Find the best sites to decarbonize

Site selection: 4 essential steps to find the best sites for carbon capture

As a decarbonization solution provider, you are faced with an incredible set of opportunities these days: all sites at some point need to decarbonize, or go out of business. But how do you go from the many sites to identify and focus on your best leads – the ones most likely to adopt your solutions? In this blog, we introduce a stepwise procedure to help you select sites. We help you narrow down your options, using carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) as the key topic. We also share lots of useful tools, maps and databases to help you do the job. 

What’s the potential out there?

Roughly speaking, 60% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from industrial sites. In very simple terms, think power plants and factories making cement, iron and steel, chemicals, pulp and paper, etc. Global net zero ambitions entail that these industrial sites need to cut their CO2 emissions. And that’s the case all around the world. 

It’s hard to find a figure for how many industrial sites we’re talking about. But all indications point to millions as the correct order of magnitude. Statista claims that there are more than 300 million companies world wide. Naturally, most are not manufacturing sites, but still, that’s an impressive number of companies. More narrowed down, Eurostat claims more than 2 million manufacturing sites in the European Union alone. Regardless of the actual number, industrial sites across the world are in the order of magnitude of millions of sites. The supply of opportunities is, in other words, pretty big.  

Industrial sites need help to decarbonize

These industrial sites are good at what they do, but they are not necessarily good at decarbonization. If they were, there would be a lot less emissions already. So, they need help to do this in a technically, economically and environmentally reasonable way. That’s where you, the decarbonization solution provider (DSP), come into the picture, specialized in your particular field. 

When we talk about DSPs, we think it can and should be pretty broad. These are companies that bring solutions in the form of products and/or services to help sites on their path to climate-friendly operations. Examples include energy efficiency, electrification, fuel switching such as hydrogen and renewable energy, as well as carbon capture. We’ll focus mostly on carbon capture in this blog, but know that we are equally fans of the others. And some of the tools we present here are likely also useful in the other segments as well. 

A lime production site, ready for carbon capture

Google Maps, 2023: A lime facility in Germany – just waiting to be decarbonized!

Site selection is key for making carbon capture projects

With so many opportunities, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be running around like a headless chicken, but not getting any traction. It’s not about the number of leads, it’s about the number of qualified leads. That’s why it’s helpful to be able to narrow down all the industrial sites within a segment or a region to a short list of the ones who are the most likely to need exactly what it is that you’re providing.

This gives your sales people a targeted, focused approach with an aim to spend time on the opportunities that matter. 

The purpose of the procedure below is simple: finding the best decarbonization opportunities for what you can deliver – particularly focused on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) value chains. Many of our clients for CaptureMap are looking to do exactly this.The procedure is iterative, so don’t be afraid to jump back and forth between the different stages. 

CaptureMap - ready to help you find the sites that matter

CaptureMap, 2023: Global overview: No, we do not think you should talk to 15000+ sites at the same time. 

Step 1: Build country understanding

Decarbonization pace is highly dependent on what the host country is doing. Countries with ambitious climate targets have an interest, and are likely to put policy measures in place, to help the industry move in the right direction. That means that it’ll either be more profitable to cut emissions, or more costly to do nothing or a combination. And these policy measures tend to make the industry follow suit. 

To best select sites, we’d start by building a country level understanding, we’d look for government goals and policy commitments, and support that with evidence of projects underway. The table below shows what we’d check out. 

