ICAO meeting on CCS – CCS has an important role in decarbonising aviation.


By Tim Dixon

8 February 2024

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has goals of reducing international aviation emissions by 85% compared to 2019 in 2024-2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. A key way they see to achieve these goals is for airline operators to use the Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). CORSIA has two routes. The first is to use carbon offsets, which create CORSIA Emission Units. The second is to use CORSIA Eligible Fuels, either Synthetic Aviation Fuel (SAF) or Lower Carbon Aviation Fuel from fossil-based fuels (LCAF). All of these CORSIA Eligible Fuels have to meet the CORSIA sustainability criteria. Consequently, CCS and CDR can play significant roles, in the Eligible Fuels supply from SAF production and LCAF, and CDR-based offsets. Consequently, the ICAO wanted to examine the permanence aspects of CCS (and in engineered CDR), intending to develop their guidance on monitoring, mitigation and compensation. ICAO did this by convening a CCS Experts Panel under their Fuels Task Group in Geneva on 7th February.

I was honoured to be invited to be one of the experts. The Panel was made up of four sessions. The first looked at technical risks of non-permanence from geological storage. The experts for this were Chris Consoli of GCCSI, Julio Friedman of Carbon Direct, Anne Menefee of Penn State University (and IEAGHG Summer School alumni). The second session looked at capture and transport, and the CCS experts were Andrea Ramirez of Delft University and David Kearns of GCCSI. The third session looked at policies and regulations for CO2 geological storage permanence and the experts were myself and Bernadene Smith of GCCSI. I explained the history and rationale of how permanence and storage security are addressed in the IPCC GHG Inventory Guidelines (2006), the EU CCS and ETS Directives, the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism, and ISO TC265 standards. I intended to emphasise all the good work done in the past and its validity for the aviation industry schemes going forward. The fourth session was for the CORSIA offsets experts to share their work on non-permanence for all types of offsets. As the only CCS expert attending in person, I was fortunate to sit on all the session panels. My favourite quote of the day was from Anne Menefee, “Sleipner has been injecting CO2 since before I was born”! A nice reflection of how much experience we have with Sleipner.

There were very many good questions from the 100 in-person and 40 online aviation experts, and as always great discussions continued in the margins before, during and after the event. I went there also to learn what the aviation industry is doing to decarbonise, and I asked many questions in the margins. It seems that it is still very much a work in progress for them on governance and methodologies. Still, the basic criteria and principles are agreed upon, such as their sustainability criteria.

It was also interesting to learn of a new large-scale CCS project in the USA from a company that will supply low-carbon fuels to aviation. The Marquis Sequestration project in Illinois is a corn bioethanol project that has a Class VI permit in process and plans to inject 1.2Mt pa from their operations.

I asked the ICAO moderators for feedback after the event. It seems they got the message that the permanence of CO2 geological storage is not a matter of concern, given the science, technologies and experience, the number of international and national regulations addressing this, the growing availability of storage insurance, and especially when taken in the context of offsets generated by other activities such as forestry.

Overall, it was a very positive meeting and an interesting experience to gain a little knowledge of where international aviation is at in achieving net-zero emissions. This is a challenging but very important sector to decarbonise. IEAGHG will continue to offer evidence-based support to ICAO’s and CORSIA’s developments. 

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