No longer emitting CO2, but separating and storing it: perhaps Switzerland can follow this idea.
From Wilhelmshaven in the north across Germany to Karlsruhe and possibly to Basel, the company Tree Energy Solution (Tes for short) wants to build pipelines for the transport of CO2. The head of technology at Tes, Jens Schmidt, explains that the CO2 is to be fed through these pipes into a cycle that can be used to import green hydrogen to Europe.
Specifically, liquefied CO2 is to be shipped from Wilhelmshaven to regions where cheap green energy for the production of hydrogen is available, i.e. to North Africa or the Middle East: “Then the hydrogen molecule is married to the CO2 in a chemical process. This is, so to speak, the filling of the glass bottle. Then this bottle is packed on a ship. The first port in Europe is Wilhelmshaven.»
Convert where it is cheaper
There, the CO2 is either separated directly from the hydrogen and sent back into the cycle, or the mixture is used as a green gas, such as natural gas. It is important for the cycle that if the green gas heats an industrial furnace, the CO2 must be separated there and transported back to Wilhelmshaven via the pipeline.
All of these conversion processes require green energy, as Schmidt von Tes concedes, but it’s still worth it economically: “We achieve an efficiency of 50 percent along the chain. Even with that 50 percent energy inefficiency, it’s still worth it because renewables in those countries cost less than half what you would pay here.”
Tes recently received the go-ahead from the German government for the construction of the terminal in Wilhelmshaven, because conventional natural gas in liquid form can also be imported there in the short term. The pipeline network in Germany should be in place by the 2030s. Switzerland could be connected to the grid via a pipeline arm in Basel, says Schmidt.
The EU Commission is also planning infrastructure
Andrea Burkhardt, co-head of the climate department at the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, is interested in principle: “The federal government welcomes this private initiative and is looking to talk to the initiators. We are also in talks with other initiatives, such as the European Commission, which is also considering a CO2 transport infrastructure.”
Cement works and waste incineration plants are particularly suitable for CO2 separation.
One thing is already clear: Switzerland will not be able to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. Burkhardt calculates that around 12 million tons of CO2, or around a quarter of today’s emissions, are unavoidable: “Of these twelve million tons, we think that seven can be filtered directly from the air. Five million tons can be excreted from industrial emissions. Cement works or waste incineration plants are particularly suitable here.”
Tes has the oil industry behind him
Many questions are still open: For example, whether the CO2 should actually be fed into the hydrogen import cycle via the pipeline or whether it would be better to go straight to an underground storage facility in the North Sea, or whether the private test should actually be used.
The company has the oil industry behind it, which has an interest in ensuring that not everything is switched to electricity, but that the existing infrastructure can continue to be operated with gas – with green instead of brown.