Amongst the host of the measures outlined in the UK government’s “Powering up Britain” blueprint (which include the launch of funds to support investment in floating offshore wind, and a new competition to drive small modular reactor technology development) Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) looms large.
CCUS, which uses a range of technologies to capture, store and potentially reuse and store CO2 emissions from industrial sources, has had something of stuttering start in the UK over the past decade and half, with a series of supposedly “game-changing” projects and competitions abandoned in recent years.
Now though, it's back at the heart of government plans and has been hailed by energy minister Grant Shapps as a technology that will be essential to our push for net zero, enabling us to continue to safely use fossil fuels whilst we transition to an oil and gas free world.
The latest plans centre around two key industrial clusters in Northern England: the East Coast Cluster and the HyNet cluster, which between them include eight separate CCUS projects. The most recent announcement follows a commitment made in Jeremy Hunt’s Spring budget to invest £20bn in the sector over the next 20 years.
The renewed focus on the technology has drawn a mixed reaction from experts. Prof Stuart Haszeldine, Chair of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh welcomed the plans, saying the “Carbon capture and geological storage is an essential technology to decrease future carbon emissions from industry….”.
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, said it will be essential for hard to decarbonise industries (such as steelmaking).
Others, however, claim that investment in CCUS is a huge gamble, that the technology has not yet been proven at scale and that investment would be better targeted at renewable energy technologies. Indeed, in an open letter to government, more than 700 leading scientists argue that CCS has not yet been proven at scale and that prioritising the technology risks delaying real cuts in emissions.
“Carbon capture is currently ineffective and an extremely costly experiment," said Dr Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at Grantham Institute. “The UK government should not be investing £20bn in a strategy that is essentially an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.”
In this poll (March 20 - May 4, 2023) we asked for your views on this topic. Do you agree with its proponents that CCUS will play a critical role in our push for a zero emissions society or do you side with the sceptics and believe investment in the technology is a risky gamble that could prolong, rather than reduce, our reliance on fossil fuels? Your thoughts on this subject are still welcome in the Comments box below.