Rail and sea transport of CO2 to storage: key to enabling Slovenian industrial decarbonisation at the Salonit Anhavo cement plant

The Slovenian cement manufacturer, Salonit Anhavo, is looking to carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce emissions on its way to net zero by 2050. But barriers to project deployment and market development remain. Significantly: there is a lack of available CO2 storage sites and a Slovenian ban on storage in the country itself. With storage sites available nearby, Salonit Anhavo is studying different solutions: including transporting the CO2 to storage through a combination of different transport modalities. We caught up with Salonit Anhavo board member Tomaž Vuk to find out more. In particular, the recognition and support of TEN-T could contribute positively to the development of CO2 transport by sea and rail, which are two of the options considered by Salonit Anhavo.

Why is Salonit Anhavo interested in CCS?

“Well, in Slovenia we also have the so-called ‘hardest to eliminate industries’, like cement and steel. To achieve carbon neutrality, we need to do something with the CO2 from these industries. Storage is the most feasible and efficient solution. In Slovenia, in fact, we don’t have a lot of storage possibilities. And currently we even have legislation that prohibits storage in Slovenia. We therefore look to our neighbors, where there are storage options – notably in Croatia, Italy and Hungary.

As a modern Slovenian cement company, we have already come a long way. Over the past 15 years, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 15-20%. For the next five years, by introducing alternative fuel compositions and materials and a few other measures, we can still reduce by 10%. But even with these measures, we will still be a significant emitter of CO2.

It seems to us at the moment that the only option to achieve carbon neutrality is to capture CO2. Once captured, and in our case that would be some 700,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, we need to find a solution to this huge amount of CO2. We are looking at two options. While one must use this CO2 as a raw material, for something like the production of hydrocarbons, this option has in the short term many limits and a limited positive impact on the mitigation of climate change when the use is not does not include permanent storage or long-lived products fully integrated into a sustainable and circular life cycle. The other option is to store the captured CO2. We believe the latter option is technologically more developed and offers a feasible way to achieve carbon neutral cement production, and so we are interested.”

What do you think are the main challenges of CCS as a tool for industrial decarbonisation from the Slovenian perspective?

“Here I would like to mention a few different challenges. First, a regional challenge is that we don’t see too many CO2 storage projects developing. And not the necessary size, corresponding to the expected need. Northern Europe is much more advanced in this respect.

The second challenge is that we have to find good solutions to transport CO2 to storage sites. Here we explore different options, and while of course we consider pipelines as an option, we don’t really see well-developed projects to create the necessary pipeline network. Another complicating issue are permitting processes and public acceptance issues related to pipelines and their construction. For such pipeline projects, this means that it will take a long time to prepare and implement them.

It’s important to note that of course we need pipelines, and there are some benefits of using pipelines, but in the short term we believe this won’t be available. Therefore, we began to study the transport of CO2 to potential storage sites by rail and sea. We are actually positioned about 40 km from the coast, so by combining different transport modalities for CO2, we can find good solutions here. We are not alone either, and there are other industrial partners who are also interested in such solutions. We now need to find suitable partners who are at a similar level of development and check if we can see potential to build such solutions in partnerships.

Talking about carbon storage is a transformation. And climate change is a huge challenge that you cannot solve alone. I think the industry is now in front of this discussion, on how to create partnerships and find common solutions. Ultimately, this is a significant challenge but also an opportunity for Slovenia and for some large emitters. As such, CCS is a very important option to explore. Then, the third challenge is on the capture side. We have some technologies, but not all of them are ready for industrial use. We therefore still have a few years of work to really develop these options. A complicating factor here is that we know we will use more energy than we currently use. We will have to find good sources of energy to also cover these requests. »

How can the inclusion of multiple modes of transport, in particular rail and ship, which are of most interest to you, in the TEN-T regulation contribute positively to industrial decarbonisation in Slovenia?

“We are currently in an environment and in a period of extremely high risks. The large-scale deployment and business cases of CCS are still not created, and such investments can represent a significant risk for companies and potentially also for regions. In this period, if we want to see more movement in this green transformation, we must create financing to partially cover these risks. It will then be possible for companies and territories to embark on this new direction.

It is also important to understand the whole value chain when talking about CCS. It is not enough to develop and implement carbon capture technology if we do not have the ability to both transport and store it. I think, as I mentioned earlier, pipelines have an important role to play, but we don’t have any pipelines right now. In the meantime, we have to find other means of transport. In some cases, it is a question of overcoming a transition period, but in other cases, several modes of transport are more appropriate than pipelines – such as ship or rail. We must be open to different solutions that would lead us to the final goal. This is something that is often misunderstood: the one-size-fits-all solution is not always ideal for achieving the end goal. We must therefore develop all these options, all the methods of transporting CO2 to storage.

What other efforts, both at European and national level, do you think are important to foster industrial decarbonisation in Slovenia?

“I would like to see a lot more discussion at the transnational level about the different options. For example, we are positioned here in the west of Slovenia and we know that there is an industrial pole on the other side of the Italian border. It doesn’t make sense for us to develop a Slovenian-only solution. It would be better for us to look at where there are other sources that need such solutions, and then create integral solutions for all, to reduce carbon. So here much more collaboration is needed.

Furthermore, a better understanding of the entire value chain and all the challenges that each of these parts faces is key to addressing them. And of course, to repeat my point on TEN-T, without funding it will not reach the speed that we want to have.

OOne of the challenges we face is also that legislation and rules are not fully harmonized in Europe. The policy approach also varies from country to country. This is an additional obstacle to achieving the ultimate goal of decarbonization. What we have in front of us is a huge system that we have to put in place. Like the power grid we have in Europe, we know how to operate it. Likewise, we will have to create such a system for the transport of CO2 also across Europe. And here, I think it would help if we made more of an effort to harmonize our approach and our rules. Because in many cases you have to operate beyond the borders of your own country, and I think it makes sense to think about how we can do that together.

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