Challenges for the Implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage (Ccs) in Brazil: a Socio-Technical Approach

  • Karen L. MascarenhasEmail author
  • Drielli Peyerl
  • Evandro M. Moretto
  • Julio R. Meneghini
Original Article


The object of this work is to discuss the challenges for the implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Brazil. The socio-technical framework is employed as a methodological tool to analyse these challenges, considering the feasibility of new technologies in the Brazilian mitigation mix. In the specific case of implementing CCS technologies in Brazil as a mechanism to contribute to the issues related to climate change, the uncertainties where analysed to raise questions and comprehension about how to follow through the energy transition. To support the main discussion of this article, the case of the Research Centre for Gas Innovation will be explored to better understand the gaps in Brazil that can be tackled by an integrated approach. To comprehend the implementation of new technologies, the analysis of the social and historic context is essential when correlated to national and transnational topics such as energy transition, climate change and social behaviour. Thus, Brazil has been investing in a low carbon economy searching a sustainable future, but still needs to do more about social, environmental, effective public and economic policies alongside with technical developments.


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) Socio-technical Energy transition Climate change 

1 Introduction

Energy is one of the main means to support modern life, either to enable the industrialisation of goods, the provision of services or even to meet the daily demands of the citizens, such as transportation, housing, work, food and entertainment. The growing demands for energy by diverse economic sectors and final consumers require remodelling the composition of the local and global energy matrix, moving towards renewable energy sources, motivated mainly by the sustainability aspects of the planet and reducing greenhouse gas emissions for containment of climate change.

This concern is predominantly evidenced by two achievements. The first is the establishment of the Paris Agreement (signed in April 2016) in which the participating countries undertake actions to contain global warming, keeping the temperature rise limited to 2° Celsius in relation to the pre-industrial era and the use of fossil fuels. The second is the recently launched Agenda 2030 in 2015, coordinated by the United Nations, which set out 17 strategic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address issues of profound relevance that affect the planet and the human kind globally. Among them, science and technology play a key role in the highly complex challenges of climate change (SDG# 13) and the supply of cleaner and more accessible energy for all (SDG# 7).

Based on the concept of the energy transition that involves the development of technical innovations and their uses, Brazil has been investing in a low carbon economy with the application of new technologies that can contribute to a sustainable future, as for instance the ethanol circle production that partially substitutes fossil fuel in the Brazilian energy mix. Other relevant technologies that are being applied in some parts of the world as Norway, Netherlands, UK, Canada and Australia are also growing in interest in Brazil. These technologies are denominated Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture, Uses and Storage (CCUS) when it also involves the use of carbon for producing other goods as in the food industry or sodium bicarbonate. They are methods to mitigate climate change and “refers to a number of technologies which capture carbon dioxide (CO2) at some stage from processes such as combustion (most generally for power generation) or gasification” (Boot-Handford et al. 2014, p. 130).

For Brazil, these technologies represent an opportunity of providing oil and gas for internal consumption, exploring the recently discovered geological pre-salt formation in the southeast coast that involves the states of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná and Santa Catarina. However, the oil is produced with high contents of associated gas1 and a significant concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) (Lima 2009). With this in mind, CCS technologies can make it feasible to store the associated gas in the salt layer of the pre-salt basin. The storage can be performed by a system of specially built caverns, which takes into account the advantage of the salt characteristics in that area. These technologies will be able to reduce the costs to separate the high degree of CO2 contamination and to avoid gas flow as the wells are a long distance from the coast, denoting a technical and economic challenge.

Even though the technologies have been developed for some time in the international scenario, they face uncertainties in a broad sense which must be addressed as a hole for a successful and effective implementation. The aim of this paper is to discuss these uncertainties for Brazil using the socio-technical framework (Markusson et al. 2011, 2012) as a methodological tool to analyse the challenges for the implementation of CCS that would be feasible in the Brazilian mitigation mix. This methodology is relevant for the analysis as it adopts technical, ambiental, legal and social dimensions, in a comprehensive framework that approaches the main aspects related to CCS uncertainties: variety of pathways; safe storage; scaling up and speed of development and deployment; integration of CCS systems; economic and financial viability; policy, political and regulatory; as well as public perception. As a support to the main discussion of this article, the case of the Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) will be explored in order to better understand the gaps in Brazil that can be tackled by an integrated approach.

