Carbon Capture & Storage Transforming industry for a cleaner future
Unavoidable industrial emissions pose a significant challenge to meeting the EU’s net zero targets. Wintershall Dea invests in carbon capture and storage to help solve this problem and tackle climate change.
What is CCS?
Effectively protecting the climate by storing CO2
Leading institutions, including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agree that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be a key building block on the road to climate neutrality if we are to achieve the 1.5 degree target set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
As the name implies, CCS entails the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide (CO2) underground – either under the seabed or on land.
How exactly does CCS work?
Capture and transport
The CO2 is first captured directly at the emitter – such as an industrial plant (e.g. a cement factory) – before it can escape from the stack. Then the CO2 is separated from the other emission gases and transported to special collection points – so called CO2 hubs – by pipeline or rail.
From the CO2 hubs, the CO2 is transported in gaseous or liquid form by ship or pipeline to underground storage sites.
Underground storage sites suitable for carbon dioxide include depleted oil and gas reservoirs as well as saline aquifers, as these two types of geological reservoirs are porous. In both cases, overlying impermeable cap rocks prevent the CO2 from escaping upwards.
In addition to the existing geological barriers, another safety-ensuring factor is that the CO2 dissolves in the salt water over time and sinks to the bottom of the rock formation. There, the carbonic acid mixture settles in microscopic rock pores, reacts with trace elements (e.g. magnesium and calcium) and finally hardens into limestone.
A team from the University of Bergen in Norway has developed a model known as FluidFlower, which clearly shows for the first time what physically happens to CO2 deposited 2,000 metres below the seabed.
Why is CCS needed?
Efficient decarbonisation of industrial sites
As the largest economy in Europe, Germany provides jobs and prosperity for millions of people. To ensure that this remains the case, politicians and companies are driving forward the industrial transformation towards emissions neutrality. CO2 from industrial processes accounts for a large share of total emissions in Germany and Europe.
That is why engineers across Germany are working to decarbonise CO2-intensive industries by supplying them with low-carbon energy. However, some industrial processes produce residual emissions that are difficult to avoid. Carbon capture and storage offers companies a reliable solution to their industrial process emissions and represents an opportunity for Germany and Europe to transform industry while preserving its ability to both compete and pursue the climate targets.
Using an already-proven technology increases planning security for companies, enables long-term investment decisions and strengthens business models for a low-emission future. In addition, Germany gains valuable technological expertise, which in turn reinforces its status as one of the world’s leading locations for innovation.
European Union: Legal foundations and market potential
Broad consensus for CCS technology at the EU level
At the EU level, the use of CCS is already supported and financially promoted. In March 2023, as part of its Green Deal Industrial Plan, the European Commission unveiled the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA), which aims to boost the production capacity of clean technologies and ensure that the EU is ready for the clean energy transition. The Act identifies CCS as one of eight net zero technologies. In addition, the European Commission proposes a European “storage capacity target” of 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030.
Furthermore, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is an effective instrument for reducing industrial greenhouse gases. Based on the idea of CO2 pricing, it creates an economic incentive to reduce emissions in the atmosphere, such as by using CCS.
How safe is CCS?
A proven and safe technology – for decades
The idea of injecting CO2 into geological rock formations is nothing new. In fact, for decades, liquefied carbon dioxide has been injected into deposits in order to extract the remaining oil there as efficiently as possible. CCS has been used in Norway since 1996.
To ensure that the CO2 remains permanently stored underground, it is crucial to select a suitable place to store it. Since each storage site is unique, they are examined in detail using seismic methods.
In the unlikely and unexpected event of a CO2 leak, a complete escape of the stored quantities is not to be feared. The rock layers dilute the amount of CO2 as it moves upwards in a way that prevents the leakage from having any impact on the environment. Tests conducted by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have shown that no increased concentration can be measured outside 50 m².
In general, the longer the CO2 remains in subterranean rock formations, the more securely it remains locked there.
Why can Wintershall Dea do CCS?
Knowledge advantage: expertise above and below ground
As a long-standing gas and oil company with over 125 years of experience in the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, Wintershall Dea has extensive geoscientific and petrochemical expertise. This versatile know-how will be indispensable for the success of the energy transition. With their detailed knowledge of the subsurface, colleagues from over 15 specialist disciplines – including seismology, modelling and monitoring – are making a key contribution to the evaluation and development of deep geological formations suitable for underground CO2 storage.
In addition, Wintershall Dea benefits from the extensive expertise that it has gained over three decades in the gas transportation business. For example, the company operates more than 4,000 kilometres of gas pipelines in Europe through its independent subsidiary WIGA Transport Beteiligungs-GmbH & Co. KG. This means that Wintershall Dea has not only existing infrastructure that can be converted for the transport of all kinds of gases, including CO2, but also the technical know-how needed to construct onshore and offshore pipelines.
When will we be able to implement CCS?
CCS is already a reality
The implementation of large-scale CCS projects is possible today. Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the United States are already proving their safe feasibility.
At the European level, underground (geological) CO2 storage is already basically possible (see the Directive of the EU Parliament and the European Council of 23 April 2009). In Germany, an adjustment of the framework conditions will be needed to enable CCS and to create legal and investment security. Most importantly, this will include amending the Carbon Dioxide Storage Act (KSpG) so that it clarifies several legal issues along the entire value chain – from capturing to transporting to storing CO2. In addition, a suitable infrastructure network for transporting CO2 will need to be put in place in Germany.
Furthermore, the German government needs to ratify Art. 6 para. 2 of the London Protocol, which states that bilateral agreements between countries that have signed the Protocol are needed to enable the transport of CO2 across national borders. With a stakeholder process to develop a carbon management strategy, however, Germany is already on track for a legal framework to enable CCS.