Britain’s first carbon capture and usage project could be on the way

Carbon capture and storage is back on the UK agenda, extended to also include carbon usage – hence the new acronym CCUS – following an international ‘summit’ meeting held in Edinburgh. 

One result could be that the UK’s CCUS project could be up and running by the mid-2020s, according to government plans previewed at the event. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the government will next year set out a plan to get the UK’s first CCUS project operational by as early as the mid-2020s, with an overarching ambition to roll out the technology at scale in the 2030s – but subject to costs being reduced.

Previously focused mainly on fossil fuel power stations, CCUS technology could also capture carbon from carbon heavy industries such as cement, chemicals, steel, and oil refining, says BEIS, adding that energy-intensive industries currently produce approximately a quarter of global carbon emissions. Captured carbon could then be re-used rather than sent for storage.

According to BEIS, the plan commits the UK to:
• invest £20mn in supporting construction of CCUS technologies at industrial sites;
• invest £315mn in decarbonising industrial sites, including the potential to use CCUS; and
• begin work with the Oil and Gas Authority, industry and the Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to identify existing oil and gas infrastructure which could be transformed for CCUS projects.

More immediately, the government announced investment of £175,000 in Project Acorn in St Fergus, Scotland, to develop ways of transporting carbon emissions from where they are captured to storage. This funding will be matched by the Scottish government, and the EU Commission will also provide funding, says BEIS. 

Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire has announced that work is to start commissioning a bioenergy CCS pilot plant using technology developed by Leeds University spin out company C-Capture, which was supported by £2mn of government funding. If the pilot project is successful, Drax could become the world’s first negative emissions power station, adds BEIS.

Speaking ahead of the Edinburgh summit, which was jointly hosted by the UK and the International Energy Agency, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: ‘[The summit] shows how determined all countries are to unlock the potential of this game-changing technology... the time is now to seize this challenge to tackle climate change while kick starting an entirely new industry.’

Meanwhile, a new report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) warns that if CCUS is not deployed over the next decade, the UK’s transition to a low carbon energy system will face increased risk and higher costs.  

Written by the Energy Systems Catapult, Still in the mix? Understanding the role of Carbon Capture Usage and Storage reaffirms previous ETI work on the importance of CCUS deployment by 2030. It confirms ETI analysis that if CCUS is not developed at all before 2050, the national bill for low carbon energy that year would be around £35bn higher – equivalent to 1% of expected GDP – than if work goes ahead quickly. 

The report suggests that up to 3 GW of new gas-fired power generation with CCUS could be deployed cost-effectively before 2030 within an electricity generation mix that meets the 5th national carbon budget. It concludes that early investment in gas power CCUS – in favourable locations for a CCUS industrial cluster – represents the best value approach to early deployment of the technology. 

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  • Journal title: Energy World

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