Battery Energy Storage: A Glossary of Grid Applications
September 21, 2021
It’s no secret that today’s electric grid is changing in big ways.
Instead of centralized generation simply delivering electricity to end consumers, distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar and electric vehicles now create unpredictable loads and two-way power flows.
While large-scale renewable energy leads us down the critical path to decarbonization, it also creates significant imbalances between supply and demand, among other challenges. At the same time, consumers are often left in the dark with rising utility bills and frequent grid outages.
That’s where energy storage comes in to help. Because a battery can both “consume” and dispatch energy, it can be useful in a wide range of grid applications for the producer, consumer, and prosumer. Its quick responsiveness and flexibility help grid operators increase efficiency and reliability, while also reducing costs and encouraging renewable energy integration. For consumers, battery energy storage (BES) can enable much-desired energy independence and control over costs.
From storing energy produced from a rooftop solar system to ensuring a stable, cost-effective grid for millions of customers, this “Swiss army knife” can be leveraged to provide a wide range of benefits. This article provides a glossary of the various front-of-the-meter and behind-the-meter grid applications of BES.
The value of BES for electricity customers can be categorized into two groups: electricity savings and backup power.
BES can be strategically used to shift electricity demand from one specific period to another, known as load shifting. When executed correctly under the appropriate circumstances, load shifting can significantly reduce electricity costs.
Peak Shaving / Demand Charge Management
BES can be used to reduce a customer’s peak demand. This can be particularly advantageous for commercial customers in lowering demand charge costs. A demand charge is part of a commercial monthly utility bill that is based on the customer’s peak demand in kilowatts (kW) during that billing period. Especially for consumers of variable or peaky loads, the demand charge can account for up to 70% of a commercial customer’s monthly bill. If the battery can be discharged during a customer’s peak energy demand, then the peak can be “shaved” or flattened, thus reducing the demand charge and providing significant savings.
Time-of-Use Rate Management (Energy Arbitrage)
A utility time-of-use (TOU) rate plan is a type of time-varying rate structure, meaning that electricity prices vary depending on the season, day of the week, and/or time of day. BES owners with TOU plans save money through what is known as energy arbitrage: by charging the battery during “off-peak” periods when rates are lowest, and discharging the battery during “peak periods'' when rates are highest. This strategy can be particularly effective when combined with onsite solar systems, as the battery can be charged with free solar energy during the day. It can then be discharged later in the evening or during other times when prices are high.
Reliable back-up power is one of the most common reasons that homeowners purchase BES. As extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires become more frequent, customers are increasingly subjected to grid outages and unreliable power, so some are taking matters into their own hands and installing systems that can power their homes and businesses when the grid is down.
Home & Commercial Back-Up Power
BES can power critical devices during power outages, providing essential medical support to vulnerable populations, keeping families and employees safe and comfortable, and avoiding unnecessary operational costs and risks. Current lithium-ion battery technologies can cost-effectively power critical devices for up to about four hours.
Microgrid / Off-Grid Support
BES can also provide support for off-grid energy systems. A system that pairs batteries with off-grid generation sources like solar, wind, or diesel generators can be considered a microgrid, which can operate autonomously from the grid as a reliable power source. This application is still relatively rare, although it is growing as more look for ways to ensure energy security.
On the bulk and distribution side, BES provides a range of ancillary and grid balancing services that enable utilities to minimize costs while also creating more stability for a renewable-integrated grid.
Grid operators employ a multitude of strategies to ensure supply and demand are balanced and that the grid is operating stably and reliably. The flexibility and agility of BES means that it can provide effective support for many of these services.
Frequency regulation is a vital part of grid services, as the frequency of the grid’s alternating current (AC) needs to be held at a steady rate in order to effectively coordinate generation assets and maintain grid stability. Traditionally, frequency regulation has been largely managed by ramping generation assets up and down. BES is an effective tool for frequency regulation due to its ability to respond accurately to frequency fluctuations by injecting and absorbing power in mere milliseconds. This service is especially valuable in grids where large amounts of variable renewable resources can cause deviations in frequency.
