The CSIRO has released the WA CCUS Hubs Study, revealing that a CCUS hub model, available for immediate implementation, could significantly benefit the State by addressing emissions-intensive and hard-to-abate industries.
Commissioned by the Western Australian LNG Jobs Taskforce and developed in collaboration with the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, the study assessed the potential role of CCUS in assisting the decarbonisation of WA’s industry.
CSIRO’s Dr Karsten Michael said gas will still be used in at least two more decades; however, it is crucial to address the emissions now.
“The combination of concentrated high emissions industries, geological storage opportunities and a skilled workforce mean WA is in a unique position to establish a CCUS hub for industry decarbonisation in a relatively cost-effective way,” Dr Michael stated.
The study explored the potential of decarbonising industries in WA through the development of CCUS hubs. The research included emissions data compilation, geological storage assessment, techno-economic analysis, CO2 utilisation evaluation, and identification of barriers and funding sources.
Researchers modelled a Pilbara region site, finding that under the right conditions, a Pilbara Hub could meet 33% of WA’s emissions reduction target, generate 37,000 construction jobs, support 500 permanent jobs, and boost WA state GDP by $55 billion between 2030 and 2050.
“The Pilbara is an obvious CCUS hub option because the existing cluster of gas processing plants produce a relatively pure CO2 stream that can be captured and stored at relatively low costs in the initial hub stage,” Dr Michael explained.
“Additional emissions sources can be added in later stages, including import of CO2 from other sources, for example Perth-Kwinana area or internationally,” he added.
According to the study, the hub model of concentrating CCUS infrastructure offers economies of scale, making the process viable for high-emitting CO2 capture industries like electricity generation, aluminium, and cement processing and making the technology accessible to smaller operations that may not afford associated costs.
“The costs of the capture itself would be higher for these sources because they have low CO2 concentration emissions streams, or lower volumes, and require additional processing,” Dr Michael said.
He stated that a hub model can significantly enhance decarbonisation by utilising a nearby facility to store and capture captured emissions, thereby enhancing economies of scale and enabling lower-cost decarbonisation.
“The Pilbara CCUS Hub is also an ideal location for low-emissions hydrogen (blue hydrogen) production, involving steam methane reformation of the natural gas in combination with CCUS.”
The study suggests that CCUS is crucial for reducing emissions in the State, and it requires recognition, policy, and regulatory frameworks. Community support and certainty about carbon prices are also necessary for long lead times for infrastructure investment.
The Australian Energy Producers stated that the research demonstrated how industrial centres might share infrastructure to carpool carbon – a concept proposed by an Australian Energy Producers study in May as Net Zero Zones – to expedite emissions reductions and attract new investment.
“CCUS can enable WA to grow its economy, including boosting critical mineral processing while reducing emissions and protecting the resources jobs for which this state is known. The technology can also enable the most cost-effective pathway to low-carbon hydrogen – natural gas combined with CCUS,” Australian Energy Producers WA Director Caroline Cherry said.
The report, according to Cherry, also warned of the need for better CCUS policy guidance outside WA.
“While WA progresses the technology, the report has called for coordinated policy direction from the Australian Government and issued a warning for other jurisdictions – calling for urgent action to advance projects given the seven to 10-year lead time to bring projects to market,” she added.
The Action Plan will seek to accelerate the deployment of established CCUS technologies in WA, as well as to assist research into novel CCUS technologies and to attract investment.
“WA is a world leader in mining and natural gas, and that means we are perfectly placed to become a world leader in Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage,” Premier Roger Cook said. “We can leverage our skilled workforce, existing infrastructure and unique geology to attract global CCUS investment — helping to create local jobs and strengthen our State’s economy.”
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston commented, “Carbon Capture, Utilisation Storage will provide WA’s industrial and mining industries with access to opportunities to decarbonise.”
Minister Johnston added that the development of CCUS hubs and legislation to facilitate greenhouse gas transportation and storage are crucial for our State’s future.