In Croatia, the many vast natural areas play a major role in tackling the climate crisis. Croatian forests are in the top five in the world when it comes to CO2-absorption. But not only nature does its job. Companies and scientists in the country are also enthusiastically starting ambitious projects to achieve the climate goals, including in the context of the national Recovery and Resilience Plan. This includes two pilot projects aimed at capturing CO2, and then store it in gas and oil fields. “A great initiative, but there are certainly snags to it,” said Stasa Puskaric, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Croatia has had a hard time in recent years. The country was hit not only by the pandemic, but also by several earthquakes. The vast majority of the money that Croatia receives from Europe is therefore invested in rebuilding and making the affected buildings more sustainable. Increasing sustainability will indirectly contribute to the reduction of the country’s emissions. But the country is also investing in the direct capture of CO2†
CO2 store in oil and gas fields
Two pilot projects should ensure that the CO2emissions at an ammonia production facility and an ethanol refinery are limited. For example, a trial is being conducted at the ammonia production facility Petrokemija Kutina. In doing so, CO2 captured and transported via an existing gas pipeline to depleted oil and gas fields in Ivanić Grad, a town in the Croatian province of Zagreb. The project aims to produce 190,000 tons of CO2 to be collected per year. A second investment will go to a CCS installation that will be part of an ethanol refinery project. This project aims to capture 55,000 tons of CO2 per year, which will be transported to depleted gas fields approximately 40 kilometers from the site.
The main goal is to ensure that no carbon dioxide leaks into the air at the two sites, the plan states. Storage technology also needs to be improved. In addition, the projects serve as an example for companies that focus on the production of fossil fuels. Transporting the CO2 goes through existing gas pipelines of INA: a medium-sized European oil company. The pipes must still be renovated before use.
“Croatia is only a small country, and our emissions, about 24,000 kilotons per year, are only a fraction of the global emissions,” says Puskaric. The professor – he recently talked about his research in the documentary ‘Ice on Fire’ with Leonardo Dicaprio – focuses in his work on natural processes that capture carbon, especially by using natural systems in the ocean. He is skeptical about the pilot projects. “Don’t get me wrong, every little bit helps and I’m glad we’re becoming more and more aware of our impact on the climate. But if you look at the amount of CO2 captured, we should not expect these projects to make a major contribution to countering the climate crisis. I do hope that the projects will show the fossil industry that it is possible to work cleaner.”
In addition to a minimal impact, according to the professor, there is another major drawback to the companies: the energy requirement. “Carbon capture requires a lot of energy. You have to concentrate and pressurize the gas. It also costs a lot of energy to then pump it into the reservoirs. So I wonder whether these projects will really contribute something essential to the total impact on the climate.”
Above all, we need to make more use of global, natural systems that are energy efficient if we want to have a real impact on carbon dioxide capture. “That’s what I focus on in my studies of CO2and sea snow,” says the professor. “Sea snow is a kind of shower of organic matter that falls from the upper waters to the deep ocean. By boosting marine snow formation, we could help the ocean release atmospheric CO2to delete. It may be a natural drainage method applied to prevent global warming and climate change. This has a much greater impact on the climate compared to the smaller projects using artificial CO2 capture.”
Every little bit helps
But no matter how intensively we work on the capture of CO2 In the coming years, the fact remains, the professor indicates: “Prevention is still better than cure. It is still much more important that we recognize our dependence on fossil fuels and do something about their emissions.”
The pilot projects are only a small part of Croatia’s overall greening plan. “Insulating homes, deploying train connections, and also capturing CO2: these are extremely important issues that all need to be addressed,” says the professor in response to the national Recovery and Resilience Plan. “It is a big step that Europe is making these funds available for the sustainability of the EU countries and I see that very beautiful projects are being started worldwide. This is a step that the world desperately needs.”