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CCS technologies allow the capture and storage of CO2 emitted from large point sources, such as power stations, or industrial facilities such as oil refineries, cement or steel works. Captured CO2 is transported – usually by pipeline – for permanent storage in carefully selected geological structures; depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline aquifers provide the best storage solution CCS is a major component of current UK energy policy and meeting carbon reduction targets will be much more difficult and expensive without CCS according to respected authorities such as the government’s Committee on Climate Change and the IEA.


CCS, together with nuclear and renewables, is as a key part of the UK’s low carbon energy triumvirate. Fossil fuels are a vital component of our energy mix and there are good reasons to keep fossil fuels in the energy mix, if the associated greenhouse gases can be mitigated. Unlike renewables, they are not restricted by the intermittency of the wind, or tides, and do not require large areas of land to be flooded for pumped storage. Fossil fuel power plant is adept at meeting swings in demand, unlike nuclear which cannot be easily switched on and off. Even with improved demand-side management, fossil power will be required to respond to daily, weekly and seasonal variation and especially the to regular January anticyclone as well as to consumer demand during the ad break in Coronation Street.

The UK government is supporting a programme of 4 commercial-scale CCS demonstration projects, one of which will be on gas. The government has committed up to £1 billion to fund the first demonstration project. Contracts are yet to be signed, but expect an announcement this year. Budget 2011 was in some ways a disappointment as it signalled the death of the CCS levy. An add-on to consumer energy bills, this promised a secure and ring fenced funding stream for CCS development. Instead, funding for demo projects 2-4 has been committed from general taxation. While such a commitment is welcomed, it does mean that CCS funding is now more exposed to competing demands on the public purse, and Treasury equivocation.

One very positive development has been the submission of 7 UK projects to the European Investment Bank (EIB) as part of the New Entrant Reserve scheme, or NER300. The NER300 is a pot of 300 million EU ETS allowances set aside by the European Union for supporting 8 CCS (and 34 renewable energy) projects. The 7 projects submitted by the UK is more than all other member states put together (six other EU states have submitted one project apiece), demonstrating that the UK is leading the field in Europe. However, CCS has not been advancing as quickly as it needs to. All stages of the CCS chain – CO2 capture, transport and storage – are proven. For example, Norway’s Statoil Sleipner facility has been successfully separating 1 million tonnes CO2 every year from natural gas and storing it in a deep saline aquifer under the North Sea since 1996.

What is needed is a rapid acceleration of the pace of demonstration projects and the seamless movement into large-scale commercial deployment. We await the Electricity Market Review White Paper which is due this summer and hope that this can deliver CCS in the UK; however the combination of Carbon Price Support and Emissions Performance Standards may conspire to make the landscape too complex to deliver the necessary market reform in the timeframes we need to tackle climate change.


Let’s be clear about CCS and fossil fuels. The real barriers are policy based, not technical. Tackling climate change will be more expensive without CCS according to the IEA and CCS could contribute up to 19% of 2050 reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from industry and electricity generation. It would also be 70% more expensive to reduce emissions without CCS. The IEA reckons the global market in CCS will be $5 trillion by 2050, comparable with the oil and gas industry. The UK is in a great position to continue to be a global leader in CCS, creating jobs and prosperity, harnessing the UK’s natural and human resources. Fossil fuels, with CCS add security and flexibility to our energy supply. So what are we waiting for? We urgently need positive and certain instruments of policy then we can get the CCS show on the road.

 

For further information on CCS visit www.ccsassociation.org



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Written by Duncan Carter   
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 13:16
 

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