Workshop gathers climate specialists, engineers, oil and gas regulation experts, civil society, and government representatives to discuss carbon capture and storage in Brazil

Several means of dealing with the Earth’s increasing temperature levels are under study and being tested, including carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue growing. According to physicist Paulo Artaxo, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Professor of the Physics Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP), an increase of 2.4% in CO2 emissions is expected in 2019. Last year, it was 2.7%. It is no accident that global temperatures are still rising. But the increase in the average annual temperature of the planet is not homogeneous. In urban continental areas, like where we live, Artaxo estimates that the temperature rise will be around 5.9°C by 2050. In the meantime, solutions for mitigating those emissions, such as CCS, are only slowly in getting off the drawing boards in Brazil and in other countries.

“With the current policies, as well as accounting for all of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), that is, the emissions reduction commitments of all of the countries of the Paris Agreement, the Earth will warm by about 3.2°C by 2050. That is an enormous increase, but it is only part of the story,” Artaxo said during the workshop, Perspectives for the Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide (Carbon Capture and Storage-CCS) in Brazil, organized by the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) last November 12, in São Paulo. Some 40 people attended the event, which filled one of the RCGI’s rooms.

He said that the average global temperature has already risen by 1.1°C since the beginning of this century. The physicist also stated that we are hiding 0.7°C of the planet’s average warming rate. “This is because the particles and aerosols present in the atmosphere, many of which come from the burning of fossil fuels, reflect light and heat and produce a cooling effect on the planet. A paper recently presented at the Max Planck Institute showed that, if we exterminate all of the fossil fuels on in the world, we will have a gap of 0.7°C in temperature increase.”

Furthermore, the increase in temperature of the Earth’s ecosystems, where we live, is not 1.1°C, but rather 1.5°C. “In the Siberian, Alaskan, and Canadian Arctic, the temperature increase has already risen to above 3°C.”

It is also necessary to take into consideration the urban heat islands that add an average of 0.5°C to 2.0°C to global estimates. “In São Paulo, for example, this increase is 1.8°C.”

Therefore, the scientist says that simply doing the math, by taking the already referenced 3.2°C, and adding 1°C to that figure (pertaining to the temperature increase in continental areas), plus 0.7°C (pertaining to the effect of aerosols, taking into consideration that the cities are taking steps toward having cleaner air), plus an average of 1°C (pertaining to the urban heat islands), one arrives at an average of 5.9°C of temperature increase in urban areas by 2050. “It is simple math, but it is very important.”

Artaxo states that our climate is in a state of emergency. According to him, estimates made by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) for Central Brazil expect an average temperature increase between 7°C and 8°C from 2071 to 2099.

He says that CO2 is the main driver of climate change, but it is not the only one. The planet’s climate is controlled by the concentration of GHGs, but also by such pollutants as ozone; and it is affected by clouds, aerosols, the surface albedo, and by solar radiation. “The world now emits between 37 and 38 gigatons of CO2 per year. The carbon emissions are predominantly the result of the burning of fossil fuels: they make up 87% of global CO2 emissions. And our use of petroleum is still on the rise, contrary to past expectations.”

Within this context, such initiatives as CCS are considered relevant to the palette of available solutions and have the potential for quickly removing GHGs from the atmosphere, in conjunction with other geoengineering solutions.

 

CCS in Brazil – Brazil is already doing CCS via Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), which is the recovery of petroleum by injecting gases or liquids into the bottom of the well, for the purpose of creating pressure that pushes out the remaining oil found there. “Petrobras now uses CO2 in the recovery of petroleum and, at the same time, we capture CO2, which remains securely in the reservoir. The development of EOR technology is important, because that is where we begin to develop new and more efficient capture processes. And this know-how can be disseminated to other companies, such as cement and steel producers that emit high amounts of CO2 but have no expertise in the area of injecting CO2 into reservoirs, for example, which is a specialty of oil companies,” said geologist Erica Tavares de Morais, of the Leopoldo Américo Miguez de Mello Research and Development Center (CENPES/Petrobras), who was one of the event’s speakers.

According to her, we have depleted reservoirs that are in excellent condition for storing CO2. “The depleted reservoirs are excellent places for this to be done. In the Campos Basin, we have many decommissioned areas, in shallow waters, that have a fully formed structure, as well as a partnership with our National Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Agency, and they could be very important for CCS. We also have onshore areas. Generally speaking, reservoirs that were very good for storing petroleum for millions of years will be excellent reservoirs for storing CO2 for many millions of years, because they have the porosity, seal, and trap conditions for holding the gas there.

Professor Colombo Gaeta Tassinari, of the University of São Paulo’s Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE/USP), which is already studying offshore carbon storage in the turbidites of the Santos Basin, explained that, as a next step in the project he coordinates at the RCGI, a proposal is being presented for studying the use of the natural gas fields that are up for decommissioning to be used for CCS. “The costs of disassembling a platform are enormous. But, in order for us to be able to reuse the structure, it is necessary to retrofit the wells.”

