Carbon capture and storage – the Gordian knot of decarbonization in Central and Eastern Europe

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) refers to a chain of technologies deployed to capture, transport and store CO2 away from the atmosphere, mitigating its warming effect on the climate.

For each step in the CCS process, a range of technologies has been developed and tested for different industries and operating conditions, making CCS a complex value chain rather than a single, “off-the-shelf” technology as it is sometimes portrayed.

Although there is still controversy surrounding it (given the fact that it could enable the continued burning of fossil fuels by capturing the emitted CO2), CCS is being progressively highlighted as unavoidable for industries where CO2 emissions cannot be abated, or are very difficult to reduce (for example, cement, steel, oil refining and chemicals production).

Against the backdrop of increasing interest in CCS in the European Union, given the bloc’s climate neutrality ambitions, the CCS4CEE project aims to reignite the discussion on CCS in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

Compared to countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, where commercial CCS projects are being deployed, the discussion on CCS in the CEE region is far less advanced. On the other hand, given the reliance of their economies on fossil fuel use and manufacturing industries with hard-to-abate CO2 emissions, CEE countries may need to turn to CCS in order to balance the preservation of their high-value industries with their emissions reduction commitments. The CCS4CEE project has evaluated the potential for CCS in 11 CEE countries, and will further develop roadmaps and capacity-building activities to accelerate the deployment of CCS in the region.

The CEE region is diverse, but its countries exhibit strong similarities in the profiles and trends of their CO2 emissions. Broadly, emissions have declined since 1990 due to the closure or modernization of industrial units, but remain disproportionately driven by the manufacturing industries and the significant use of fossil fuels (particularly coal) in energy production.

So-called “process emissions” (emissions which result not from burning fossil fuels to supply energy, but rather from the very reactions and processes involved in the production of goods), are strikingly higher in some industries of CEE countries: cement production generates a higher share of national emissions than the EU average in most analysed countries, as does ammonia production and metallurgy in some (including Romania).

Ukraine’s gargantuan steel industry, one of the few in the world that still uses open-hearth furnaces, generated 40.6 Mt of CO2 from process emissions alone in 2019 – equivalent to more than half of all process emissions from the metallurgical industry in the entire EU.

*Aliaksei Patonia is an EPG Fellow. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of EPG.

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