The role of CCS in decarbonization strategy

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are the most effective solution for immediately reducing emissions from hard-to-abate industrial operations.

CCS and hard-to-abate industrial sectors

Decarbonization is the term used to describe the gradual reduction in CO₂ emissions from human activities that is crucial to combating climate change. This transition requires a profound transformation of our production system, using all the technological innovations at our disposal, from renewable energy sources to advanced biofuels, and from bio jet fuel to blue and green hydrogen . In this scenario, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is the most rapid and efficient solution to immediately reduce the footprint of what we call hard-to-abate sectors. These are industries where, due to their energy-intensive nature and production processes, there are no current solutions to effectively and economically reduce emissions. Sectors such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, paper and glass fit this description. Not only are their energy requirements such that they cannot be fully powered by renewables, but their core manufacturing processes also release emissions by their very nature, regardless of fossil fuel consumption. In some cases, these process-related emissions form a large part of the total; for example, in cement factories, around two-thirds of CO₂ is produced by the calcination of limestone, a key stage in the production of cement. In 2021, Italy's building materials industry reported emissions of approximately 22 million tonnes (Mton) of carbon dioxide. Cumulatively, the hard-to-abate industries have a significant carbon footprint: in Italy alone, in 2021, they were responsible for about 68 Mton of CO₂ out of a total of 337 Mton, which represents 20% of total emissions and 42% of the industrial sector alone, which recorded 155 Mton according to the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA, 2023 data). Considering the fact that modern technology allows us to capture more than 90% of the CO₂ contained in flue gases, CCS clearly offers a viable way to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries.


CCS in the power generation sector

The use of CCS in the transition to low-carbon gas-fired power generation is important to ensure the adaptability of services and the optimal integration of intermittent and continuous renewable energy sources into the national energy system. In addition, the production of hydrogen from fossil sources made carbon neutral by CCS (referred to as blue hydrogen) is emerging as an economically advantageous solution in the short term, complementing the development of hydrogen from renewable sources (the so-called green hydrogen).

CCS is a technological process that makes it possible to avoid atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions arising from large industrial plants and power plants. As such, it is considered by major international organisations (European Union, IPCC, UN and IEA) as an essential element of a sound and trustworthy medium- to long-term decarbonization strategy that harmoniously integrates different emission reduction solutions.

The IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report published in April 2022 shows that achieving net-zero carbon by mid-century, and thus limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, will require the use of capture and storage technologies, particularly to significantly reduce emissions from industries that are otherwise difficult to decarbonize.

IPCC scientists have examined more than 2,000 climate models, and CCUS stands out as a key decarbonization tool in all scenarios that limit global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C. In particular, of the 230 models that show a "high probability" of keeping temperature increases below 1.5°C (the Glasgow CoP target), CCUS offers a significant contribution to emissions mitigation (an average of 7 billion tonnes by 2050 and between 14 and 16 billion tonnes by 2100). 


In June 2023, the International Energy Agency published a report titled "World Energy Outlook 2023: 1.5°C Pathway" This comprehensive analysis outlines the transition to a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050, ensuring steady and reliable security of energy supply, universal energy accessibility and robust economic development. The report also highlights the measures needed to achieve these goals, including the role of CCS. 

In its assessment of the CCUS sector, the IEA concludes that these solutions can account for a 8% reduction in total emissions by 2050, particularly in the hard-to-abate sector. By then, the IEA predicts that 80% of the world's cement, 60% of chemicals and 50% of primary steel will have to be produced using methods that can capture emissions.

IRENA in the “World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023: 1.5°C Pathway “ predicts that CO₂ capture will reach 7 Gtpa by 2050. Of this, 84% will come from the power and heat sector and the remaining 16% from industry.

With the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy (2024), the European Commission aims to create a European market for industrial CO2 management by identifying targets for capture, transport and storage of 50 Mtpa by 2030 (in line with the Net Zero Industry Act - NZIA), 280 Mtpa by 2040 and 450 Mtpa by 2050.


CCS can thus prove strategic in order to:

  • Reduce emissions from hard-to-abate sectors, where there are no effective solutions in the short to medium term.
  • Reduce emissions from existing and next-generation power plants
  • Contribute to the development of the hydrogen supply chain.
  • In the longer term, reduce the amount of carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphereby offsetting emissions that cannot currently be captured through Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies, which are still in a development phase, with techniques such as Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

Besides being essential in preventing new CO₂ emissions from hard-to-abate sectors, CCS will also play a key role in the future in helping to remove the excess carbon dioxide that is already in our atmosphere, using Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies to reduce its concentration from current levels (over 420ppm) to pre-industrial levels (around 280ppm).

Although still evolving, CDR systems fall into two main categories: Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). The former involves building facilities that can filter large volumes of air and capture the CO₂ that is present in it, while the latter involves using biomass as an energy carrier, capturing the resulting CO₂ and storing it permanently. This process results in the generation of a part of negative emissions. Regardless of the technical differences between them, all of these approaches will require CCS infrastructures capable of trasporting and storing the large quantities of CO₂ captured.

Aiming for Net Zero Emissions by 2050

Eni's total direct emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2) from its production activities worldwide amount to 41.2 Mton of CO2 equivalent per year, of which 18.5 Mton are produced in Italy. Thanks to this progressive increase in efficiency, from 2010 to 2019 Eni has already lowered its direct emissions by 29% due to its continuous innovation, the development and application of new technologies and further improvements in energy efficiency. In this context, the CO2 capture and storage (CCS) projects that Eni is developing in Italy, Europe and the rest of the world are a key part of the company's strategy to capturing residual emissions that cannot be avoided in any other way.

Snam has developed a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, with intermediate milestones to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

In this context, Snam is unwavering in its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality for its operations by 2040, with further reduction phases for 2025, 2027 and 2030. In addition, Snam aims to gradually reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in line with the Paris Agreement commitments to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

A key player in steering the country towards a low-carbon future, Snam has diversified its business horizons beyond the regulated market into the energy transition sector. In recent years, its efforts and support for sustainable mobility have grown also by signing agreements and forging partnerships aimed at expanding Italy's network of distributors of compressed and liquefied natural gas (small-scale LNG, CNG), and it has made investments in companies promoting solutions for energy efficiency. Significant resources are also being devoted to the research into and introduction of sustainable renewable green gases such as biomethane and hydrogen, which can be transported and stored in increasing quantities using existing facilities.