Legal insecurity – However, at the present time, according to Roberta Mota Cox, an environmental analyst for the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), the Institute has no request whatever for carbon sequester licensing in large depleted petroleum and natural gas reservoirs, or in caverns of any type, or even in saline aquifers and other types of storage places. “We only have CCS projects with tree plantations in the licensing process.” She explained that it is IBAMA’s duty, in accordance with Normative Instruction no. 12, 2010, to evaluate activities that emit GHGs and the mitigating measures taken by the entrepreneur.

Nor is there a specific legal framework for carbon capture and storage, although there are methods for filling those gaps, based on economic and environmental constitutional principles, as well as on the principles found in Brazilian policies related to climate change and environmental protection. Therefore, although there are regulatory challenges, and immense legal insecurities regarding how to implement these activities in practice, they are resolvable, but it is necessary to establish duties and responsibilities.

“We need a model that establishes the clear and defined competence of which institutions would be responsible for implementing, regulating, and preserving the legal security of CCS activities. Should it be the National Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Agency?” was the question asked by the legislative consultant of the Federal Senate, Sílvia Cupertino.

Attorney Diogo Martins Teixeira also raised the issue of taxation challenges. “In the absence of a specific standard, we might consider applying general taxation rules, and those rules would levy a greater tax burden, on either the investment or the operational phases,” he explained. He gave a brief overview of the effect of general taxation on the investment stage, stressing that there are no fiscal benefits for CCS, but that perhaps some stages of certain CCS activities could be affected by existing benefits, such as reducing the Import Tax to zero for the acquisition of machinery and equipment. “But investments in transportation activities would be eligible for Special Tax Incentives for Infrastructure Development (REIDI), which reduces the levy of PIS and COFINS to zero.”

High costs – In October of this year, numerous Brazilian and foreign experts in climate change and CCS, meeting at the Energy Transition Research and Innovation (ETRI 2019) conference, emphasized that among the huge bottlenecks to implementing CCS worldwide are commercial, political, governance, and social license issues, and that technological issues are no longer the biggest problem.

However, as Alexandre Breda, Scientific Technical Coordinator of Shell Brazil, reminded during the CCS workshop, it is necessary to find new technologies, even disruptive ones, for the capture activities. “Separating the CO2 from other gases is nothing new; we have been doing that for a long time. But the technologies most used today for the capture process are solvents. And they will not deliver the reductions that we need. So, we are up against capture costs, which are 70%-75% of the CCS activities costs. We need disruptive technologies that bring down the capture cost.”

Dr. Owen Anderson, Professor of Energy Law, Natural Resources, and the Environment of the University of Texas School of Law, states that the projected costs of sequestering carbon are falling. “We could make such technologies as coal with CCS, for example, competitive even with some renewable fuels. However, it is necessary to set a price for carbon that justifies the sequester cost,” he says.

In order to establish a price for carbon, society needs to give value to carbon, emitted and/or sequestered. But, actually, what is seen in countries like Brazil, for example, is immense unfamiliarity with such mitigation solutions as CCS, or CCUS (Carbon, Capture, Utilization, and Storage), or BECCS (Bioenergy with CCS).

“What we have, in terms of CCS, worldwide, is taking place in countries like Norway – which produces petroleum, is interested in this, has a high GDP, a small population, and much incentive for research and development – and Canada. Germany has stopped doing it; the United Kingdom has attempted a few projects and so has Australia. That is: we have a good solution, but we do not have funding,” was the assessment of Osvaldo Lucon, adviser for climate change to the office of the Department of the Environment of the State of São Paulo, who represented the State’s Undersecretary of Infrastructure, Gláucio Attorre Penna at the event. He emphasized the opportunity presented by the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change for debating CCS.

“We have been handed the legacy of building an understanding of the subject, creating this knowledge, and disseminating it. Few people in the country are knowledgeable about the subject and they must attempt to lay out a viable strategy, as well as some achievable goals. We must understand Brazil’s calling and think about solutions that are consistent with Brazilian realities,” added Camila Brandão, Representative of Shell Brazil on the Executive Committee of the RCGI, stressing that the prospects of CCS will depend upon a joint social construct.

Professor Joaquim Seabra, of the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), also gave a presentation during the event regarding RenovaBio, as did Oscar Serrate, of the RCGI, who spoke on social license and credibility, and Commander Rogério Prado, who dealt with the security of the so-called “Amazônia Azul” (Blue Amazon: ocean area of about 5.7 million km2, which is approximately equivalent to half of our continental area, and is within Brazil’s territorial waters).

As for the round-table discussions, other participants included researcher William Kimura, of the IEE/USP; Régis Rathmann, PhD from PPE/COPPE/UFRJ; Drielly Peyerl, researcher of the RCGI and post-doctoral student at the IEE/USP; Israel Lacerda de Araújo, legislative consultant of the Federal Senate; and Ricardo Esparta, Professor of the IEE/USP and a part of the RCGI.

The workshop was organized by Professor Hirdan Katarina de Medeiros Costa, of the IEE/USP and one of the Coordinators of the RCGI’s Project 42; by Raíssa Mendes Musarra, post-doctoral student at the IEE/USP and on the Project’s team; and by Rodrigo Fernandes. “I want to emphasize the wonderful involvement of the RCGI’s staff – Karen, Romi, Ana Paula, Ramile, and Beatriz – who helped us tremendously in holding this workshop,” were Ms. Costa’s words of praise.