When: 8th February 2022, 13.00-15.00 GMT
Where: Microsoft Teams
What: Carbon Removal Centre convened a diverse group of stakeholders to explore pathways for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) engagement in the Chemicals sector. This represented the ‘Engage’ stage of the Centre’s ‘Explore, Envision, Engage’ process, which is aimed at building organisations’ capacity on carbon removal from the bottom up.
Why: For 18 months, the corporate team at Carbon Removal Centre has been speaking to companies to identify the key questions and challenges they face on the topic of CDR. Previous work identified a series of ‘personas’ illustrating the different ways different corporates were approaching CDR. Each face different challenges, and may require different forms of support – yet this is not reflected in the current CDR debate.
To build on this, the corporate team sought to investigate whether these questions and personas were sector specific – with different sector contexts, including different emissions profiles; different infrastructure, expertise, and corporate values; and different value chains, shaping different approaches to CDR engagement. This would inform the clarification of CDR pathways for sectors.
Who: The session brought together 6 external participants, including:
- Chemicals Sector Corporate – Head of Sustainability
- Chemicals Sector Corporate – Process Engineer
- Chemicals Sector Networking Body – CEO
- CDR Supplier (Biochar) – Head of Carbon
- CDR Supplier (Enhanced Weathering) – CEO
- CDR Consultancy – Senior Consultant
Members of the Carbon Removal Centre team also participated, including:
- Victoria Harvey – Corporate Engagement Team – facilitation
- Francesca Battersby – Corporate Engagement Team – facilitation
- Tom Mansfield – Programme Coordinator – facilitation
- Richard Heap – Civil Society Engagement Team – representing civil society persona based on research
- Mark Turner – Communications Lead – representing media persona
How: In this session, participants were asked to assume a persona, and explore a hypothetical scenario from the perspective of that persona. The scenario involved a medium-sized, UK-based Chemicals company, Excellent Chemicals, making decisions about its CDR strategy, over three phases:
- Phase 1 – Strategic Planning: Excellent Chemicals has just announced a 2050 net zero target, and wants to release a high-level roadmap describing how it will get there in the next 2 years. They have assessed their emissions and find:
- They have stubborn emissions associated with their heat and energy demands and processes.
- They also have significant Scope 3 emissions.
- Phase 2 – Development and Implementation: Excellent Chemicals has created their roadmap, with a commitment to removals, but needs to clarify how it will deliver them. EC will explore Biochar or Enhanced Weathering options, either insetting within their operations or sourcing from partners.
- Phase 3 – Operation and Evaluation: Excellent Chemicals has its first projects up and running, working in conjunction with partners. Carbon is being stored on site.
Excellent Chemicals was asked to consider two possible pathways for CDR engagement:
- Insetting: Working with partners across the value chain to capture internal CDR opportunities.
- Sourcing from Partners: Providing finance or sourcing verified credits with a CDR supplier to support development of a new solution.
Biochar and enhanced weathering (EW) were explored, with representatives for each method present at the session.
For each phase of decision-making, participants were asked to consider:
- The key challenges that might be faced,
- The key risks and uncertainties,
- What might be needed, and who might be able to help, to address these.
The persona- and scenario-based approach seeks to separate the discussion and the outcomes from the specific organisations involved, and allow an open and exploratory discussion.
- Chemicals sector is likely to have huge demand for CDR in a supply-constrained market. Investment is likely needed. ‘You are in a market dynamic where demand is off the chart. What is the stick that is beating you up around your net zero commitment? Is it something that has come up around your marketing department, or is it investors saying next 5 years, or we are out? If it is the latter, you will have to invest big into this.’ [CDR Supplier (Enhanced Weathering) – CEO]
- Different options will need to be made available to these types of players, where internal capacity on CDR is low, but demand is high. ‘We are not that big compared to other Chemical suppliers, and we are not going to become the world expert in these particular processes. If we could we want to take more of a service delivery provider, then that would be preferable.’ [Chemicals Sector Corporate – Head of Sustainability]
- Standards or best practice are needed for insetting-based approaches. Moreover, without onerous standards, there is an opportunity to flexibly support supply scale-up through insetting. ‘The chemicals company already have some sort of rigorous carbon accounting approach, which might even be stronger then than what you can get through a certification or standardization.’ [CDR Consultancy – Senior Consultant]
- Numerous factors driving climate and CDR engagement in the Chemicals sector. This may extend also to the need for high-integrity engagement. ‘We have a lot of diverse customers as well that could potentially make supply decisions based on the performance of their suppliers (us).So the cost of capital will probably be [a key driver]. Investment pressure will be brought forward – but that will start showing up in lost revenues and lost opportunities. We also need to hire good people, people want to work on the right side of this discussion.’ [Chemicals Sector Corporate – Head of Sustainability]