We assessed the potential role of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) to assist the decarbonisation of Western Australia’s (WA) industry.
Our study found a CCUS hub model could deliver significant benefits to the state as the technology is available for immediate implementation. It has the potential to work across a range of emissions-intensive industries and hard to abate industries.
The WA CCUS Hubs study was commissioned by the Western Australian LNG Jobs Taskforce. This taskforce was established in 2018 and brings together government, industry and unions to collaborate on challenges and opportunities for the sector.
Our researchers developed this study in collaboration with the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, an Australia-based international think tank with a mission to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage.
Dr Karsten Michael is a Principal Research Scientist with our Energy team and co-author of the report.
“We are going to be using gas for at least the next two decades, but we need to do something about the emissions now,” Karsten said.
“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.”
Why is CCUS important in Western Australia?
Resource industries, including mining, oil and gas, make a vital contribution to WA's economy. In 2021, these industries added a combined $170 billion AUD to the gross state product and supported 120,000 jobs.
Industries across WA are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in support of state and federal targets. There are plans to retire all the state’s coal-fired power plants by 2030.
This means natural gas will have an important role to play as the state transitions towards a low carbon economy. Particularly as a reliable energy source for energy intensive sectors like resources and manufacturing.
CCUS is a safe, globally tested and technologically viable option needed as part of a larger abatement portfolio to decarbonise LNG processing and other emissions-intensive industries like aluminium refining, cement, and fertiliser production.
What is the focus of the study?
The study by us and the Global CCS Institute focussed on the potential for decarbonising LNG production and other industries in WA through the development of CCUS hubs.
The research included:
- Compiling emissions data and assessing geological storage options
- Undertaking techno-economic analysis of example CCUS hubs
- Assessing CO2 utilisation opportunities
- Identifying barriers and enablers for different options
- Identifying potential funding sources
The researchers modelled an example site in the Pilbara region. The models produced a range of options and found, under the right circumstances, a Pilbara Hub could meet 33 per cent of WA’s emissions reduction target. It would simultaneously generate 37,000 jobs during construction. It would additionally 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," Karsten said.
"Additional emissions sources can be added in later stages, including import of CO2 from other sources, for example the Perth-Kwinana area or internationally.
"You also have existing infrastructure like pipelines, port facilities, a skilled workforce, and highly prospective geological storage sites for safe and permanent CO2 storage.”
What are the key findings?
Concentrating CCUS infrastructure in a hub model provides economies of scale in development. It can make the CCUS process viable for the high-emitting CO2 capture industries, including electricity generation, aluminum, and cement processing. It could also make the technology viable for smaller operations that would otherwise not be able to afford the 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," Karsten said.
“But that’s where a hub model can be very helpful. If you already have a facility nearby that will take the captured emissions and store them, it will change the economies of scale and allow you to decarbonise at a lower cost.
“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."
Like all CCUS hubs globally, there are several enablers that will be needed to turn the modelled CCUS hubs in Western Australia – or something like them - into a reality.
The study identifies several key enabling factors that would be required. These include recognition of CCUS as an essential part of the state’s emissions reduction portfolio and appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks. It would require community support and the immediate need for certainty regarding the price of carbon, to allow for the long lead times required for large infrastructure investment.