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Regions in focus: Spotlight on industry in Northern Croatia and Romania

While the Covid-19 pandemic dominated global headlines last year, 2020 may have also represented the turning point for carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), the set of technologies that the STRATEGY CCUS project is striving to help implement in eight European regions.

As the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a flagship report in September, momentum is growing: plans for more than 30 new integrated CCUS facilities have been announced since 2017, mostly in the United States and Europe. If all these projects were to proceed, the amount of global CO2 capture capacity would more than triple, to around 130 million tonnes (Mt) per year. In practice, the IEA notes, some sectors will simply not be able to achieve net-zero emissions without CCUS.

In the second of our features focusing on our eight study areas, we look at Northern Croatia and at Romania’s Galaţi region, two important industrial centres, which are exploring the benefits CCUS could bring.

Galaţi, Romania

Located in eastern Romania close to the Black Sea, the Galaţi region is one of Romania’s most important industrial centres and home to its largest integrated steel plant, operated by Liberty Steel (formerly Arcelor Mittal), and the country’s second largest emission source (after the Rovinari power plant in Oltenia) in 2019.

STRATEGY CCUS has identified eight significant emission sources in the region. As well as Liberty Steel, the other major emitter (of more than 100 kilotonnes CO2 a year) is Alum, Romania’s only alumina refinery, situated in Tulcea, west of Galaţi, at the mouth of the Danube Delta. In 2019, the region’s emissions were 4.56 Mt, or 12.5% of Romania’s total from industry, of which 4.19 Mt – or 11.5% of national industrial emissions – came from the steel plant.

STRATEGY CCUS has studied onshore geological CO2 storage options within 100km, says Dr Alexandra Dudu, head of CO2 geological storage at GeoEcoMar, a Romanian geology research centre and STRATEGY CCUS partner. These range from the Focsani Trough in the north west of the region through to the North Dobrogea Promontory on the Black Sea coast in the west. Offshore, she adds, the project has examined data on sites in the Histria Depression in the western Black Sea basin.

“These onshore storage possibilities involve depleted hydrocarbon fields for which CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technology could be implemented. The offshore storage and utilisation options include almost depleted oil fields, also suitable for EOR, as well as deep saline aquifers,” Dudu says.

EOR, an established practice in the oil and gas industry, involves injecting CO2 into oil wells to boost production, also resulting in underground CO2 storage.

Graphic: The Galaţi region's geological CO2 storage options, mapped by the STRATEGY CCUS WP2 team. Credit: GeoEcoMar/STRATEGY CCUS

Previously, estimates for the region’s storage capacity had only been made for two onshore depleted hydrocarbon fields. STRATEGY CCUS has significantly increased the analysis, using public data to produce estimates for all 18 onshore hydrocarbon fields and eight offshore storage options: capacity is put at approximately 43 Mt for the onshore sites and 34 Mt for the offshore, says Dudu.

As well as the multiple storage options, the region has good transport infrastructure. The Danube runs through the region, with the city of Galaţi being the biggest port on this important European river. There are also Danube ports at Brăila  and Tulcea, while the Black Sea can be reached through Constanța. This maritime port, south east of Galaţi, is linked to the Danube by a canal. The region also benefits from good rail and road connections and from hydrocarbon transport corridors and gas pipelines.

Feedback from stakeholders has been positive, including development of a good dialogue with Liberty Steel, says Dudu. With the support of Romania’s National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA), another STRATEGY CCUS partner, stakeholder interviews have been conducted and the first regional stakeholder workshop held. As well as emitters, attendees included Petrom, Romania’s biggest oil company, and the National Agency for Mineral Resources, the government body overseeing hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation and CO2 geological storage.

Workshop participants suggested the drivers for CCUS in the Galaţi region include becoming carbon neutral for customers and companies, developing a new business model and demonstrating the technology in Romania, with the benefits of reducing pollution and emissions. The main challenges would be reducing the cost of carbon capture and ensuring the integrity of old oil wells.

“The emitters seem to be very interested in implementing CCS due to the increasing price of EU emissions allowances and the need to become carbon neutral,” says Dudu. “At the same time, the oil operators are interested in deploying CO2-EOR – this could become an opportunity to start implementing CCUS.”

Northern Croatia

The Northern Croatian region covers Zagreb, the capital, and the Croatian part of the Pannonian Basin, which stretches across Central Europe. It includes 10 notable carbon emission sources, which are relatively dispersed – Zagreb and Sisak are the only cities with more than one source.

In terms of size, the biggest emitters in the region are the fertiliser facility at Kutina and the cement plant at Našice, which emit 0.75 Mt CO2 and 0.65 Mt CO2 a year, respectively. The other sources comprise five power plants, a refinery, an oil and gas processing facility and a glass factory.

The total estimated storage capacity in the region is an estimated 2,700 Mt, the vast majority (2,585 Mt) of which is located in deep saline aquifers in five locations. The remainder (144 Mt) is in 14 depleted oil and gas fields. However, these depleted hydrocarbon fields are liable to be the first developed for storage of captured CO2 via EOR.

“EOR projects will provide quicker development of surface and injection facilities due to the more favourable economic parameters,” says Maja Arnaut of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering (UNIZG-RGNF), one of the partners in STRATEGY CCUS.

Indeed, the listed former state-owned oil and gas company, Ina, in 2020 announced a feasibility study to look at the funding, costs, technology and regulatory framework for developing CCUS at different locations in Croatia. It is the operator of Croatia’s two existing EOR projects using CO2, at the Ivanić and Žutica fields in the Sava Depression.

STRATEGY CCUS, meanwhile, has estimated total CO2 storage capacity and utilisation at 33 Mt for EOR operations at seven oil fields in the region over a 15-year period – a figure that does not include an estimate of the CO2 storage possibilities after EOR ends.

In terms of transporting captured CO2 to storage, Northern Croatia already has a well-developed pipeline network, the most critical part of the necessary infrastructure. While these are used for natural gas at present, it is expected that the same route can be used for CO2 transport.

Graphic: Options for transportation of CO2 in Northern Croatia. Credit: UNIZG-RGNF/STRATEGY CCUS

Arnaut says the project’s research suggests it would be logical to have two clusters in the region, one in the east and another in the centre, with two hubs in the central cluster. Captured CO2 in the central cluster would be transported for storage in the western part of the Sava Depression, initially for EOR use and later to fields in the Drava Depression, once they are depleted.

As for public perceptions, the STRATEGY CCUS team has held the first of its regional stakeholder meetings, aimed at disseminating information and building support for CCUS, and at collecting views.

“Lack of funding and of a legal framework and policies are seen as the biggest issues or challenges,” says Arnaut.

Croatia has a regulation governing permanent geological storage of gases, which includes CO2. However, the team and Croatian stakeholders believe it would benefit from amendment and that the country should also develop carbon offsetting mechanisms. STRATEGY CCUS hopes to help this process with economic modelling and a roadmap that set out the potential for CCUS in Northern Croatia.

“This will help all stakeholders involved to create a framework to bring forward new CCUS projects which maintain our industrial base and regional economy while, at the same time reducing emissions,” Arnaut says.

Looking ahead, Croatia also intends to deploy hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel alternative. As yet, the country has not set out formal production targets in key laws or policy documents such as its Low Carbon Development Strategy, notes Arnaut. Hydrogen is currently only produced at Ina’s Rijeka refinery, the country’s largest refinery, for internal use.

“The goal is to use hydrogen to contribute to decarbonisation so hydrogen used as a transport fuel should be green hydrogen – produced from renewable energy,” she concludes.

Main photo: Inside Liberty Steel Galati. Credit: Liberty Steel Galati