2 The Socio-Technical System Approach in the Energy Transition Scenario

Markusson et al. (2011, p. 5745) use a socio-technical approach to analyse the viability of a technology, as its realization “is generated and shaped by the people and institutions involved in its development. Technology has seen to co-evolve with the development of society”. In this sense, a broader range of actors becomes relevant to be considered, as involvement, interaction and governance are key elements in complex and uncertain matters. Cherp et al. (2018, p. 178) characterize “socio-technical system delineated by knowledges, practices and networks associated with energy technologies”.

Then, the socio-technical systems “are therefore conceptualised as clusters of aligned elements, such as technical artefacts, knowledge, markets, regulation, policies, cultural meaning, rules, infrastructure, etc. Focusing on systems recognises that technologies are embedded within societal systems” (Markusson et al. 2012, p. 905).

But, when the definitions of socio-technical, energy transition and sustainability are associated, Geels (2010, p. 495) clarifies that “socio-technical transitions to sustainability do not come about easily”, there are distinct systems, for example energy and transport system, depending on several factors that involve investments, public policies, economy, and even behavioural patterns, among others.

The term energy transition mentioned above, “refers to a shift from one socio-technical system to another. It is not about the re-orientation of an existing trajectory, but about a shift to a new trajectory” (Geels & Kemp 2007, p. 446). Furthermore, other elements of transition need to be analysed “such as their scale, magnitude, direction, drivers, actors, and mechanisms [...]” (Sovacool 2016, p. 202). That is, the implementation of CCS technologies can be considered as solutions guiding a transition towards a low-carbon economy.

In the specific case of implementing CCS technology in Brazil as a mechanism to mitigate or avoid the effects of greenhouse gases related to climate change, governmental and economic attitudes to support this process have to be examined. Previous international experiences, as in the projects discussed in this paper, show the risks of neglecting to involve all the actors in the decision to implement a new technology. However, the tendency observed is the implementation of CCS technology even though it seems to be socially controversial and complex for the public’s understanding. In a pilot stage of feasibility, the knowledge tends to be restricted to actors who directly work with this mechanism, such as researchers and oil & gas companies’ employees.

3 Carbon Capture and Storage Historic Evolution Globally and in Brazil

Throughout history, the use of fossil fuels as an energy source has resulted in the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere causing several impacts in different fields, from environmental to social. This has contributed towards the phenomenon currently known as climate change. Since the 1920s, some technologies have been developed in order to separate the CO2 found in natural gas reservoirs, and from 1930 some companies began to use carbon capture, avoiding the release into the atmosphere. Therefore, it is in the 1970s that were developed new technological advances in CO2 capture, by injecting it into the well for the recovery of the oil field, known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) (Saydeh and Zaidi, 2018).

In 1987, Petrobras, the Brazilian Oil Company, began the process of high-pressure gas reinjection in the Recôncavo sedimentary basin (Bahia State), in order to boost the extraction of petroleum and increase the yield of mature fields, which already had a decline in production. Recalling that the first oil well in Brazil in this region was discovered in 1939, and since then the site has been one of the few experiences of onshore Brazilian exploration (Peyerl 2019).

Since 2003, Petrobras has developed several activities that involve CO2 and CCS, in partnership with different Centres such as the University of Salvador; Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais2 (INPE); Federal University of Paraná, among others. As examples of the experience already developed in Brazil, three specific activities of Petrobras are highlighted: - In 2006, the Centro de Excelência em Pesquisa sobre Armazenamento de Carbono3 (CEPAC) was launched as a partnership between Petrobras and Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul with the aim to analyse the “potentiality, risk, capacity, durability and profitability of CO2 geological storage activities in Brazil, associated or not to energy production (oil, gas and hydrogen)” (Beck et al. 2011, p. 6150); − In 2008, Petrobras pilot and demonstration CCS in aquifer, petroleum reservoirs and coal seams and; − In 2013, the Petrobras Santos basin pre-salt oil field CCS was commissioned for CO2 separation and injection systems aboard Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessels anchored in the Santos basin, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Cunha et al. 2007; Glesias et al. 2015).

