One aspect that did surprise researchers, on the other hand, was the regulatory difficulties encountered when trying to transport CO2 through several countries to Iceland. This was the first instance of cross-border carbon dioxide transport for storage. “A lot of CO2 is needed in the food production industry, and can be transported across borders without any problem, labelled as chemicals. But if the carbon dioxide is in the form of waste – as in our case – the regulatory environment is very unclear,” explains Marco Mazzotti, project coordinator and ETH professor. The project team therefore came to the conclusion: if Switzerland wants to store CO2 on a large scale and create incentives for companies in future, it needs to work with its European neighbours to agree on clear regulations.
Many research questions still unanswered
Even though the technologies trialled in the project function correctly, much research is still needed in the area of CO2 management. It is also vital to make sure the technologies are worked up to a commercial scale. In 2023 ETH Zurich, together with its partners in politics, science and industry, set up the “Coalition for Green Energy and Storage”, one of whose aims is to accelerate the adoption and roll-out on an industrial scale of existing technologies for capturing CO2, producing carbon-neutral gases and fossil fuels, and permanently storing CO2.
Another question ETH researchers are addressing is whether CO2 can also be stored underground closer to home, in Switzerland. A possible injection test in a borehole in Trüllikon no longer required by the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA) could provide some initial answers.