TopicWhy they’re importantWhat we’d look forLinks
Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for GHG reductionsThese documents show how the governments of individual countries plan to align with the Paris agreement climate goals and are to be submitted regularly to the United Nations. What kind of climate ambitions does the country have in the near, medium and long term for the industrial sectors. 
Do any of the policy documents explicitly mention CCUS as part of their mitigation strategies?
UN Climate Change: List of all NDCs Great overview of all the NDCs out there, and update history. 
Other policy overviews Policy overviews on national or regional/state level are also particularly helpful. 
Regional overviews may give more granularity than the national level, especially in larger countries where state-levels have more influence and may enact stronger climate goals
Same as aboveClimate Action Tracker: Country summaries An aggregation of different policies and how they stack up to 1,5 and 2 degree targets. 
C2ES: Policy maps in the US A great resource for the US including state-by-state overviews of climate action plans, emission targets, carbon pricing, financial incentives for CCS, low carbon and alternative fuels +++
IEA’s Policies database Very comprehensive resource, use the filters on top right to narrow things down. 
Carbon taxesCall them sticks, carbon taxes make it more expensive to emit GHGs. Paying for emissions means that other mitigation options become more attractive, paving the way for CCUS.  Countries in which carbon taxes and/or emission schemes are in place, or will soon be in place, and finding those countries where they either are paying a lot already or will be. World Bank: Carbon pricing dashboard contains emission trading and carbon tax overviews across the world
CCUS projects underwayA great proxy for understanding policy maturity for CCUS. Which countries have CCUS projects under development? The more mature the projects (e.g. in EPC and/or in operation), typically the better indicator that they’re ready for more.
NB: The links give three different projects databases for capture, some of which also include transport and storage. In addition, we’ve also included a projects database for utilization. 
International Energy Agency: CCUS Projects tracker contains project info across the value chain (download the complete dataset)
Clean Air Task Force:Carbon Capture Activity and Project Map contains info project info across the value chain (download the complete dataset, three dots in the top right of the map)
Scottish CCS:  CCUS projects database contains info across the value chain. 
CO2 Value Europe: CCU projects mostly focused on utilization projects

A great overview of different climate-related policies, on a state-by-state level, is made by C2ES and shown below. A great way to build additional understanding in local policy drivers, attempting to find those regions more favorable to CCUS.

C2ES, 2023: Policy overview in the US

Step 2: Build segment understanding

Different industrial segments have different climate ambitions, also across different regions. We tend to look to global (or at least large, regional) industry associations for understanding what their overall ambitions are, and how CCUS plays in those ambitions. The advantage of this approach is that typically the industrial companies have had a large influence in formulating the climate plans, meaning they’re already familiar (if not onboard) internally with the measures proposed. 

For example, if the World Steel Association lists CCUS as one of its solutions to decarbonize iron and steel, that’s a good thing. The table below lists some of the climate pages of the larger industrial segments. There are lots of others. PS: Checking out their member pages is also a good way to get an introductory feel for who the main players are. And even further, they may be able to introduce you to the right contacts who work with decarbonization in these large industrial companies. 

Industrial segmentName and linkRegional coverage
CementGlobal Cement and Concrete Association: Roadmap for net zeroGlobal
Power GenerationElectricity Canda: Net zero
Eurelectric: Decarbonization
Iron and steelWorld Steel Association: Climate ActionGlobal
Waste-to-EnergyConfederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants: Climate roadmapEurope
Oil and gas – upstreamInternational Association of Oil & Gas Producers: CCS
Oil and gas climate initiative: CCUS
ChemicalsInternational council of chemical associations: Energy and climate changeGlobal

The illustration below shows the actions that the Global Concrete and Cement Association have outlined for the industry to reach a net zero future. An excellent starting point for understanding which decarbonization levers they’re looking at and where the potential lies within the different reduction actions.

GCCA, 2023: Concrete Future – Roadmap to Net Zero. Carbon capture as the single largest climate action – a good sign. 

Step 3: Build company understanding

In every industry segment, you’ll have leaders, fast followers, mid-packs and the laggards. Chances are you don’t want to spend your time on the laggards. A neat way to gain insight into a company’s CCUS plans is to skim through their annual sustainability reports. If they don’t have a sustainability report (NB, may be integrated in their annual report), that’s often a bad sign in itself. If they do have one, read about their ambitions and try to understand which solutions they’re going after to reach their ambitions. If CCUS is mentioned, great. If it’s not, is that because it was considered and rejected, or because they haven’t included that in their scope of studies? 

We typically search company name and “sustainability report” to quickly get our hands on their latest reports. Often it’ll be for the company as a whole, and not individual assets. But corporate targets have a nice way of trickling down to their individual sites. 