4 A Recent Research Centre with a Programme Focused on CO2 Abatement

More recently, in January 2016, a new centre named Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) was structured in a triple helix innovation model (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff 2000) (Fig. 1) through the partnership of a government organization, represented by São Paulo Research Foundation (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo – FAPESP), the funding agency of the state of São Paulo and the private company Shell, hosted in the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (USP). Through the 46 projects under development, this centre is focused on innovation, aiming at the sustainable use of natural gas, biogas, hydrogen and since 2017, also CCS technologies. The Centre’s objective is to spread knowledge and awaken Brazil and other countries to the economic and energy potential of natural gas to support energy transition together with renewables. Its proposal is to promote solutions for the partial and gradual replacement of fossil fuels, responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases, to contribute towards climate improvement and sustainability for Brazil. Currently, it counts on about 350 researchers distributed in five focused programmes and one research group: Engineering, Physical-Chemical, Public Policies & Economics, CO2 Abatement and Geophysics, as well as the research group that explores the understanding of public perception and the social licence to operate (RCGI 2019). To support the main discussion of this article, that considers the uncertainties in CCS in Brazil, the case of the RCGI will be explored to better illustrate the socio-technical relation and the gaps in Brazil that can be tackled by an integrated approach.
Fig. 1

Triple helix innovation model of the research centre for gas innovation. Source: Adapted from Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff (2000)

Of the 46 projects under development in the RCGI, 16 of them are part of the CO2 Abatement Programme, specifically focused on the CO2 processes, mostly on technical issues, that makes up a system based on the main project of building salt caverns in the pre-salt layer. They can be classified according to the finality of the technology: line-up, storage and monitoring, equipment and material, separation, policy & environment, support and utilization (Fig. 2). To have a comprehensive conception of the dimensions of the projects, the Table 1 will show the division by finality and a classification among technical, policy, economic, environmental and social.
Fig. 2

Distribution of projects by finality, RCGI – CO2 abatement programme. Source: Elaborated by the authors

Table 1

Distribution of projects x finality x dimensions

Process/ Finality

Project #

Project title and objective








Simulation and optimization of CO2 compressors and mixture of CO2 and CH4

in supercritical condition




High efficiency ejector for gas compression



Storage & Monitoring


Passive acoustic monitoring system for CO2 leakage detection





Feasibility studies and simulations regarding the construction of salt caverns for CO2/CH4 capture, storage and separation in the pre-salt layer of Brazil






Detection of leakage of the CH4 and CO2 gases in the seabed using ultrasonic images with multiple elements





Carbon geological storage in Brazil: perspectives for CCS in unconventional petroleum reservoirs of onshore Paraná sedimentary basin and in turbidites from offshore sedimentary basins in Southeast Brazil





Equipment and material


Corrosion behaviour study and/or degradation in watery solution with CO2 in the absence and presence of contaminants (Nox, Sox and H2S) of materials used in the transport of supercritical CO2




Numerical simulations of internal flow in ducts carrying CO2, CH4 and oil employing molecular dynamics





Development of gas supersonic separators - optimisation, numerical simulation and experiments



Policy & Environment


Evaluation of environmental impact of CCS activities in Brazil and legal aspects







Determination of fundamental properties of gaseous mixtures of interest of the gas and oil industry in the presence of complex fluids (Research and development laboratory for supercritical fluids, oil and natural gas




Laboratory of supersonic gas separator testing infrastructure




Laboratory for the characterization of physical chemical properties of CO2, oil and natural gas in sub and supercritical conditions - Infrastructure





