Last week’s poll: The UK’s approach to carbon capture and storage

Engineer readers are split on how the UK should approach carbon capture and storage

We received 348 responses to our poll last week on CCS, a technology which has fallen from the spotlight somewhat over the past year. The largest response was from people who believed the government should reinstate support for projects to demonstrate the technology; with 42 per cent of voters. However, this group was outnumbered by readers voting for the two options opposing full government support for the technology. A total of 44 per cent voted for these options, with 23 per cent saying that development of CCS should be purely commercial, and 21 per cent saying that the government should fund only fundamental research related to the technology. An unusually large proportion, 14 per cent, declined to pick an option.

chart10/9/17

These split opinions were also reflected in the comments section, where several people’s remarks asked whether energy storage, rather than carbon storage, might be a better target for government support. “Let’s focus on implementing dispatchable renewables, using thermal storage. Thermal storage, using molten salt, is a technology already proven on a large scale, and is a fraction of the cost of battery storage. All it needs is funding!” said Rob Brunswick. “The issue of energy storage is interesting in its own right and for thermal based sources of

“The issue of energy storage is interesting in its own right and for thermal based sources of energy/electricity (such as nuclear reactors & solar thermal) large-scale energy storage would be useful — but for smaller scale (domestic or local) would require advances in insulation manufacture,” said Julian Spence.

“CCS is a pointless, expensive technology that is a dead end. Any money that might be wasted investigating this could be better spent on truly green technology — and planting trees!” commented a reader using the screen name 20 Cent. Tree-planting, a recognised method of natural carbon capture, was also mentioned by other commenters, although Jack Broughton, who does not believe that CO2 has a significant greenhouse effect, came up with the novel idea of storing trees in underground caverns where they would turn into hydrocarbons.

Other commenters were more supportive of CCS. “The oil industry, in particular, has made a fortune on the back of polluting fuels. Therefore, it makes sense for the fossil fuel industries to find and fund a solution for CCS. It’s entirely in their interest to find a solution if they are to continue in their business,” said Steve, who also noted that the best solution for greening the economy was to switch power generation to nuclear, and that government funding would be better directed at developing small modular reactor technology. “The UK government should be supporting carbon capture and utilization (CCU) instead. Rather than treating CO2 as waste, as is the case with CCS, the CCU process converts it into commercially viable products such as bio-oils, chemicals, fertilisers and fuels,” commented Richard H.

Please continue to send us your opinions on this subject.