Eni is leveraging existing infrastructure to scale up large-scale carbon transport and storage
April 11, 2022
As part of its net zero strategy, announced in early 2021, Eni intends to use carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) to store up to 10 Mt CO2 per year by 2030, ramping this up significantly to 50 Mt CO2/y by 2050. Expansion at this scale requires participation in CCUS hubs, which can provide collective transport and storage infrastructure and cost-effective carbon management services for hard-to-abate sectors like refineries, steel, cement and fertilizer. The technology to store carbon dioxide exists – the challenge is creating a viable business model.
A lynchpin of Eni’s decarbonization strategy is HyNet North West low carbon energy project, including CCUS infrastructure, in the Liverpool Bay area of the UK. The region has three significant advantages for CCUS. First, HyNet will store CO2 in a depleted undersea gas field owned by Eni, who will transport the CO2 via pipelines that already connect the field to facilities on shore. Little new infrastructure is needed except for a pipeline from a nearby industry. These conditions make HyNet and Liverpool Bay an ideal candidate for CCUS, compared with other sites that have to construct extensive infrastructure from scratch.
Second, the region plays host to several large players in sectors that are particularly hard to decarbonize – making CCUS and low carbon hydrogen vital to their successful clean energy transition. These include manufacturers of cement, fertilizer and other essential industrial goods. The proximity of the emitters to this large storage site – as well as their willingness to participate – is key to the project’s overall viability.
Finally, the UK government, a frontrunner in CCUS policy, recognizes HyNet’s potential and, in 2021, placed it on a fast-track for incentives and regulatory approval. HyNet is aiming to become the UK’s first CCUS site, with a final investment decision expected in 2023 and operations slated to begin in 2025.
HyNet will initially store 4.5 Mt CO2/y, ramping up to 10 Mt after 2030. This would represent a significant leap in worldwide CCUS capacity, which for all plants in operation today adds up to 36.6 Mt CO2/y.
CCUS will also enable the production of low-carbon hydrogen at HyNet. Hydrogen has the potential to provide low carbon energy to multiple industrial users across a variety of sectors if the CO2 released during its production can be sequestered. HyNet will convert natural gas into hydrogen using a technology that, if forecast carbon prices are factored in, could ultimately become cheaper than using natural gas directly. It would generate an estimated 200 kg/day of hydrogen and capture 97% of the CO2 emitted. This compares to 120 Mt of hydrogen produced annually – only 1% of which employs CCUS.
As a significant component of the UK’s net zero strategy, HyNet could deliver up to 50% of the country’s target for low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 and 50% of the country’s target for CCUS. It is also projected to generate up to £17 billion in economic growth for the region by 2050 and create 6,000 jobs annually.
Eni has been working on numerous ways to repurpose oil and gas infrastructure to scale up CCUS. In addition to HyNet, the company is working to convert depleted gas fields off the Italian coast into another major storage site. The oil and gas community is keen to apply the lessons learned to better understand the potential for this approach to scale up CCUS in a cost-effective way. In order to maximize cost-effectiveness, projects like this must look for efficiencies – like repurposing infrastructure – and economies of scale, like building clusters alongside polluting industries.
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