Innovative process for CO2 conversion to high added value chemicals and fuels based on hybrid catalysts




Production of organic molecules from CO2 and H2O by photocatalysis in nano-oxides




Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by integration of power plants with CO2 conversion technologies




Source: Elaborated by the authors (RCGI 2019)

The CO2 Abatement Programme was created to develop solutions for the sustainable use of oil and gas of the pre-salt layer. The main initiative is the project to develop the concept of saline caverns to store and separate CO2 and methane (see Table 1 - project 34). These caverns are planned to be built in the pre-salt layer in ultra-deep waters, a formation that, due to its adaptability characteristics, allows the creation of reservoirs in which a large amount of CO2 can be stored. The associated gas in this region has a significant content of CO2, and when extracted together with oil has to be stored and later separated from methane and other gases. Technologies for gravimetric separation of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and other gases in the salt caverns are under development (see Table 1 – projects 37 and 39), in order to avoid retrieving and reinjecting the associated gas into the well again or releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and burning methane in flares.

For a more comprehensive process to support the complex CO2 storage system (see Table 1), technologies on monitoring systems for detecting leakages through passive acoustic and ultrasonic images (project 33); corrosion behaviour and degradation, in the absence and presence of contaminants materials in the transport of CO2 (project 40); numerical simulations of internal flow in ducts carrying CO2 (project 41); development of supersonic separators (project 39) among others, are being developed. In the perspective of utilization of CO2, project 30 is working on an innovative process to convert CO2 into other high value-added chemicals and fuel, project 31 to provoke artificial photosynthesis and project 32 to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by integration of power plants with CO2 conversion technologies. To complement the technical solutions, there are also investigations in the field of developing a legal framework for CCS and the environmental impact assessment (project 42), that is reaching out to include social aspects as public perception and the social licence to operate new technologies.

All the 16 projects of the CO2 Abatement programme of RCGI are summarized in Table 1, identifying the type of their contributions among technical, economic, policy, social and environmental dimensions.

In Brazil, the implementation of projects based on CCS technologies, may affect local communities as they require the creation or use of underground onshore (as in the circle of ethanol) or offshore reservoirs (as in the pre-salt layer). Many may be the effects, as for instance the techno-economic relation, were some communities can prosper by job creation and economic growth, but also can suffer with the environmental degradation. Lessons learned from other countries indicate that in some cases, these technologies have experienced resistance from society at its various levels, oftentimes leading to the effect known as Not In My Backyard (NIMBY), motivated by a perceived disadvantageous cost-benefit and even by the general lack of clear understanding causing resistance or fear of unknown risks (Huijts et al. 2012; Braun 2017).

It is important to maintain an open perspective, considering there is no silver bullet to combat climate change. Other than CCS, a variety of solutions will have to work together to reach the expected results and the goals of the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations.

In order to better understand the challenges involved in the implementation of CCS technologies, the next topic will present an analysis of the uncertainties of CCS viability in Brazil through a comprehensive social-technical framework.

5 Challenges for the Implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage in Brazil

In the article ‘Assessing CCS viability - A social-technical framework’, Markusson et al. (2011) developed a list of uncertainties that impact the implementation of CCS projects, recognizing the challenges involved with new and complex technologies. This framework was applied to analyse Brazil in each of the parameters pointed by the authors, summarizing a set of challenges for CCS development and deployment in the country. To better illustrate this analysis, some projects of the RCGI were used as examples.

Markusson et al. (2011) present seven uncertainties as main challenges related to CCS projects:
  1. 1.

    Uncertainty 1: Variety of CCS Pathways - This is related to the diversity of possibilities of technologies to be applied in the three classical phases of the process: capture, transport and storage. In Brazil, the technologies are still in an early stage of development and can follow different paths depending on many factors as the facility to develop the technology, the access to resources and grants among others. It is important to study and learn from other countries that are ahead in their practices, as well as to have more local studies and pilot plants implemented. CCS in Brazil, because of the pre-salt oil & gas discovery, has a huge opportunity to be applied mainly in offshore area, by the innovative process of building salt caverns in the pre-salt layer as proposed in project 34 of RCGI, with its support system of technologies on gas separation (project 39) and monitoring leakages (projects 33 and 35) and corrosion (project 40).

