Along Australia’s pathway to net zero by 2050, ambition will battle pragmatism. What some see as the perfect will be pitched against the merely good. On the fringes, there may be some who see it as a contest of good and evil.
But as the Albanese Government maps its way forward, we must acknowledge that in still fossil-fuel dependent Australia meaningful emissions reduction will be impossible to achieve without the critical contribution of carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS).
As the head of the International Energy Agency Faith Birol said in Sydney recently: “We don’t have the luxury to exclude any of the clean energy technologies, because the challenge to reach our climate change goals is immense.”
Fossil fuels still account for more than 80 per cent of global energy consumption, and it is almost impossible to imagine the investment required to replace fossil fuels with renewables taking place in time to meet the 2050 target, let alone our 2030 goals. We need to recognise the slow rate at which energy transitions have occurred in the past.
But capturing carbon dioxide from intense and highly concentrated sources, or in the future directly from the air, and permanently sequestering its emissions makes the task easier and allows for a far more nuanced energy transition. Alongside renewables and increasing investment in hydrogen and batteries, CCUS can make Australia a world leader in decarbonisation technologies and innovation.
Western Australia is playing a critical role in this transition. Chevron’s Gorgon Project is already the world’s largest operating CCS project and this week Resources Minister Madeleine King awarded two new greenhouse gas assessment permits offshore WA to Woodside Energy and a joint venture between INPEX, Woodside Energy and Total Energies.
CCUS can make many fundamental pillars of our economy sustainable: ammonia (fertiliser for food security), cement and steel, hydrogen production and carbon removal technologies such as direct air capture.
For almost two decades, CO2CRC has worked with national and international discipline leaders and developed next generation technologies through commercially relevant demonstrations. Our Australian technologies are years ahead of what industry currently deploys and provide the next generation of projects with sophisticated and tested technologies and at lower costs.
In addition to the giant Gorgon project, Australia has 10 large scale projects in feasibility or planning stages around the country. Gorgon has successfully stored five million tonnes of CO2 since commencing operations in 2019 and is now injecting four million tonnes a year.
Despite slower progress in recent years, the opportunity for Australia is not lost. The new Federal Government must continue to strongly support CCUS projects and innovation to reach their ambitious 2030 and 2050 emission reduction goals.
CO2CRC has demonstrated the safe geological storage of carbon dioxide in Australia and is also driving the underground storage of hydrogen, which both are enablers for Australia’s energy transition at scale.
Australia can use its innovation to decarbonise its emission intense sectors and roll out these technologies globally. We can help our customers in the broader resource sector to decarbonise their value chain, including scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
We can’t turn our backs on this viable, affordable solution because some deem it unfashionable.
As much as many environmental advocates shun CCUS because it helps the fossil fuel sector, a focus on emissions outcomes and energy security must override those objections.
We have a common goal to achieve as a global society, which is to bring all emissions down as quickly as we can. CCUS must be a part of that.
Dr Matthias Raab, Chief Executive of CO2CRC.