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  • Writer's picturePjotr van Schothorst

Can we reach Net-Zero by continuing oil & gas pas usual, and simply capture all the CO2 it produces?

This suggestion is made again by the big oil & gas players at the COP28. It sounds simple and attractive, but is it true? A report came out this week from Oxford University, "Assessing the relative costs of high-CCS and low-CCS pathways to 1.5 degrees".

Highly recommended reading! The bottom line is Yes, but the investment cost in CCS equipment and other forms of carbon capture is much higher than the investment in clean energy and storage equipment, leading to a much higher energy price in 2050. Conclusions from the report:

"The main conclusion from this study is clear: taking a low-CCS route to mid-century net zero emissions (4.4 GtCO2 on average in 2050, about one-tenth of mitigation needed from today) will be a lot cheaper, by an average of about $1 trillion per year, than taking a high-CCS route (average 19.2 GtCO2 – about half of mitigation). The vast majority of scenarios conclude that some CCS will be needed for industry, and (absent other technologies of

sufficient scale) for negative emissions. However, our report shows that, economically, the pragmatic option is to view CCS as a necessary option, but one that will most likely only be needed sparingly, for purposes where other options are unavailable or very expensive. High￾CCS routes will waste trillions of dollars compared with low-CCS routes, with low-CCS routes being in addition more feasible, secure and sustainable.

The logic of both climate change and economics encourages as a central priority the rapid build-out of renewables, grids and flexibility during the coming decade, an increase in the rate of energy-efficiency improvements, and rapid electrification of transport, heating and industry. This approach will tackle easier-to-decarbonise sectors (which make up the majority of global emissions) as quickly as possible, preserving as much as possible of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C for the smaller, harder-to-decarbonise sectors.

Scaling up CCS this decade is also necessary. By doing so, governments would build transport and storage infrastructure which can then be used to accommodate emissions from multiple facilities.

Comparing the current state of CCS globally with the scale contained in our low-CCS scenarios indicates the need for rapid action. However, comparing the current situation with the volumes contained in high-CCS scenarios suggests that such volumes are probably unattainable even if they were desirable – which, as we show, they definitely are not.

CCS is likely to prove an expensive and precious resource. Governments and businesses should see it as such, understand that it has a specific, small but important role to play in meeting the Paris targets, and plan decarbonisation policies accordingly."

And on top of that, there are the extra benefits of less energy dependence on Russia and the Middle East, not mentioned in the report.

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