Located between the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic and the Black Sea, mainly on the eastern side of the European Union, Central Eastern Europe (or CEE) is a region with significant economic potential but faces considerable decarbonisation challenges.
With a sizable storage potential and important contribution of heavy industries to its economy, CEE could become home to many carbon capture and storage (CCS) hubs and multi-modal CO2 transport infrastructure. As of 2023, there are already ground-breaking CCS projects under development, aiming at around 5 Mt of CO2 captured from industrial installations for the purpose of permanent geological storage across multiple CEE countries by 2030. However, many pieces are still missing for industrial decarbonisation in CEE to become a success story.
Keen on supporting industrial climate action across Europe, Bellona has a long history of engagement in CEE countries (see past Bellona’s CCS deployment roadmaps for Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine). In the last 3 years, our work in CEE has intensified, mainly through our participation in the CCS4CEE project. This blogpost by our Senior Climate and Policy Manager (CEE) Michał Wendołowski will provide some key insights into our work in the region.
The „Building momentum for the long-term CCS deployment in the CEE region” project, also known as CCS4CEE, was launched in December 2020, thanks to a grant from the EEA and Norway Grants for regional cooperation. With three decades of work on CCS, Bellona joined the project as the expertise partner, alongside other organisations operating in the CEE region: three think-tanks/NGOs WiseEuropa, Institute of European Integration, the Energy Policy Group, and a consultancy company Civitta.
The project’s aim has been to renew the discussion on the deployment of CCS in the CEE region, through a combination of analytical work, outreach, communication and capacity-building activities, national and regional publications and events, leading to new policies and joint projects. To that end, the project partners have engaged with national and EU policymakers, business sector representatives, research institutions and civil society, building a broad network of stakeholders.
Three years after its launch, the project is coming to an end. On 13 September 2023, in Prague, the project consortium held its final regional conference. The level of interest demonstrated by a high number of participants has confirmed that CCS4CEE has become a recognizable brand, connecting CEE stakeholders and disseminating knowledge about CCS initiatives in CEE, marking the region’s place on the climate action map of Europe. Inspired by the success of the conference and the project in general, Bellona and its partners are now assessing how to continue the project beyond its current grant. Our ambition is to build on the work already done and keep the momentum for CCS deployment growing further.
Starting point – assessment of current state and potential for CCS in CEE
As a result of its economic and political transition in the early 90’s and the accession of many of the CEE countries into the EU between 2004 and 2013, the CEE region has witnessed a steady increase in GDP and a shift towards service-based economies over the last thirty years. Still, the manufacturing sectors, particularly heavy industry, such as cement, lime, metals, and glass, play a more important role in CEE economies than in most non-CEE European economies, which is important from the industrial decarbonisation perspective, and for CCS deployment potential in particular. The contribution of industry in the EU was 19% of the EU GDP on average, whereas for CEE in some cases it is above 35% (see this summary report for CCS4CEE by the Energy Policy Group for more analytical findings).
The three seas surrounding the CEE region: the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Black Sea have been characterised as suitable for offshore CO2 storage, although still requiring a more robust geological assessment to fully appreciate their potentials. The region also includes landlocked countries such as Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary, and in many cases, some of its industrial heartlands are located far away from sea terminals, which complicates their access to the most advanced CO2 storage projects being currently developed mainly offshore, in the North Sea in particular. At the same time, some of the CEE countries boast a significant CO2 onshore storage potential, which could serve some of the production sites located farther inland. Overall, geological estimates suggest enough storage in the region to accommodate an equivalent of decades if not centuries of CO2 emissions from CEE economies.
Although the awareness of CCS has been rather low amongst the public and even amongst policy makers in CEE countries, CCS is not an entirely unknown concept in the region. There were attempts to deploy CCS on power plants in Poland and Romania in early 2010s, but these projects were abandoned by 2013, similarly to the first CCS projects in other parts of the EU around that time. Also, many academic and research institutes located in CEE have been engaged in CCS research projects, often participating as members in international consortia.