Black start describes the capability of restoring power to an offline or idling power plant without the help of grid-sourced power. This is a vital service, as power outages can render the grid unable to support essential generation assets. Traditionally, diesel generators have been used to provide black start services. However, onsite BES can provide black start support while avoiding the fuel costs associated with a diesel generator. Batteries that are installed specifically for black start can also provide other grid services when not called upon for black start.
Load & Generation Shifting
Similar to behind-the-meter customers, electricity providers can reduce costs via energy arbitrage by purchasing energy when prices are low and dispatching the stored energy when prices are high.
Renewable Integration & Curtailment Reduction
Renewable energy resources like solar and wind are variable and intermittent - for example, the sun only shines during the day. What’s more, high solar and wind production do not always align with periods of high energy demand. BES enables grid operators to shift renewable energy supply to other times when demand is high but production is low.
Firm Capacity / Peak Shaving
BES can help grid operators reliably meet demand by dispatching energy during demand spikes. Traditionally, peak demand has been addressed by natural gas “peaker” plants. However, BES can dispatch energy quickly and cost-effectively to provide capacity for peak demand.
Virtual Power Plant
As the number of DERs grows, utilities have been increasingly seeking out ways to use them to provide value to the grid. A virtual power plant (VPP) is a group of distributed sources that can be remotely aggregated to provide flexible capacity and other grid support. VPPs are virtual because they are not physically centralized, but instead aggregated and controlled by software.
Transmission and Distribution Investment Deferral
Transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure must be built to meet future peak grid demand needs. These upgrades are costly and can take years to be approved and constructed - all to meet a peak demand that may only occur for several hours each year. When placed in substations, BES can defer the need for new T&D investments by shaving peak demand with stored energy.
The Swiss Army Knife for Grid Decarbonization
As we gradually decarbonize the electricity grid, we are seeing a rapidly evolving, intricate web of smart devices and distributed generation. Battery energy storage, with a wide range of applications, will continue to be a critical component due to its unique flexibility and dynamic response capabilities that allow utilities and empower consumers to control their energy future.
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Today, 65% of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) capacity is used to capture emissions from natural gas processing.
By 2030, hydrogen production, power generation, and heat will be the largest sectoral applications for CCUS.
CCUS is set to grow globally, with North America and Europe poised for particularly rapid growth over the next decade.
The vast majority of the captured carbon will be stored in permanent storage infrastructure by 2030, outpacing carbon use in enhanced oil recovery.
Expected CCUS capacity growth is still not sufficient to meet the IEA’s Net-Zero Emissions Scenario for 2050. Policymakers must enact measures from a wide range of policy and regulatory options available to them to further accelerate CCUS growth.
Driven by ambitious government emissions-reduction targets, a wide range of decarbonization strategies are underway all around the world, from renewable energy production to transportation electrification. Recently, however, a very different decarbonization approach has started to gain traction: carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Instead of replacing a polluting product or process with one that does not produce emissions, CCUS technologies remove carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from power plants and industrial processes, as well as directly from the atmosphere. The captured carbon can be stored (usually injected deep underground) or used for a wide range of applications, including the manufacturing of construction material, fertilizers, and bioplastics.
Despite its growing popularity, CCUS can be a controversial approach to climate change mitigation. Some opponents argue that developing CCUS technologies gives big emitters like fossil fuel companies a convenient excuse to keep extracting fossil fuels. Some observers also argue that relying too heavily on CCUS, rather than accelerating the use of emissions mitigation technologies, will not help the world meet crucial climate targets.
Despite such skepticism about CCUS, a growing number of governments and firms are deploying CCUS as part of their decarbonization strategies. This is because while the rapid deployment of renewable energy remains the primary strategy for global carbon emission mitigation, even in the most generous of projections, renewables alone will not be enough to meet key climate targets. This is why authoritative projections like those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency (IEA) also include the use of CCUS technologies.
In this article, we investigate the current state and future projections of the global CCUS landscape: What sectors are employing it, and how is the captured carbon used? How do we expect CCUS deployment to grow in the future? What policies and incentives are necessary for CCUS to reach its potential as a key pillar of a decarbonized society?