  2. 2.

    Uncertainty 2: Safe Storage - How safe can be a storage of CCS in the long term? For how long? What guarantees that it will not leak? And if it does, what can be the consequences for humankind and environment? In Brazil the experience with underground storage is limited, requiring further investigation and analysis on risk assessment and governance. In the case of CO2 storage, the characterization of exploring wells by means of baseline studies is necessary to prevent damage to the wells’ integrity and also avoiding negative environmental impacts (IEA, 2007). Among the variables that are discussed for the site selection, the capacity of CO2 storage, leakage risks, depth, permeability, porosity and density, injectivity, trapping mechanisms and containment can be highlighted (Sato et al. 2016; Raza et al. 2016). Storage viability and capacity, leakage monitoring and gas separation are technologies being developed in the RCGI. Although storage is being treated as a condition of the environmental licencing of oil & gas exploration activities, and there is no institutional protocol of Impact Assessment to support this licencing process, then one of the aims of the project 42 is to create a methodology that can be used for CCS. For Beck et al. (2011), it is by the exploration of the pre-salt fields that will arise the main challenges for the development of CCS activities in Brazil.

  3. 3.

    Uncertainty 3: Scaling up and Speed of Development and Deployment - from a myriad of possible technologies which ones will surpass the others and be ready for implementation? Which ones will be dominant and how much competition they will have to go through? It also involves the need for knowledge dissemination, skills development and alignment among industry, academy, institutions and many other stakeholders. These aspects are being addressed by RCGI though the structure of a triple helix open innovation model, including a role of dissemination of the knowledge produced by the centre. Another problem concerns regulations directly related to CCS, which is not yet defined by Brazilian government and is a focus of the legal group of the project 42 from RCGI. Considering the immense pre-salt layer area in Brazil, the opportunity for offshore technology development seems to be a promising investment, reinforced by the oil & gas industry knowledge in the offshore extraction. Equipment and materials can be adapted to technologies in CCS as the projects 40 and 41 from RCGI propose. Although, the large ethanol production establishes conditions for implementing CCS onshore in the geological formation of the Paraná basin or other regions, keeping the options opened for the diverse technologies to be applicable depending upon the area and need. The project 36 of RCGI - Carbon geological storage in Brazil: perspectives for CCS in unconventional petroleum reservoirs of onshore Paraná sedimentary basin and in turbidites from offshore sedimentary basins in Southeast Brazil – is exploring onshore alternatives.

  4. 4.

    Uncertainty 4: Integration of CCS Systems - integrate all components of CCS into a system is required, considering the complexity of many different challenges involved and the diverse phases of the process as proposed by the integration of the projects in the RCGI’s CO2 Abatement programme. It should consider aspects as the inter-relations between technologies, the level of customisation or standardizing, coupling arrangements, as well as governance and will demand systems coordination that may require diverse levels of organization, command and control. Markusson et al. (2011, p. 5747) summarize this uncertainty stating that “possible models of coordination of CCS development and operation vary with regard to the degree of market orientation, centralization, fragmentation, participation etc”. Brazil will face difficulties similar as other countries and will have to develop modes to coordinate CCS systems which reinforce the need for a social-technical approach in the matter.

  5. 5.

    Uncertainty 5: Economic and Financial Viability - what will be the financial modelling for CCS? How will the carbon price be defined and operated? Will CCS be economically viable, and will investors be interested? How will the industry and the market evaluate the economics behind the necessary investment? Will it compensate in the medium and long term? For Brazil, the same rationale as the previous topic will apply, suggesting the demand for a broader approach as proposed in the social-technical framework. The CCS prices, economic viability, and the market have been discussed in several pathways of the government and agents, but few resolutions have been applied.

  6. 6.