Whilst the significant economic role of heavy industries, CO2 storage potential, history of CCS research, and earlier attempts to deploy CCS could be leveraged to help accelerate deployment of CCS in CEE, there are also important barriers and challenges. The CCS projects in Poland and Romania faced some backlash, including from local communities inhabiting the areas of prospective CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. Raising awareness of and gaining public support for CCS will require a more careful approach going forward. In addition to that, the regulatory environment varies in CEE, and in many cases requires legal changes (including lifting CO2 storage bans in some countries) to enable the deployment of transport and storage infrastructure at industrial scale.
From assessments to roadmaps and implementation
In order to address the challenges and to leverage the opportunities of CCS deployment, the CCS4CEE project partners have prepared and published national CCS deployment roadmaps with recommendations for CEE governments and industry actors. Some of the key postulates are as follows:
- setting up national CCS platforms, for knowledge sharing and joint advocacy effort;
- increased engagement in European and international CCS platforms;
- inclusion of a more prominent role for CCS in national climate strategies;
- adequate funding for pilot projects and for industrial scale-up;
- establishment of CCS hubs based on existing industrial clusters, with shared open access transport and storage infrastructure, both across sectors and national borders;
- an enabling regulatory framework;
- engagement with local communities and other stakeholders to build public support for CCS.
Towards climate action – first ground-breaking CCS projects in CEE
As the CCS4CEE project unfolded, real industrial CCS projects have also started to develop in the CEE region. It is noteworthy that three cement production sites in Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland have been selected for funding by the Innovation Fund, the EU’s biggest funding instrument for innovative climate technologies in industry. Additionally, several consortia have been formed to develop local and transnational CO2 transport and storage infrastructure projects, and some of them have a chance to receive the Project of Common Interest (PCI) status, which facilitates permitting procedures and access to EU cross-border infrastructure funding from the Connecting Europe Facility. Overall, we have estimated that around 5 Mt of CO2 could be captured in the CEE countries on an annual basis by 2030, if the most promising and advanced projects start as planned.
Bringing Bellona’s expertise and networks to maximise project’s impact
Bellona has contributed to the CCS4CEE project activities in multiple ways. In addition to participating in the general project management and communication activities, we published a report on the current state of CCS technologies and policies at the EU level in 2021. A year later, we wrote an overview of CCS stakeholder platforms and policy initiatives.
Bellona organised two project conferences in Brussels in September 2022 and in June 2023. Both events focused on EU-level CCS policy initiatives seen from the CEE perspective. Emerging industrial CCS projects were also presented, sharing unique insights into CCS deployment on the ground. With speakers and participants representing EU institutions and Member States, CCS project developers, as well as civil society, academia and trade unions, the events provided an opportunity for knowledge-sharing and cooperation among a wide range of CCS stakeholders.
As the expert partner in project, Bellona contributed to and reviewed all the analytical reports and roadmaps published during the project. We participated as speakers at many of the project national events and all three regional conferences. Bellona also signed several letters of support for CCS projects in CEE applying for EU funding, acknowledging their contribution to climate change mitigation.
Finally, the study trip to Norway for a group of almost 40 participants from CEE, which Bellona organised in June 2023, was quite likely the most exciting deliverable. The trip included a CCS seminar in Oslo with the participants from Norway, and two site visits: at the cement plant in Brevik and at the Northern Lights CO2 terminal in Øygarden. It has demonstrated a high level of interest in CCS among the delegates of CEE governments and industries who participated in the study trip. Importantly, seeing CCS projects being developed in Norway, with concrete, tangible infrastructure in various stages of completion, provided a whole new and inspiring perspective for the participants.
We believe that CCS has the potential to transform the carbon-intensive regions and cities of Central and Eastern Europe into innovative, low-carbon industrial hubs. But we are still at the beginning of the road to net-zero, with many challenges ahead, and therefore with a great need to continue collaboration with regional stakeholders to accelerate CCS deployment in CEE. Among priorities is further awareness raising amongst CEE policy makers, connecting local initiatives with EU and international developments, and building public support for CCS.
Building on the knowledge and networks developed through the CCS4CEE project, Bellona will continue its efforts to support climate action in the region. Stay tuned to hear more about work in Central and Eastern Europe.