Carbon neutral Baltic Sea Region by 2050

Alla Shogenova
Senior Researcher
Tallinn University of Technology

Director for Research
SHOGenergy consulting

Carbon Capture, Use and Geological Storage (CCUS) is one of the important technologies for reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and 2070. CCUS permits to provide energy security in the transitional period to a green economy and full transition to renewable energies. In the longer term, CCUS could provide not only carbon-free energy but also renewable green and carbon-free blue hydrogen and even negative emissions technologies (NET). NET include Bio-CCS (or BECCS) when biofuel is used instead of, or together with fossil fuels, and Direct Air Capture (DAC) with CO2 storage (DACS). The synergy of CCUS with renewable energies (wind, solar and geothermal), biofuel, hydrogen production and DAC are innovative tools, which can lead the world and BSR to a carbon-neutral future.

However, the Baltic Sea Region, which includes 11 countries at the Baltic Sea and around it, has both drivers and serious challenges at the way of reaching Paris climate targets.

Large CO2 emissions produced in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is one of the main drivers to implement CCUS. In spite of the general trend in decreasing CO2 emissions in 2020 (partly connected to the global pandemic), the fossil CO2 emissions per capita were higher than the EU average (5.9 t) in seven BSR countries (Russia – 11.6, Estonia – 11.1, Norway, Germany and Poland – 7.7, Finland – 7.3 and Belarus – 6.3 t) and were higher than global average per capita (4.6 t) also in Lithuania – 4.8 t. Only in Denmark, Sweden and Latvia CO2 per capita were lower than the global average (4.4, 4.2 and 3.9 t, correspondingly) (Crippa et al, 2021). According to UNFCCC, global per capita emission levels by 2050 under the well – below 2 °C and 1.5 °C scenarios are at 1.6–2.4 t CO2 eq. and 0.6–1.2 t CO2 eq., respectively. According to the 1.5 °C scenarios the global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions need to decline by 45% from 2010 level by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. For the 2 °C scenario CO2 emissions need to decrease by 2030 by about 25% from the 2010 level and reach net zero around 2070.

BSR has a large theoretical capacity to store CO2 in the Palaeozoic sedimentary successions of the Baltic Basin (BB). The most prospective areas for CO2 storage within the BB border are several countries such as Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia and include large saline aquifers and oil and gas fields.

The main drivers for implementation of CCUS technology in the BSR are (1) a need to decrease the high CO2 emissions; (2) obligations taken under the Paris Climate Agreement and national strategies by 2050; (3) European requirements for low-carbon, green and circular economy; (4) a large potential CO2 storage capacity; (5) London Protocol (LP) Parties in October 2019 adopted a resolution to allow application of an amendment to article 6 of the LP to allow sub-seabed geological formations for CO2 storage projects to be shared across national borders; (6) safe offshore CO2 storage is demonstrated under the North Sea; (7) a well-developed natural gas pipeline system exists that can be reused and combined with the potential CO2 transportation network; (8) good research capacity demonstrated by BSR institutions; (9) CO2 injection experiments have been positively evaluated by oil companies in Lithuania and Russia.

The main barriers for implementation of CCS technology in the BSR are: (1) limitations and bans in the national CCS regulations; (2) not all BSR countries are parties of the LP; (3) amendment to Article 6 of the LP is implemented only by four BSR countries (Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden) ; (4) absence of a CO2 storage atlas of the BSR; (5) low public awareness, acceptance of CO2 storage options and limited education options for CCS in most of the BSR countries; (6) relatively high costs of CCS projects; (7) low or absent national support of CCS research and pilot projects; (8) onshore CO2 storage in saline aquifers is not well established in Europe and not permitted in the BSR.

During the last years, there are a number of positive developments in the BSR. Fortum is planning to develop pilot CO2 capture plants in Sweden, Lithuania and Poland. Danish government and industry are planning to update CCS regulations and implement offshore CCS projects, including the Greensand CO2 storage project. Large energy and cement companies in Sweden, Latvia and Estonia are planning to implement CCUS projects by 2030. Green and blue hydrogen production by refinery in Finland and for hydrogen-based iron and steelmaking industry in Sweden, both with CCS, have been already supported by EU Innovation Fund.

Among negative developments is the non-secure energy policy in the Baltic States, including the closing of power plants in Estonia in 2019 and the banning of any CO2 injection in Lithuania since 2020.

Crippa, M. et al. 2021. GHG emissions of all world countries – 2021 Report, EUR 30831 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, ISBN 978-92-76-41547-3, doi:10.2760/173513

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