ASEAN is projected to remain dependent on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for electricity generation. Of all the fossil fuels, coal emits the highest CO2 emissions. The ASEAN Member States (AMS) regard carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) as a vital technology for decarbonising energy systems and achieving net-zero targets. There are several barriers to developing CCUS in the ASEAN region, including the lack of supporting policies or regulatory frameworks, the need for high capital investment and concerns about technology readiness.
The report “Role of Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) in Low-Carbon Development in ASEAN” has been published by ASEAN Centre of Energy. Several recommendations are presented to assist in the building of a strong foundation for CCUS deployment in the region: establish supportive policies and financial support, enable technology maturation, strengthen regional cooperation, create shared CCUS infrastructures and establish a forum for information sharing.
The ASEAN region has abundant coal resources and coal has served for decades as the main energy source fuelling the region’s industrialisation and economic development. As shown in Figure 1, the region’s installed power capacity from coal is expected to surge from 73GW to 259GW in 2017 and 2040 respectively, while the CO₂ emissions will grow to 4,171Mt in 2040, up from 1,686 Mt in 2017.
The increasing CO₂ emissions resulting from growing fossil fuel consumption raises important environmental concerns that could endanger humanity. Given the high vulnerability of the ASEAN countries to the impacts of climate change, allowing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to continue rising rapidly – as they do in the Baseline Scenario – is very risky. Without the significant reductions in global GHG emissions envisioned in the Paris Agreement, the ASEAN Member States (AMS) are bound to face evermore serious climate change impacts over the coming decades.
To discuss the necessary actions needed to combat climate change, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) was held in Glasgow, Scotland 31 October – 12 November 2021. One of the important notes from COP26 is that most of the AMS pledged to net-zero emissions as part of their carbon emissions reductions, with Vietnam and Thailand announcing their commitments during the conference. Later, Lao PDR, Indonesia and Malaysia also committed to net-zero targets, while Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar and Singapore were the early countries to announce net-zero emissions. These nations’ plans are aligned with the ASEAN 2050 vision for climate action to achieve net-zero GHG emissions as early as possible in the latter half of the 21st Century. During the two-week climate conference, carbon capture and storage (CCS) received a great deal of attention.
The deployment of CCS and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) is considered essential as component of the mission to reduce global emissions. There were more than 30 events relating to CCUS held at COP26, relating to policy formulation, financial instruments, business strategies, and social and technical issues. The United States and China also announced their agreement, the “U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s”, to cooperate on the deployment and application of technologies such as CCUS and direct air capture.
In ASEAN, CCUS could be fundamental in helping the region decarbonise energy systems from coal-based electricity generation and in achieving the net-zero target. Some AMS have expressed interest in deploying CCUS technologies in their countries. However, none has established specific measures or an action plan, such as policy support from governments towards the energy transition and low-carbon economy through CCUS development. This article discusses the opportunities of CCUS deployment, the main barriers that hinder CCUS development and key recommendations to assist the launching of CCUS projects in the ASEAN region.
Challenges faced in implementing CCUS in the ASEAN
CCUS is a technology that captures the carbon emitted during fossil fuel combustion. The carbon can either be used as a resource, for example in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), or it can be permanently stored. CCUS has long been seen as an emissions reduction solution for the power sector and carbon-intensive industries, such as cement and steel.
It is regarded by many energy specialists as having a key role to play in decarbonising energy systems and addressing the key challenge of global climate change. In Southeast Asia, at least seven potential projects have been identified and are in early development stages – in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Timor-Leste. The CCS Gundih Project in East Java, Indonesia, is regarded as the first CCS pilot project in the ASEAN. The objective is to store CO₂ from Gundih Gas Field (which has around 21% of CO₂ content) that is flared from Gundih Centre Processing Plant (CPP) with a total of CO₂storage of around 3Mt for 10 years.
Although Indonesia has made significant progress, there is still a lack of supporting policies and regulatory framework at the regional and national levels. Some key issues that could be addressed in the regulations include geological site determination, permitting requirements, long-term ownership and liability for stored CO₂ and requirements for securing financial backing. Robust targeted policies and strong stakeholders’ relationships are critical for successfully deploying the technology, especially in the early stages of CCUS deployment.
CCUS technologies require intensive capital investment, and moreover, in case of CCS technology without utilisation, studies claim that it generates almost no revenues. As most of the AMS are developing countries, the costs could hinder the development of CCUS. Therefore, financial support is needed to implement CCUS in coal-fired power plants and industrial activities. Enhanced gas and oil recovery using captured CO₂could also reduce the costs of CCUS.The deployment of CCUS technologies requires advanced technologies to capture, transport, inject and drill the geological storage. There are also concerns about public acceptance given the safety issues during CO₂ transportation or CO₂ storage. As only pilot projects are in operation, technology maturation is needed before greater application of CCUS throughout the region can occur.
The entire report can be accessed here