Clearing Conflations on Carbon Capture Terminologies

The EU is increasingly including so-called “carbon management” technologies in its approach to net zero emissions by 2050, recognising the role such technologies will play in delivering on the EU’s climate ambition. There are several political initiatives and policy files that feature “carbon management” in its various forms: the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) establishes a storage injection capacity target for captured carbon, the Carbon Removal Certification establishes a framework for removing carbon from the atmosphere and the newly released communication: the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy (ICMS), communicates how carbon capture technology and necessary infrastructure can be deployed to tackle emissions that cannot be otherwise prevented.

From the Commission to the IEA, models have significant volumes of carbon capture as a necessity to reach a net zero EU. The broad umbrella term of how carbon capture technologies can be deployed and used, or “carbon management”, is often understood to encompass Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) and Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDR). Under “carbon management” the overlap in technology used, infrastructure needed, and regulatory support required has led to ambiguity as the different terms CCS, CCU and CDR are often used interchangeably or wrongly attributed. CCS, CCU and CDR have distinct climate impacts, even within each term there is a wide range of potential climate impact.

To clarify, CCS is the capture of CO2  and the subsequent compression and storage in geological formations or mineralisation resulting in permanent storage away from the atmosphere for millions of years. CCU is the process by which CO2  is captured and directly or indirectly used in products or processes. The need for clarifying these terms is crucial to direct climate action.

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