS for power and energy-intensive industrial sectors, and urge continued support, at European and Member State level, for R&D, demonstration, and the development of an adequate transport and storage infrastructure, in order to pave the way for commercial deployment post-2020 of carbon capture and storage plants.

Bringing costs down in the CCS chain (CO2 capture - CO2 transport - CO2 storage) and securing a business case in Europe, which is based on the carbon price, remains still a challenge. Even while carbon price is not at a sufficient level, there is still a need to demonstrate and further develop CCS technology, including CCS infrastructure, as well as develop skills and knowledge through the deployment of a limited number of CCS projects to test whether the subsequent deployment and construction of CO2 infrastructure across Europe is feasible.

Development of CO2 infrastructure network for the purpose of transporting CO2 from the point of the capture to a storage site, is crucial for the development of CCS projects.

While sufficient storage capacity exists in Europe not all capacity is accessible or located close to CO2 emitters. It can be expected that initially CCS projects will most often explore CO2 storage sinks in the vicinity of capture points, hence infrastructure will first have to be developed at national level. Such national infrastructure needs will have to be properly addressed by Member States, in order to then advance to cross-border networks. In view of the long lead times to plan and develop infrastructures, a proper coordination between Member States is paramount to kick off the European wide infrastructures as long as CCS is not commercially demonstrated. A cross border transport infrastructure is hence necessary to efficiently connect CO2 sources to sinks. This is reflected in the inclusion of the CO2 transport infrastructure in the Regulation 347/2013 "Guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure" (TEN-E Guidelines)3. Under the TEN-E Guidelines, cross border carbon dioxide networks (by means of transport infrastructure between Member States and with neighbouring third countries in view of the deployment of CCS) are a priority thematic area.

The new framework established with the TEN-E framework (with measures for improving infrastructure planning, accelerating permit granting, regulatory incentives, and EU financial assistance) is envisaged to radically improve the investment framework for trans-European energy infrastructure and therefore contribute to meeting the challenges related to the 2030 and 2050 energy and climate policy goals. Under the TEN-E Guidelines, CO2 transport infrastructure projects can qualify to become projects of common interest (PCIs) and, under certain conditions, may be eligible for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility4.

The first PCI list adopted in December 2013 did not include any cross-border carbon dioxide infrastructure projects; it is expected that the development of common carbon dioxide infrastructure projects will be addressed in the upcoming years until 2020 and beyond. In this respect, it is of paramount importance to address both the technical and economic challenges linked to the feasibility of (cross border) CO2 transport infrastructure as well as the associated legal, regulatory and policy implications at EU level.

The European Commission is expected to facilitate the development of the CO2 cross-border infrastructure network of trans-European relevance, by means of the legal framework estabilished under the TEN-E Guidelines. There is also the need to address the legal and regulatory sides linked to the transport of captured CO2 which is likely to occurr from fossil fuel dependent Member States to areas with high storage potential (such as the North Sea). Support of Member States to this initiative will be crucial to move the process forward.

1 A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 (COM/2014/015 final)
2 European Energy Security Strategy (COM/2014/330 final)
3 Regulation on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructures, Regulation (EU) No 347/2013
4 Regulation establishing the Connecting Europe Facility, Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013Author: