New report gives CCS fresh lease of life

Jason Ford - News Editor, The EngineerJason Ford, news editor

Last November’s combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review had us scratching our heads trying to figure out how elements relating to energy fitted together.

Former chancellor George Osborne told Parliament that support for low-carbon electricity and renewables would double, and that there’d be a 50 per cent increase in support for climate finance over the next five years. Included in those energy plans was a commitment to small modular nuclear reactors, but there was no mention of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which we assumed would be left alone.

Instead, news on CCS came from a short note to the London Stock Exchange announcing that CCS funding would cease.

Prior to this announcement, £1bn had been made available to fast track the development of CCS technology, with Shell and SSE’s CCS scheme at Peterhead and Capture Power Ltd’s White Rose project at Drax Power gaining prominence.

Since this decision, bodies including the Audit Office and Energy Technologies Institute have conducted their own investigations, with findings ranging from dire predictions on the cost of hitting emissions targets, to the savings that could be made through the use of existing technologies to deliver CCS.

As pointed out today by SCCS, the reason for pulling funding was attributed to costs, which were estimated at £180 per MW hour of electricity. A report published today, however, suggests that CCS technology can be delivered at £85/MWh over 15-years.

40 44 Siemens CCS image 1

The new report from the Parliamentary Advisory Group on CCS states that capturing carbon dioxide and storing it is an essential technology for least-cost decarbonisation of the UK economy to meet international agreements. It added that plentiful, safe and secure CO2 storage capacity is available offshore in the rock beneath UK territorial waters, and this represents the least-cost form of storage at the scale required.

Furthermore, the report says that with 200TWh/year of new clean power generation required in Britain in the 2020s, fossil fuels with CCS will play an important role as a cost competitive and potentially flexible power generation technology.

Lord Oxburgh’s report for Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, makes six key recommendations, namely the establishment of a CCS Delivery Company (CCSDC), plus the establishment of: a system of economic regulation for CCS in the UK; a Heat Transformation Group; a CCS Certificate System; a CCS Obligation System. The report also recommends incentivising industrial CCS through industrial capture contracts.

Commenting on the report, Dr David Clarke, ETI chief executive said: “Our near 10 years of research into CCS with leading academic and industry partners shows that there are no technical barriers to UK offshore CO2 storage – plenty of available storage space is already identified – and that a coordinated approach that involves colocation, shared infrastructure and the deployment of existing technologies can reduce the cost of CCS implementation to levels competitive with other low carbon technologies.”

Claire Jakobsson, head of Energy and Climate Policy at EEF, added: “Once again we have a report indicating that CCS technology offers the most cost-effective decarbonisation route for the UK, that CCS fitted power plants could easily be cost competitive with established forms of low carbon power and, crucially, that there are no technological barriers to rapid deployment.

“Most importantly, from an industrial perspective, the report confirms what many in industry have been saying for years; CCS provides the only route to decarbonisation for many industrial processes.”

Prof Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS director and report co-author, will discuss the study in his closing keynote this week at Making the Case for CCS, which is being held at the University of Edinburgh’s John McIntyre Conference Centre. Topics for discussion at the biennial include the development of an onshore test injection site in the UK, the readiness of offshore storage, innovation to reduce the £/MWh cost of CCS, and lessons learned from UK CCS Programmes.