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Monday, November 26, 2012

Report: UK CCS could be cost competitive by early 2020s - and proof that the Rendell Administration was ahead of its time on CCS

A task force of the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has validated an approach to more rapidly deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that was first explored by Pennsylvania more than four years ago.  The task force says falling costs could allow gas and coal-fired power plants using CCS to produce energy at a comparable cost to other low-carbon generation sources by the early 2020s.

The task force’s report -The Potential for Reducing the Costs of CCS in the UK: Interim Report – says that to achieve these levels of cost reduction, progress in five key areas is essential: 

  • Investment in large carbon storage “clusters” to supply multiple storage sites;
  • Investment in large shared pipelines with high utilization;
  • Investment in large power stations with increased carbon capture capability;
  • Exploitation of synergies with CO2-based enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the North Sea; and
  • Reduction in the cost of project capital through reduced risk and improved investor confidence

The report was released on the same day that the UK government awarded GBP20 million in funding to 13 carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.

The report says that an investment in CCS would “enable long-term use of fossil fuels in a carbon-constrained economy, alongside renewable and nuclear power…and to drive UK economic growth, to retain and grow employment opportunities, to protect and grow the UK’s manufacturing base and to gain significant competitive advantage in manufacturing costs over other countries in Europe.”

Scale, shared infrastructure, and an interconnected, right-sized CCS network are keys to achieving the cost reductions projected by the task force.  As the report says: "Both utilisation and scale are important…Multiple large generation plant supplying CO2 to a hub will allow the storage development costs to be shared across large volumes of CO2 stored…The unit costs of transporting CO2 by pipeline decreases as scale increases...Once CCS is established, significant reductions in electricity cost will be available through scaling up” plant sizes.

These are precisely the central tenets of the 2009 Pennsylvania CCS model that was developed with the help of the Clinton Climate Initiative during my tenure at the Department of Conservation and Natural ResourcesDCNR undertook some of the most advanced work on CCS in the nation, including three assessments on the viability of large-scale, integrated commercial CCS network in Pennsylvania: 

The concept was intended to get CCS to scale faster than planned by other state and Federal efforts by capturing both economies of scale through the use of shared infrastructure and the economic development benefits that would accrue to a state in a leadership role in deploying CCS.  While identifying barriers to network development – chiefly the assembly of mineral rights - DCNR found that an integrated, at-scale CCS network would be cost-competitive compared to both proposed and existing international CCS projects.

Governor Rendell and former President Clinton were far ahead of their time on CCS.  The world needs to catch up to them.

November 27 update: This post has also been published by Energy Dimensions.

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