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Decarbonisation Technologies

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Energy Transition as a fundamental strategy to achieve Net Zero is based on the confidence that investment in technology will deliver a reduction in carbon emissions and other Green House Gases (GHGs). Technological development however, involves many uncertainties, wrong-turns, unforeseen outcomes and risks, uneconomic applications and so on. But, without doubt, society’s confidence in technology to deliver solutions for apparently intractable problems is not misplaced and of course, technology has been a major reason for long term economic growth. The success of the energy transition and the achievement of Net Zero is predicated on the confidence that technological innovation will provide needed solutions.

Technological innovation and the ‘investment-at-risk’ phase in energy transition is highly active and many ideas, concepts and theories are being proposed via a wide variety of government agencies, private and public companies. All are generally focused on how to facilitate ‘decarbonisation’ across industrial sectors and facilitate reliable supply of ‘clean’ power with some technologies already taking the primary role. There are three key technologies: Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (‘CCUS’) which seeks to reduce the impact of existing industries, Battery Storage which stores power for intermittent renewable sources and Hydrogen as an energy carrier to replace hydrocarbons across heat, power and transport. Of the three, CCUS is the most technology-ready while the other technologies may not be suitably deployed for another 10 to 15 years.

CCUS – According to the IEA, approximately 1.6GtCO₂/year will need to be captured globally by 2030. It is not only effective for achieving net-negative emissions, it also provides a more immediate pathway for emission reduction in hard to abate sectors, such as dispatchable power. The CCUS system chain briefly comprises capturing the CO₂ (capture plant), transporting the CO₂ (by ship or pipeline) and then utilising (for instance, in manufacturing) or permanently storing the CO₂ (in a depleted field or saline aquifer). Capture technologies are readily available, and many have been demonstrated at scale, making CCUS the most likely, near-term contributor to the energy transition.

Batteries – Electrical Energy Storage (EES), and in particular Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS), are set to become a key facilitating technology in the energy transition.  As an example, in the UK the National Grid has calculated that in order to reach the UK’s carbon reduction targets, more than 13GW of new electricity storage will be required by 2030.  Battery storage technology is becoming increasingly vital for system/grid balancing and in future is expected to be complimentary alongside renewables, by storing power that might otherwise be curtailed.

Hydrogen – Low-carbon hydrogen is another vital component for achieving net zero by 2050, with potential to help decarbonise vital industry sectors and provide flexible energy across heat, power and transport. Hydrogen is categorised as ‘green’ (produced by electrolysis of water), ‘grey’ (fossil fuel-derived), which is then ‘blue’ when coupled with CCS.  Green hydrogen will be essential to support offshore wind power growth, addressing issues with power intermittency and long-distance transmission losses. In dispatchable power generation, hydrogen may be blended with natural gas to reduce project emissions intensity.

Successful technological innovation though, is a continual accumulation of knowhow and performance improvement coupled with resolution as problems arise. It requires continual management of risk in the broadest sense where ‘risk’ is ‘capital staked under conditions of uncertainty’, that risk being to achieve a ‘return’. And the ‘return’ is ‘Net Zero’.

RMRI has extensive experience in evaluating the appropriateness of technological applications for energy transition; our services include:

  • Concept Evaluations and Assessments
  • Suitability Assessments
  • Technical and Economic Assessments
  • Concept Risk Assessments
  • Technology Comparisons and Implications
  • Strategic Positioning of New Technologies

For further information about RMRI or how we can help you manage your risks, please contact us.