To answer these questions, we analyzed the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) CCUS Projects Database. This database covers all CO2 capture, transport, storage, and utilization projects worldwide that have been commissioned since the 1970s and have an announced capacity of more than 100,000 tons per year (or 1,000 tons per year for direct air capture facilities).
Today’s Global CCUS Market
Natural Gas Processing Dominates Global CCUS Applications Today
For the sake of this analysis, “sectoral application” refers to the industry in which CCUS is deployed to capture the emitted carbon before it is stored or transported for use. Broadly speaking, there are eight sectoral applications for CCUS technologies today:
Natural gas processing: CCUS is used to capture carbon emissions from purifying raw natural gas to produce pipeline quality natural gas.
Hydrogen and ammonia production: Hydrogen is a molecule that does not emit carbon when combusted, and has the potential as a clean fuel for the industrial, transport, and power sectors. Ammonia can also be used as a zero-carbon fuel for power generation and a carrier for hydrogen. Yet most hydrogen and ammonia production today uses fossil fuels. CCUS offers a potential solution, as capturing the carbon emitted from hydrogen and ammonia production is a cheaper strategy than using renewable energy to produce these fuels in most regions.
Biofuels: Facilities that produce biofuels like bioethanol, biodiesel, and biogas are also responsible for CO2 emissions, and carbon capture technologies can be used to remove these emissions.
Other fuel transformation: Carbon capture technology is used to sequester emissions from facilities that produce and refine fuels other than natural gas, hydrogen, ammonia and biofuels.
Iron and steel plants: Some industrial processes, notably iron and steel manufacturing, are highly energy intensive and cannot easily be decarbonized. CCUS is one of the most promising emissions reduction methods for these facilities.
Other industry: CCUS is applied to industrial facilities other than iron and steel, such as aluminum smelters, pulp and paper mills, etc.
Power and heat generation: Power and heat generation account for about 30% of primary greenhouse gas emissions globally. Owners of fossil fuel power plants use CCUS to cut those emissions when power and heat are generated.
Directly from the air: Through direct air capture (DAC), CO2 can be removed directly from the atmosphere.
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As the chart above shows, natural gas processing is the dominant of these eight CCUS applications; today, 65% of all CCUS capacity is in the natural gas processing sector. Natural gas processing plants in North America were the earliest adopters of CCUS in the 1970s and 1980s because of the relatively low cost of capturing carbon from these processes and the ability to supply it to local oil producers for oil recovery operations.
Over the last two decades, carbon capture capacity in natural gas processing has increased by 265%, from 8.5 megatons (Mt) of CO2 per year in 2000 to over 31 Mt CO2 per year in 2022. This growth follows the steady increase in natural gas production globally.
Other applications pale in comparison. 7.3 Mt CO2 per year is captured from other fuel transformation processes, 3.5 Mt CO2 from industrial plants other than iron and steel, and 1.6 Mt CO2 from the production of biofuels. The sectors where carbon capture technology will be essential in decarbonization efforts – power generation and heat, as well as iron and steel manufacturing – are still lagging behind at 1.3 and 0.9 Mt CO2 per year, respectively. At 0.004 Mt CO2 per year, DAC capacity is also still in its infancy.
CCUS deployment in sectors other than natural gas processing face a common barrier: the lack of commercial value in capturing CO2. This, combined with the extremely high cost of developing a CCUS project in the absence of substantial and consistent policy support, has made CCUS deployment in industrial applications commercially unattractive. DAC projects are especially costly because the technology is still in its infancy, so there are relatively few companies that develop them.
Policy Support is Scaling CCUS
To address these common barriers, governments have been proactive in passing and implementing measures to encourage the growth of CCUS projects over the past few years. Here, we highlight several of these policy initiatives in North America and Europe.
In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 offers a considerable boost for CCUS through a tax credit. This tax credit nearly doubles for carbon that is captured from power and industrial plants, and more than triples for CO2 captured from DAC: $60/tonne for utilization from industrial and power sectors, $85/tonne for storing CO2 captured from industrial and power generation facilities in saline geologic formations, $130/tonne for utilization from DAC, and $180/tonne for storage in saline geologic formations from DAC.
