European Parliament okays revised TEN-T to accelerate industrial decarbonization

The European Parliament has taken a significant step towards incentivizing a robust CO2 transport infrastructure as it approved the regulation on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

Northern Lights facilities March 2024. Courtesy of Northern Lights

To eliminate bottlenecks and missing transport links, on April 24 Members of the Parliament (MEPs) backed an update of the EU’s plan to build a network of railways, roads, inland waterways and short sea shipping routes connected through ports and terminals across the EU.

Major transport infrastructure projects on the core TEN-T network should be completed by the end of 2030, to secure a comprehensive network by the end of 2050. To accelerate project rollout across the network, an intermediary deadline of 2040 is introduced.

The recent EU Industrial Carbon Management Strategy and 2040 Climate Target Communication highlight the essential role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) for European industrial decarbonization, preventing millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

The Parliament’s move comes after calls from organizations Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and Bellona to include a reference to the role of various modes of transporting captured carbon to storage – expediating decarbonization measures for industry across the bloc.

What is TEN-T and why does it matter?

The Trans-European Transport Network is a critical part of a comprehensive Carbon Capture and Storage strategy in Europe. While several European Carbon Capture and Storage projects have been announced, CO2 transport infrastructure is needed for these projects to materialize.

This legislation is important for enabling carbon capture, transport, and storage deployment in the EU for several reasons: It can send a market signal and support the market development and project deployment, and it can acknowledge and support the role of multiple transport modalities of CO2, including by rail, truck, and barge.

The TEN-T Regulation agreement confirmed by the Parliament recognizes the importance of strengthened synergies between the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and the Trans-European Energy Network (TEN-E), with both regulations embracing the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage deployment.

The TEN-T explicitly acknowledges the key role of maritime ports in transporting carbon dioxide through pipelines or other modes of transport.

What does transportation modality mean for carbon capture and storage?

As highlighted by CATF and Bellona Europa in a joint TEN-T fact sheet, the full carbon capture, storage, and transport to storage value chain must be supported in order to spark market and project deployment.

Under current regulations, only CO2 transport via pipeline can access both administrative support mechanisms and funding through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Other modes of transport, such as ships, barges, rail, and trucks do not have the same support, despite their key role in ensuring flexibility, market development, equitable access to storage, in particular for industry situated in countries where CO2 storage is not available, contributing to European cohesion, a just transition, and a level playing field across the EU.

The TEN-T regulation sends a positive signal for the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage in Europe by acknowledging multiple modalities of CO2 transport, according to the two organizations.

How is TEN-T helping advance CO2 transportation?

In the dozen carbon capture and storage projects in various stages of development in Europe, the CO2 captured from the emitting facilities is planned to be transported to the storage site with different modes of transport.

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As pipelines require major investments and have longer lead times, taking several years to develop, a bridging solution while pipeline infrastructure is built to transport CO2 via shipping vessels.

Ports can therefore play a major role, which Bellona Europa is supporting together with port authorities through its recent project Ports2Decarb. Europe’s most advanced Carbon Capture and Storage project, Northern Lights, will use this modality, with the first CO2 vessels already constructed.

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Other first-mover projects in the EU are also planning to use ships, such as ECO2CEE in Poland or Prinos in Greece, highlighting just how key this form of transport is.

The reviewed TEN-T Regulation is a step in the right direction to acknowledge transport modalities. It will now need to be also confirmed by the Council, before being published and entering into force.