CO2 capture and storage - a German pipe dream waiting to happen?

CO2 capture and storage - a German pipe dream waiting to happen?
22 March 2024

This week, a report on Germany's CO2 pipeline infrastructure by the country's cement industry association, VDZ, estimated that a total of 4800km of CO2 pipelines is needed, costing EUR14bn, to decarbonise. Moreover, as the cement industry and other heavy industries in the EU emission trading scheme must produce a largely climate-neutral business, the CO2 pipeline network has to be in place by 2040.

VDZ's pipeline transport costs are approximately EUR25-30/t CO2. For longer distances of more than 500km, costs would rise to between EUR35-60/t CO2. The main construction of pipelines is expected between 2020-30, as the network has to be in place by the time the steel, cement, waste incineration, chemicals, lime, power and gas transport companies start to need CO2 transport. In some regions, the construction rate will have to reach 1200-1500km/annum.

The importance of a fully-functioning CO2 pipeline network in Germany, and throughout Europe, cannot be underestimated. The VDZ report already states that a CO2 transport requirement of 6.5Mta will be needed in Germany by 2030 and 13Mta by 2035, rising to 35Mt in 2040 and 46Mt in 2045. In addition, extra transit volumes from Austria, Switzerland and France will add a further 15-20Mta of CO2.

"Many cement manufacturers are in the starting blocks with their CO₂ capture projects – what is missing is the national legal framework and a suitable transport infrastructure," emphasises VDZ Managing Director, Dr Martin Schneider. 

Planning in place
Much of the technical planning for a European CO2 pipeline network is complete. The CO2Europipe project envisages a CO2 pipe transport network of 22,000km, capable of transporting 1200Mt by 2050 at a cost of around EUR50bn. An international consortium of companies and research institutions involved in the CO2Europipe project reached this conclusion. It will see 300 CO2 capture points and CO2 transported annually through the network to aquifers and depleted gas and oil fields across Europe. The challenge is the organisational barriers. These include planning and permitting, public acceptance, health and safety standards, operational and CO2 quality standards, adequate regulation, government funding, political risk and cross-border coordination.

The key players are Germany and Poland, with their large coal-fired power sectors, along with Norway, the UK and The Netherlands. However, CO2Europipe has been limited to northwestern and eastern Europe, and does not include southwest and southern Europe. 

Germany's reluctant acceptance of onshore CCS
Germany has higher CO2 infrastructure costs than countries such as the UK, which has better access to storage sites in the North Sea. Onshore CO2 storage is deeply unpopular in Germany and North Sea storage is preferred. However, the federal government's draft bill to amend the Carbon Dioxide Storage Act to include onshore storage of CO2 could take some pressure off the cost and dependence of the CO2 transport network infrastructure. As more carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects come on-stream, the need for a pipeline network and onshore storage is essential, if Germany is to reach climate neutrality by 2045 as stated in the Federal Climate Act of December 2019. Clarification of Germany's need to intensify its CCS and CO2 pipeline transport commitments is scheduled in the revision of the National Energy and Climate Plan to be finalised on 30 June 2024.

Published under Cement News