This support is coupled with funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which provides approximately $12 billion across the CCUS value chain in the form of R&D funding, loans, and permitting support over the next 5 years. These funding measures by the US government are the most ambitious of any country.
In Canada, the 2022 federal budget included an investment tax credit for CCUS projects that permanently store captured CO2 between 2022 and 2030, valued between 37.5 - 60% of the project cost depending on the type of project. 34 CCUS projects were announced in 2022 and 2023, which will help increase Canada’s CCUS capacity by almost 27 Mt CO2 per year by 2030.
In the European Union, funding programs and regulatory reforms will fuel much of this projected growth, particularly the Connecting Europe Facility - Energy ($6.3 billion between 2021 and 2027) and the Innovation Fund ($41.2 billion between 2020 and 2030) that fund CCUS and other clean energy projects.
Global Oil and Gas Players Lead the Market
While government policies are pivotal for expanding global CCUS capacity, it is companies that ultimately plan, develop, and operate these projects. This section identifies the major players listed in the IEA CCUS Database and highlights the efforts of some of these companies.
The table below shows the ten companies involved in the largest CO2 capture capacities and the core sector in which each company operates.
Announced Avg. Capacity (Mt CO2/yr)
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Open Grid Europe (OGE)
Oil and gas
Oil and gas
Several patterns can be observed. First is the predominance of oil and gas companies in the CCUS industry. Oil majors including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Equinor are also some of the largest players developing CO2 capture infrastructure. With the recent announcement by ExxonMobil to acquire Denbury to expand its CCUS and enhanced oil recovery (more on this below) capacity, the oil majors in this list are set to consolidate even further. Although not included in the top 10, other US oil companies such as Valero and Chevron are also leading players in this field.
Also notable is the absence of companies that specialize in carbon capture in the top 10. Recently, several firms have garnered attention for their proprietary CCUS technologies, such as CarbFix, CarbonFree, Aker Carbon Capture, and LanzaTech. Yet compared to the multinational energy and manufacturing companies that occupy the top spots in the industry, these pure plays are still small, with total CCUS project capacities of less than 5 Mt CO2 per year each. However, the entry of these specialized companies into the CCUS value chain is encouraging. The IEA notes that the value chain that has historically been dominated by vertically integrated oil and gas companies are starting to break up, allowing new players to innovate and reduce costs in parts of the chain.
To offer deeper insight into the projects in which these companies are involved, we highlight four companies from the table above.
Equinor is a Norwegian oil and gas company whose portfolio also encompasses renewables and other low-carbon solutions. It is the largest provider of pipeline gas to Europe.
Since 1991, Equinor has been a partner in 23 CCUS projects, totalling an average announced capacity of 134 Mt of CO2 per year.
19 of these projects are still in the planning phase, 2 two are operational, 1 one is under construction and one has been decommissioned.
8 of these projects capture carbon from hydrogen/ammonia production processes, 8 others are related to CO2 transport and/or storage, and 3 are applied to natural gas processing.
In 20 of the 23 projects, the captured CO2 is stored permanently.
All but one of these projects are located in Europe (including the UK), with the sole exception of one project being in Algeria.
Shell, a British multinational oil and gas company that was formed in 1907, is vertically integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry.
Shell participates in 28 CCUS projects around the world, with a total capacity of 62.9 Mt of CO2 per year.
23 of these projects are in the planning phase, with the expected operation date ranging from 2024 to 2030.
3 of the projects are already operational, and 2 are under construction.
These projects’ applications vary widely, from 11 projects dedicated to CO2 transport and/or storage, 6 to hydrogen and ammonia production, 3 to natural gas processing, 3 to other fuel transformation, and the rest applied to power and heat, biofuels, and other industries.
In 22 of these projects, the captured CO2 is put into dedicated storage.
Air Liquide is a French multinational supplier of industrial gasses and services to a variety of industries, including medical, chemical, and electronic manufacturers.
It is involved in 29 CCUS projects whose average announced capacity totals 51.9 Mt CO2 per year.
17 of these projects transport the captured CO2, while 6 are in other fuel transformation, 3 are applied to cement manufacturing, 2 are in the iron and steel sectors, and 1 in other industry.