Heidelberg Materials, 2023: Annual and sustainability report. Carbon Capture mentioned on page 3 – bodes well. 

Step 4: Build site understanding

With good countries, good segments and good companies narrowed down – it’s time to start looking for eligible sites. And eligibility comes with a lot of boxes to check off. 

Site understanding means first and foremost what’s happening at the given industrial site. How large are the CO2 emissions, is any of it biogenic, what are annual variabilities, do they pay CO2 taxes, what are the equipment laydown options for capture like, etc. Beyond that, it’s also about understanding what’s happening and possible in the backyard. What are the transport infrastructure options: is the site nearby canals or the coast with access to a harbour, is it close to existing or proposed pipelines, or are there railways nearby. And on top of that, are there any other decarbonization opportunities (either new or ongoing) nearby where it makes sense to explore joint solutions. 

Timing is not to be underestimated. A site with capture already in operation is unlikely to be in the market to consider alternative capture technologies. Whereas, a site dipping its toes in early feasibility is perhaps too early and too uncertain for someone who’d like to position an e-fuels production facility nearby. 

Building local site understanding is therefore quite an undertaking, and by no means do we think the list below is complete. It may also be the most time consuming part of the effort, meaning the step that is best saved for quite late in the process. 

TopicWhyWhat we’d look forLink
CO2 emissionsSize, biogenic and fossil CO2 emissions, emission trading scheme info, emission trends dictates the magnitude of the problemMap-based overview of sites where you can search for individual sites to get the best possible CO2 informationCaptureMap (we’re a little biased on this one!)
A good free resource is at ClimateTrace
Other asset informationAnything more that you can know about the asset, the better prepared you’ll beStart year of the asset, expected lifetime, production capacity, flue gas concentrations, availability of waste heat, seasonal variability in output, etc. This is difficult to find without talking to the sites directly. Some cool information available in the excellent GEM Wiki pages, with asset information for assets within coal power, natural gas, steel, and bioenergy. 
Infrastructure nearbyOnce you’ve captured that CO2, it needs to go somewhere. Understanding infrastructure options is the next question on the list. Anything that can help transport the CO2 out of the industrial site such as pipelines, harbours, storage terminals, railwaysIn Europe, the EU Joint Research Center is putting together a very neat and comprehensive map solution that also contains a fair bit of infrastructure: Energy and Industry Geography Lab
The US Energy Atlas is also useful with lots of info on pipelines, transmission grids, and power generation of all types.
Synergies of scale nearbyIf there are other CCUS projects nearby, there could be a golden opportunity to tag onto existing infrastructure. 
Alternatively, other industrial sites nearby that share similar decarbonization drivers could be an excellent starting point for creating a joint initiative.
Sites nearby with similar decarbonization drivers. 
Planned or operational capture projects in the backyard of these industrial sites.
The project databases listed above under Step 1 as well as CaptureMap

An example of an excellent infrastructure tool comes through EPAs map solutions. In the case below, we’ve picked out natural gas pipelines across the US, including border crossings to/from Canada and Mexico.

EIA, 2023: Natural gas pipelines in the US

Putting it all together

We like structure, so we think we’d build a table with a way of scoring the individual aspects for the different sites. It could be quantitative scoring with weighing, or it could be merely qualitative. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your most promising leads, it’s time to pick up the phone. 

Calling can be intimidating, but it can also be very efficient. Try to look for roles that have sustainability responsibilities. LinkedIN can be helpful in this aspect. Find the company of interest, and search for people within this particular role. It’s not very likely that you’ll find direct numbers to these people online, but calling the company switchboard works better than you might think. You could try this approach directly on site level, but also on corporate level for larger companies with several sites. 

If calling doesn’t get you anywhere, there are other ways of getting in touch. LinkedIN is one option. Trying to find presentations that the person in question has given previously, and that’s available online, often comes with contact information. Or go to industry conferences that these companies attend. 

Results are not guaranteed, but that’s both the exciting and challenging part of sales. If you have a decarbonization solution that can make a difference out there, it’s worth it to spend the time to find the right leads. This procedure can help get you started. 

Let us know if you know of other resources that should go on here!

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