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Is transporting carbon dioxide safe?

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EU needs to build an extensive CO2 pipeline network

CO2 is preferably transported by pipeline, with ships being used when a source of CO2 is too far from a suitable storage site and greater flexibility is required.

For over 30 years, the oil and gas industry has been transporting and re-injecting CO2 into oil fields all over the world to maintain or increase production. Because of this activity, there are already about 5,000 kilometres of underground pipelines in North America transporting CO2 from natural reservoirs to oil fields. The largest network supplies Permian Basin operators in Texas and New Mexico, which have been injecting CO2 for 35 years. Shorter piping runs are used in other locations by beverage and chemical manufacturing facilities.

ZEP Transport

Establish a long-term CO2 transport plan for CCS in Europe
In order to ensure that the EU CCS demonstration programme leads to rapid deployment post-2020, a business model for CO2 transport and storage must be established that includes the demonstration projects within a long-term infrastructure plan for Europe.

Large-scale CCS requires an infrastructure capable of transporting 100s of millions of tonnes of CO2 every year – from power plants and energy-intensive industries to storage sites, across the whole of Europe. However, due to long lead times – 6 to 10 years to build facilities such as pipelines and storage sites – development must start now. ZEP’s report on infrastructure shows that urgent investment in CO2 infrastructure totalling at least €2.5 billion by 2020 will be a critical enabler to ensuring that the EU can meet its climate change targets.

Indeed, with only a small number of demonstration projects spread over various Member States – and great pressure on cost containment – there is a risk that projects will result in isolated, point-to-point solutions, without scope to grow. The EU’s policy of developing networks in order to achieve energy and climate objectives should therefore be extended explicitly to include the development of new CO2 pipeline infrastructure, as well as existing gas and electricity transportation networks.

The manner in which CO2 pipeline infrastructure projects are developed in the near-term will have a significant impact on how (or whether) the European CCS infrastructure develops in the medium- to long-term. Clearly, there is a need for new and early CO2 pipeline infrastructure and its complexity and lead-time should not be underestimated.

In fact, on the basis of the European Energy Roadmap 2050 scenario at least 11,000 km of CO2 pipeline infrastructure would be required by 2035. CCS Clusters, where transport and storage infrastructure by more than one capture component and more than one storage component, provide significant opportunities for ‘first mover’ projects to gain critical mass.

Several exciting Hub and Cluster projects are already progressing, for example:

  • Rotterdam aims to make its Port the CO2 hub of North-West Europe, facilitating the transport of captured CO2 by pipelines, barges and sea vessels to offshore reservoirs for permanent storage and/ or EOR. It envisages a multi-stage expansion of the CO2 hub over the next 15-20 years.
  • The Yorkshire and Humber CCS Cluster (where the White Rose project is located) – the UK’s National Grid is proposing to establish a shared-user CO2 pipeline and large-scale storage facility to serve the Yorkshire and Humber Region. This is an area where there is a high concentration of CO2 emitters and access via pipelines to a high concentration of large storage sites. Last year the UK approved its first ever CO2 appraisal and storage licence and an associated Agreement for Lease from The Crown Estate.