All 29 projects are still in the planning phase, with the expected operation date ranging from 2024 to 2040.
27 of these projects will be located in Europe, and the rest in the US.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is an industrial and electrical equipment manufacturer headquartered in Japan, whose wide-ranging portfolio includes aerospace and automotive components, air conditioners, utility vehicles, defense equipment and weapons, and power systems.
Mitsubishi is a partner on 17 CCUS projects, totaling 27.3 Mt CO2 per year in average announced capacity.
All 17 are still in the planning phase and will be located mostly in North America and the UK.
Their sectoral applications will be varied, with 5 projects capturing CO2 from hydrogen/ ammonia production processes, 3 from power and heat, 3 from natural gas processing, 3 dedicated to CO2 transport and storage, 2 from cement manufacturing, and the rest from other industries.
The CO2 captured from 11 of the projects will be permanently stored.
2030 Global Projections
The IEA data includes CCUS projects that have been announced as of March 2023, and whose construction and operation are expected in the future. In this section, we use that data to predict developments in the global CCUS landscape between now and 2030, both in terms of the geographic distribution of growth and the different fates of carbon.
North American and European Policy Will Drive Lead in Regional Capacity Growth
Growing recognition of the role of CCUS technologies in meeting net zero goals is translating into increased policy support all over the world, which in turn is spurring increased growth in CCUS projects. The predominant forms of policy support are tax credits for projects, funding for R&D, and regulatory reforms. Owing to these measures, over 140 new projects were announced globally in 2022, bringing the global announced CCUS capacity up to 45.8 Mt CO2 per year. This compares to 35.7 Mt CO2 per year in 2017, a 28.3% increase over five years.
Looking ahead to 2030, this growth in CCUS capacity is set to accelerate. We can see this trend in the chart below.
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North America will likely account for the vast majority of the increase in CCUS capacity over the next decade, rising roughly 6x from 27.7 Mt CO2 per year in 2023 to 161.8 Mt CO2 per year in 2030. This capacity expansion is in large part due to the region’s established policies designed to stimulate CCUS market growth. Country-specific analysis reveals that the United States will be the primary policy driver of this acceleration, with Canada playing a secondary but important role. With around 80 projects planned for operation by 2030, the CO2 capture capacity in the US is expected to increase by nearly a factor of five, from over 20 Mt CO2 to over 100 Mt CO2 per year, more than 60% of North America’s expected growth.
Although not as drastically as in North America, Europe is also expecting capacity growth, from 2.5 Mt CO2 per year in 2023 to 95 Mt CO2 in 2030 – a nearly 40x increase in less than a decade.
Changes in the Fate of Carbon: High Hopes for Dedicated Storage
Rapid CCUS deployment over the next several years will be accompanied by changes in how the captured carbon is used, known as the “fate of carbon.” As of 2022, most of the captured CO2 was used in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), at 39.9 Mt CO2 per year. EOR is the process of extracting oil from an oil field that has already gone through the primary and secondary stages of oil recovery. In other words, the use of CO2 in EOR is a way to rejuvenate oil production at mature oil fields. This explains the fact that large oil producers have been the leading players developing CCUS capacity and the recent renewed interest from many of those same companies. Although CO2-EOR can produce “carbon negative” oil (depending on a variety of factors), it is often not considered a reliable decarbonization strategy. At the same time, the clear commercial value of additional oil production has driven CO2 use in EOR to be the earliest and primary fate of carbon.
Starting in 2023, this is predicted to change: As shown in the chart below, dedicated storage is set for a take-off as the biggest fate of carbon. By 2030, we expect that 426.5 Mt CO2 per year will be put into dedicated storage infrastructure around the world, which is more than a 38-fold increase over eight years. On the other hand, EOR is projected to experience a more modest 1.7x growth.
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Note: The second fastest growing fate of carbon is labeled “Unknown/Unspecified” because the IEA’s CCUS Database is based on publicly available information, and unfortunately many of the project announcements do not make the fate of carbon clear.
This projected growth in dedicated storage is encouraging. Since more CO2 needs to be sequestered than can be used, much of the captured CO2 needs to be permanently stored. This means that dedicated storage infrastructure is a prerequisite for carbon capture technologies to be deployed.
