The vital role of CCUS and SLB's involvement

Published: 04/19/2023

The Vital Role of CCUS and SLB's Involvement
SLB's Carbon Solutions team discusses challenges facing the CCUS industry and how we’re poised to ensure your project’s success.

Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) is an essential component to support the global ambition to achieve net zero. It's an integral part of the energy transition and industrial decarbonization, especially in hard-to-abate sectors. Because of the processes associated with sectors like cement and steel, there is no viable solution to decarbonize without CCUS. But for this solution to reach the scalability needed to meet the net zero equation, a new market ecosystem needs to be established. This will create a CCUS industry where emitters and project developers collaborate across geographies to overcome the challenges we face today.

In this round-table discussion, SLB's Carbon Solutions team Alison Manfredini (Marketing & Technology Director Carbon Solutions), Frederik Majkut (Marketing & Technology Director Carbon Solutions), Damien Gerard (Marketing & Technology Director Carbon Solutions), and Gino Thielens (Marketing & Technology Director Carbon Solutions) address CCUS industry scalability, the challenges, and the future vision.

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Q1: By how much does CCUS need to scale up to achieve net zero by 2050?

A: Fred Majkut, Senior VP Carbon Solutions: To deliver realistic net zero journeys, we'll have to rely on a number of pillars: energy efficiency, uptake of renewables, uptake of low-carbon energy supply, and CCUS. When we look at scenarios—and we’re running a lot of scenarios based on the International Energy Agency (IEA), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and more—all of these scenarios indicate that a massive uptake in CCUS capacity will have to take place.

So what do we mean by massive uptake? Today, the industry is capturing and storing around 40 million metric tons per annum. We anticipate that by the end of the decade we'll be storing several hundred million metric tons per annum. And going into the next decade and the following one, we will have to scale up to gigatons per annum to deliver this net zero ambition.

A: Damien Gerard, VP Operations CCUS: Adding to that, there are two key elements for CCUS to happen in scale: One is to put value on carbon, and you create a value in carbon either by having a penalty to emitters—like a license to operate or a fee for each metric ton that you put in the air—or you create a carrot, an incentive for emitters to do something about the emission. The good news is that a lot of governments are working on mechanisms to enact policies. For example, recently the enactment of the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) puts a price on carbon and incentivizes emitters in doing CCUS. The same is happening in Europe with the Emissions Trading System (ETS), and we expect the same to happen in other markets around the world. We already see the emergence in the Middle East, Brazil, India, and other markets, and hopefully more will happen.

The second part is economies of scale achievable through common infrastructure. So more and more we will see the emergence of hubs or networks where emitters can tag onto an existing infrastructure and reduce the unit cost for everyone by using the same transport and storage.

Q2: Are CCUS projects on the rise?

A: Fred Majkut, Senior VP Carbon Solutions: Yes, and SLB has been participating in the CCUS industry for more than two decades. In the mid-2000s, there was an uptake in CCUS project announcements. Today, we are much more comfortable in saying that the CCUS industry will scale up for a number of reasons. First, in 2021, we've seen a record number of CCUS projects being announced—more than twice as much as the previous record in 2008. Also, a major enabler to delivering CCUS at scale is regulatory clarity, and we do see the regulatory landscape evolving very fast. Technology will also play a key component in derisking future CCUS projects.

Q3: How can partnerships help deliver CCUS at scale?

A: Damien Gerard, VP Operations CCUS: It's important to put into context where the CCUS industry will go. What will happen in the future for CCUS is different from what happened in the past, which was mostly around natural gas processing into enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—done mostly by oil and gas players. The future will be CO2 from industrial emissions and going into dedicated saline formations. These are very different contexts commercially and technically. So when you look at the competencies required to make CCUS happen at scale, these are very different kinds of skillsets.

On one side you have gas separation and capture technologies. You also have transport across large, very long distances, and you have all the subsurface skills required to store CO2. When you look at those competencies, it's difficult to see one company being able to do it all by themselves, and that will require people to join forces.

We'll see the emergence of a unique kind of consortium: Companies and technologies together with private equity, midstream companies, oil and gas companies, and emitters coming together to make those ventures happen. These are complex business models that will require people to work together that haven't worked together before, and SLB wants to enable those projects by bringing a set of technologies in the equation.

A: Gino Thielens, Director Carbon Storage: To add to that is our investment and technology expertise. We believe that makes us a better industry partner to work with.

Q4: How can technology accelerate the growth of CCUS?

A: Gino Thielens, Director Carbon Storage: If you look at it from a project life cycle aspect of four distinct phases: There's site screening, site evaluation, construction phase, and then operations. We have been and will continue to invest heavily in developing technologies across all those four phases. And those technologies really serve three purposes.

First one being to better map and reduce risk. Second one is to reduce cost, because it is a cost-driven industry. And the third one is acceleration. Particularly in the planning phases, it's how can you accelerate the planning stages and get the project to a final investment decision faster.

If you look at it from a regulatory perspective, many of the regulators in the permitting process are still very much concerned with the risks being properly understood, particularly with respect to potential leakage and proper mitigation. And a lot of our technology developments go in that direction. In addition, we have been investing quite strongly in developing the competencies of our workforce and developing workflows to manage these projects, because we believe that will help us deliver projects in a more consistent manner. And it makes us a better partner for the companies that we work with in bringing value to the table.

Q5: What is the outlook of the CCUS industry?

A: Fred Majkut, Senior VP Carbon Solutions: Technology will drive derisking of CCUS projects. Today, there's significant push back against CCUS because of foreseen risks of storing CO2 long term. It's a fair statement to say that a lot of CCUS projects have not gone through because of economics. SLB has been participating very heavily in the sequestration (or storage) part of the CCUS value chain, and moving forward we are intending to enhance some of our solution workflows. Also, we are investing in developing disruptive technologies on the CO2 capture side to drive total project cost down and its life cycle economics. So technology industrialization combined with collaborative partnerships is what's going to drive the industry forward.

Q6: What is SLB's bold approach for driving the CCUS industry forward?

A: Alison Manfredini, Marketing & Technology Director Carbon Solutions: The CCUS industry needs a bold approach—an approach proven in technology and expertise. We tackle these challenges with a suite of innovative technologies and technical expertise along with digital capabilities for geological interpretation, simulations and monitoring, and investing in new technology development to answer the specific challenges for CO2 capture.

We validate each aspect of a CCUS project for economic feasibility and long-term reliability and partner with CCUS players to develop the solutions needed for global net zero ambitions. To achieve these ambitions, all scenarios show that CO2 capture and sequestration are needed at gigaton scale by 2050.

We are ready to apply proven technologies and the expertise needed to design CCUS solutions for different industrial sectors. And we are ready to forge new collaborations to accelerate and scale up the industry landscape of CCUS.