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Monday, October 21, 2013

UK’s plans for CCS: a model for the world?

The UK government has responded to the work of its Carbon Capture and Storage Cost Reduction Task Force, whose work I’ve blogged about here and here.

In a new report: CCS in the UK: Government response to the CCS Cost Reduction Task Force, the UK government lays out a comprehensive approach to achieving commercial-scale CCS that includes five key components:

  • A CCS commercialization program
  • A coordinated research, development, and innovation program
  • Electricity market reform
  • Commitments to working with industry to develop the CCS supply chain, address regulatory barriers, and assist the development of CCS infrastructure
  • International engagement focused on sharing knowledge

The report notes that CCS projects could benefit from lower costs associated with synergies with enhanced oil recovery (EOR).  Here in the U.S., EOR potential is on-shore, while in the UK it is offshore, and perhaps more problematic. The government is also exploring the possibility of supporting a front end engineering design (FEED) study for a CCS network.  Both the EOR and network elements of the UK plan take their cues from work that Pennsylvania did four years ago in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative - work that I had the privilege to lead.

The UK’s efforts on CCS are among the most aggressive in the world.  They need to be.  Philippe Benoit, Head of the Energy Efficiency and Environment Division at the International Energy Agency writes here that:  
Despite strong advances in clean energy technologies and serious intentions to address climate change, fossil fuels continue to dominate the world fuel mix…The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that even under an ambitious climate scenario, fossil fuels could represent 45 per cent of energy use in 2050.
The urgency of deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) only increases if we are to achieve low–carbon stabilisation goals to limit the global temperature rise to no more than 2°C. The IEA scenarios assign a very important contribution to CCS to reduce global CO2 emissions: around 17 per cent in 2050. In practice, this means that by 2050 some 8 Gt of CO2, equalling the current United States and European Union annual energy–related CO2 emissions combined [emphasis mine], will need to be captured and stored per year globally. Over the next four decades, this requires the creation of a new industry, comparable in size to today's oil and gas industries – not a small challenge.
Benoit continues: 
The next seven years will be crucial to accelerated development of CCS and for laying the foundation for its envisaged performance for decades to come…Mobilising the large amounts of financial resources necessary will depend on the development of strong business models for CCS, which are so far lacking…Moreover, planning and actions that take future demand into account are needed to encourage development of CO2 storage and transport infrastructure. 
The UK’s work on CCS reflects the urgency of getting the technology to scale in time to deal with the realities of our current – and future – energy mix.  The United States must catch up.  Quickly.  CCS network and using captured CO2 for enhanced oil and gas recovery will be key drivers for the creation of an urgently-needed, new American industry.

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