Many factors, both market- and policy-driven, are propelling the expansion of carbon storage. A growing number of companies, particularly in the manufacturing and energy sectors, are adopting net-zero targets that carve out a role for CCUS. Another factor is the growing proliferation of CCUS “hubs,” or clusters of infrastructure to capture, transport, store and/or use carbon. These hubs help to improve the economics of and therefore facilitate investments in CCUS projects. In the US, a slew of policy incentives, such as the 45Q tax credit passed in 2018 and those in the IRA and IIJA mentioned above, are boosting investments in CCUS projects. In the EU, the revenue from the Emissions Trading System began funding carbon capture, transportation, and storage projects from 2020.
The predicted growth of dedicated permanent storage infrastructure is welcome news from a climate perspective: According to the IEA, getting to net-zero emissions by 2050 requires that 95% of captured CO2 be permanently stored. There is more than enough geologic CO2 storage capacity globally to meet climate goals, and the technology for achieving this – such as pipelines for CO2 transportation, mechanisms for injecting, trapping, and monitoring CO2 underground – is well-established. Since CO2 transport and storage infrastructure needs to be operational before CO2 capture projects are developed, this projection is encouraging.
Barriers Remaining for Future CCUS Growth
More Policy Support is Needed to Boost Private Investment and Innovation in CCUS
Including all announced and planned CCUS projects in the IEA CCUS Database, the global CCUS capacity will reach 265.25 Mt CO2 per year by 2030. How does this projected increase compare to the amount of CO2 that needs to be sequestered to reach the IEA’s net-zero scenario?
Sadly, it falls far short of the target. According to the IEA, to stay aligned with its Net Zero by 2050, CCUS technologies need to capture 1.66 gigatons of CO2 (Gt CO2) per year by 2030 globally, and 7.6 Gt CO2 per year by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions. This means that current and planned capacity of CCUS projects expected in 2030 only accounts for less than 20% of the IEA’s target for 2030. The chart below puts this gap into perspective.
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Given this gap, what more can governments and industry around the world do to rapidly scale up CCUS capacity to meet this target over the next decade? The IEA outlines four high-level priorities:
Creating the conditions that make private investment in CCUS more commercially attractive. Policymakers can achieve this by attaching value on CO2 emissions, providing funding support for capital and operating costs for early projects, and allocating risks across the public and private sectors.
Facilitate the development of CCUS hubs with shared CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. Identifying opportunities for CCUS deployment in specific industrial regions and establishing a business model for carbon transport and storage infrastructure, will go a long way toward this goal.
Identifying CO2 storage. The first step would be to characterize and assess geological CO2 storage around the world. The second is to establish a robust legal and regulatory framework around CO2 storage. Lastly, a concerted campaign to support public awareness will ensure that the general public understands and accepts CO2 storage technology.
Boosting innovation to reduce costs and increase the availability of critical technologies. This can be done through public-private partnerships in R&D and increased funding to revamp innovation in key CCUS applications (especially heavy industry, CO2 use for synthetic fuels, and carbon removal).
The policy support in North America, Europe and elsewhere mentioned above are instances of governments working toward meeting these priorities. But there are additional policy and technological developments that promise to accelerate growth faster than projected in this report.
The US Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed rules that would require power plants to capture or otherwise reduce their carbon emissions. Technological innovations are taking place in chemical absorption systems that can increase CO2 capture rate. The International CCS Knowledge Centre’s feasibility study found that retrofitting existing power plants with CCUS can be cost-competitive, suggesting that the barriers for power plant operators to build retrofit capture facilities may be lower than we assume today. All of these developments point toward the possibility of more rapid CCUS deployment than the IEA dataset projects.
Technologies to capture carbon from the atmosphere or from point sources are integral to the net zero roadmap. The key take-away is that the business case for CCUS is getting stronger each year as policymakers and investors support its development as a necessary climate solution. Yet, much more rapid deployment is necessary if we are to meet emissions targets to stabilize the climate by mid-century. As North America and Europe are set to experience accelerated growth in CCUS capacity, they may act as the catalysts for policymakers and project developers in other regions to also scale up their CCUS capabilities.
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