Carbon capture, usage and Storage. It’s time SA takes a pivotal role

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.

Published Jan 17, 2024


The Council for Geoscience is hosting technical workshops for geoscience on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technical seminars and technical work.

The workshops are aimed at promoting and driving strategic objectives that the government has identified in the CCUS economy and market segment. The workshops are held throughout the nine provinces and led by the Mosa Mabuza, the CEO of the Council for GeoSciences.

The Council for Geoscience has been engaged in groundbreaking projects, study findings and major recent discoveries in the geological space in energy, coal, gas, the oil sectors and mining in general. Through its work, it has been a frontier state agency leading government policy in the various workstreams pioneered by the council and guided by legislation.

South Africa should be the leader in CCUS economy and greening of the environment and reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

If history is fair, Africa, and South Africa in particular, deserves the leading place in pioneering, research, innovation and driving the best in class technologies and ways in which CCUS is absorbed in the atmosphere to drive the future carbon economy and economic growth of South Africa.

There are three main streams of CCUS scope space to participate in within the carbon marketplace: environmental, geological and technological. The technical methods of CCUS are relatively well known.

From time to time, a question is asked: “How much does Africa contribute to global emissions?”

According to news channel Al Jazeera, “Africa contributes just 4% of global carbon emissions despite being the continent that will suffer the most from climate change.”

The entire South African economy including our mining, energy, agriculture, automotive and manufacturing sectors consumes as little as 35 000 megawatts of electricity in comparison to global electricity consumption. Yet South Africa and Africa are pressured by developed First World countries to bear the biggest responsibility for cleaning the environment.

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is the main predominant greenhouse gas,and it is an industrial by-product in the form of gas emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. It occurs also through deforestation and in industrial cement production.

There are two CCUS projects undergoing proof in the concept stage. South Africa is the leader in the energy sector and technology. One of the best sites developed for nuclear waste materials storage. It is part of the waste material and carbon capture project although not recognised officially as a carbon capture project.

Also in the country, we are using nature to our best advantage. South Africa is among the leading countries that has nature reserves, untouched rural native lands, the cleanest untouched biosphere with nature and man-made eco-friendly ecological communities and rural villages among one of the world best nature reserves and wetlands.

CCUS is big business today. It is time South Africa plays a pivotal role in positioning to take advantage of carbon industry opportunities. Carbon markets, trading and carbon credits exchange is a massive booming business.

We need the state to create an enabling environment for taking advantage of the carbon markets opportunities. At the end of the day, the carbon value of any country will dictate the economic path of whether the economy will succeed or collapse economically. There is a global framework on how carbon will be sequestrated, stored and traded for use.

Statista research states: “(The) status of CCS projects involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO₂) at emission sources, such as power plants or industrial facilities, and storing it deep underground.”

In 2022, the global CO₂ capacity of CCS facilities under development rose by 44% to 242 million metric tons per annum (Mtpa), with operational facilities capturing around 42 Mtpa. Most of the CO₂ captured by active CCS facilities was at natural gas processing plants, but most capture capacity is expected to be used for the power sector and ammonia and hydrogen manufacture by 2030.

The destination for captured CO₂ was also expected to shift in the coming years from enhanced oil recovery to dedicated geological storage, it said.

“In 15 of the 39 operational CCS facilities worldwide can be found in the United States. The US is a world leader in CCS development and deployment, and has the largest number of CCS projects in the pipeline by far, at 104. As of late 2023, there were 265 commercial CCS facilities in the project pipeline worldwide.” Statista research noted.

My argument today is not premised just on the technology opportunities but mainly on geo-political and socio-economic aspects that are to determine who benefits from carbon economy and opportunities. I am of the strong view that as a country, we deserve the global lion share of carbon markets and trading opportunities.

South Africa is the least polluter globally, most ecologically balanced country with vast untouched land and resources buried down beneath the earth. If Western countries are honest, South Africa must be given the most grants and financial aid and support to develop and pioneer the carbon economy.

And the government should make sure that the major beneficiaries of CCUS should be SA natives. A detailed plan to assist communities in setting up schemes to benefit from the CCUS value chain streams should be established.

Communities should be pulled into the carbon economy and must make obscene wealth from the creation of carbon credits and trading of carbon credits.

The carbon capture market opportunity could create for SA the first of its kind Native Lands Sovereign Wealth Funds, using CCUS carbon capture economy opportunities. Carbon Trading and Exchanges can no longer be an exclusive preserve and terrain of the few ultra wealthy and the obscene rich in our country and global multinationals.

It is a well known fact that there are fewer than 100 men over the age of 65 who are rich old white men who run the JSE and everything traded in JSE markets. That ownership pattern must change and should reflect the true demographics of South Africa in terms of ownership, equity and participation patterns.

Native South African communities should have a significant share of wealth and value that will flow from CCUS economy purely by just availing their tribal lands used in the CCUS economic sector. That value should be shared, whether be it in shares, stocks or dividends and market opportunities.

Land will be more valuable and highly scarce as a commodity in the coming years, due to the newly discovered value in the carbon capture sector of the economy. More and more projects will be coming into stream and more carbon capture project developers will enter the market.

Those that run the funds on the JSE bourse, those that trade and buy and sell and carbon credits exchanges should be held to high standards of making sure that they pass the earned dividends from carbon credits and properly pass it through to the traditional native communities for their work in CCUS economy.

For instance, in the environmental market segment. Communities have opportunities to use their traditional native lands to develop green ecological projects for greening the environment as means to capture carbon in the atmosphere. And communities should earn the green credits with the opportunity to trade those carbon credits in the JSE carbon markets exchange platform.

The challenge is that if the government decides to formally regulate the carbon capture marketplace, it will as usual create huge regulatory red tape and bureaucracy hurdles and effectively slow down the growth of the sector.

The government should play a minimal role except to participate in the sector through enabling CCUS projects to acquire needed permits such as environmental and recognised technical standards in the technology specification arena.

The projects are mainly driven by the private sector and should be seen as free market opportunities. Less government interference and regulation and more private sector involvement and participation. Over the years, we have seen how the state can slow down economic growth and transformation by over regulation and rent seeking through unnecessary taxation.

* The views in this column are independent of Business Report and Independent Media.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.