To avoid climate disaster, timing is everything: Flexible transportation solutions for CO2 to Storage key to speed up deployment

Publish date: June 7, 2022

Carbon Collectors is a Dutch carbon dioxide transport and storage company founded in 2016, focusing on flexible solutions for transportation of CO2 to storage. As part of Bellona Europa’s Campaign #TenTTuesday, we invited Anne-Mette Jørgensen, Carbon Collector’s external affairs manager, for a chat on the role and importance of multiple transportation modalities on the path to net-zero by 2050.

Why is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) an important solution for Carbon Collectors?

“As we see it, we of course need to reduce fossil fuel use in general, but CCS technology is crucial for reducing emissions now. Especially for industries that currently do not have any other viable technologies available to reduce their emissions. Also on the longer term, some industries will remain dependent on CCS to bring their emissions down to zero. Moreover, CCS infrastructure is needed to achieve negative emissions.

This is actually part of our story as a company. Our founders, who started the company in 2016, wanted to have a positive impact on climate change, and felt that developments were not going fast enough. They realised that if we really want to avoid climate disaster, timing is everything. With experience in the oil and gas sector and offshore logistics, they saw Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a sector where they could really make a difference. With the aim of getting the full CCS chain up and running fast, we now focus on flexible solutions to transport and store CO2 using shipping in particular.

Why are you so focused on flexibility in transport, why do you see this as crucial?

“Well, maybe it is good to first explain how our solution for CO2 transport and storage works and what makes it so flexible. We work with a push-tug barge combination where we pick up the CO2 at the place where the emitters capture it. We use our barges as intermediate storage and, when the barge is full, transport the CO2 directly to an offshore storage location. This means we reduce the need for all kinds of fixed infrastructure and provide a full-service solution for emitters who don’t see CCS as their core business. That helps to act faster and to avoid any issues with potential lock-ins or stranded assets that you might face when using only pipelines. Just to make it clear: we do need pipelines, especially for very large emitters who are likely to continue emitting stabile amounts of CO2 for many years. But different solutions work for different cases.

Secondly, by using flexible transport solutions, storage sites that otherwise might have been too small or too complex for pipelines can be developed. This can help increase the total CO2 storage potential in Europe.

Finally, the solutions we provide are tailor made and easily scalable. For inland emitters, we use a combination of transport modalities such as rail, truck and inland and offshore barges to provide a viable solution for different cases. A fleet of barges and other transport modalities can easily be scaled to fit the amount of CO2 from an emitter and CO2 from small emitters can be aggregated underway to a storage location. So we believe that the flexibility we provide can help speed up the process of developing the full CCS-chain and that in the end larger amounts of CO2 can be safely stored underground.”

What do you see as the main barriers facing the large-scale deployment of CCS on industrial emissions in Europe today, in particular for multiple transport modalities such as ship, rail, truck and barge?

”Here I would like to highlight three main issues. The first and biggest challenge is the development of storage locations. Serious plans for carbon capture have been growing over the last few years, but the number of available storage sites is lagging behind. There is a need to develop sufficient storage sites fast, so that captured carbon can be safely and permanently stored. This is where my earlier point comes into play: flexible transport solutions enable faster development of storage sites and development of a larger total capacity for CO2 storage.

Secondly, plans for CO2 transport and storage tend to overly focus on fixed centralised infrastructure rather than multimodal solutions. This results in limitations. It is crucial that governments start facilitating interfaces between different transport modalities, between flexible and fixed solutions to ensure an optimised system, and that they create a level playing field for different types of solutions. Here it is important to not only enable development through financing, subsidies or permits, it is also a matter of sending the right market signals. If governments focus on specific transport modalities in their communication this may affect the solutions being investigated by emitters and storage owners. By focusing solely on fixed infrastructure, without considering the important role of multimodal alternatives, we lose out on a great opportunity to reduce industrial emissions now.

The third challenge is of course the arrangements on cross-border transport and storage. There is still some hesitance, for example in the Netherlands, towards accepting CO2 from other countries. From my perspective I don’t think it matters for the climate where the CO2 comes from, but it needs to be stored safely and many countries don’t have available storage sites themselves. We believe that CO2 should be allowed to be transported freely across the EU, like any other product, provided it is properly disposed of. ”

How can EU legislation play a role in addressing these barriers and challenges?

“Currently, as only pipelines and storage are recognised as PCIs under the TEN-E, this does not contribute to facilitating a level playing field between fixed and flexible transport solutions of CO2 to storage. While pipelines have an important role to play, it is a transport solution that can only transport from one fixed location to another fixed location. This can create a monopoly situation if not regulated properly. By focusing on fixed infrastructure in all cases, you run the risk of stranded assets and lock-ins when large investments are made in new pipelines. You also face an opportunity cost for smaller storage sites not being developed and for smaller emitters not being connected as the significant up-front investments in a pipeline make the transport costs per ton of captured CO2 very high. Here, multiple transport modalities can be the solution. We therefore strongly support that multiple transport modalities such as ship, rail, barge and truck are included in the TEN-T regulation.”

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