    Uncertainty 6: Policy, Political and Regulatory Uncertainty - CCS will require a set of policies that support its development as well as political buy-in to legitimate the use, which depends also on lobby and power. The aspects to be considered in the legal standpoint are not clear, as for instance the responsibilities for safety, liability, operational rules and conditions, market regulation, which technology will prevail, among other questions. Brazil is a highly regulated country, with a great number of laws and specificities. Although even if a previous set of laws could be partially used, the uncertainties are many and democratic discussion processes have increased the need for consultation, that will require involving several different actors as academy, industry, institutions, government, NGOs, interested public among others, which goes beyond the pure technical solutions. The aim of the RCGI’s public perception group, associated to the project 42, is aligned to address these issues.

  7. 7.

    Uncertainty 7: Public Acceptance - How will the diverse publics receive these technologies, mainly the lay public, the affected population from the region where a CCS project will be installed? Will they accept it, tolerate it or reject it? In Brazil, CCS projects may have some similarity with other large-scale projects such as hydroelectric or mining. Specifically, about CCS in Brazil, the case of most projects focusing on the offshore area may not cause a concern for the general population. The approach is based on the population’s knowledge about climate change and adopted solutions, regardless of the distance that this technology is used. A social-technical approach, involving social science research with a multidisciplinary group and transdisciplinary approach, will be an interesting complementarity to technological development and is being reached out by RCGI’s public perception group and the project 42.


6 Final Remarks

When considering the relations of society and technologies, it is imperative to highlight a national and transnational context to address global problems such as energy transition and climate change. In order to analyse the development and implementation of large-scale projects as CCS, the social-technical framework (Markusson et al. 2011, 2012) was used as it presents the main uncertainties to be considered. Brazil is still at the beginning of the process and will need to continue investing in research, pilot and demonstration plants as well as proactively learn from other countries that are ahead in their CCS development process.

Considering the wide range of uncertainties, the CCS development process in Brazil will require a broader social-technical approach involving technical and social aspects. These encompass from the kind of technology to capture, transport and storage, as well as public acceptance, environmental impact evaluation, economic and financial modelling in an interconnected analysis, as the uncertainties are all across the board and they interact one with the other. It is unclear if, for instance, the dominant type of technology that can emerge within the technical arena will influence the legal regulation or, on the contrary, the legal and political scenario will direct the selection of a specific technology over another. These elements may interact as well with financial modelling and acceptance from diverse stakeholders. As uncertainty dimensions are not independent, it is wise to work with the identified synergies and understand how they relate to each other in Brazilian perspectives as they evolve, which requires further investigation. These findings are reinforced by the illustrative analysis of RCGI projects of the CO2 Abatement programme, summarizing the need to work in an integrative approach.

The discussion in this paper, emphasizes that technology development and their impacts in society should be considered in a broader sense, focusing on a social-technical approach. As so, initiatives that encompass the relationships and experiences established among university, industry, government and community; the role of the scientists as the developers of new technologies; socio-economic factors; knowledge acquired and built involving a broad range of stakeholders are key factors that direct towards successful projects. So, even though Energy sounds like a Technological problem, the Social issues are complementary and very relevant.


  1. 1.

    Associated gases involve natural gas, methane, carbon dioxide (CO2) among others.

  2. 2.

    National Institute of Space Research

  3. 3.

    Centre of Excellence in Research on Carbon Storage



The authors gratefully acknowledge support from Shell Brasil together with FAPESP through the ‘Research Centre for Gas Innovation – RCGI’ (Fapesp Proc. 2014/50279-4), hosted by the University of São Paulo, and the strategic importance of the support given by ANP (Brazil’s National Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency) through the R&D levy regulation. Drielli Peyerl thanks especially the current financial support of grant Process 2017/18208-8 and 2018/26388-9, São Paulo Research Foundation (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo – FAPESP).


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Copyright information

© Escola Politécnica - Universidade de São Paulo 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Centre for Gas InnovationUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Institute of Energy and EnvironmentUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Escola PolitécnicaUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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