|Graphic courtesy of Geobus CCS module|
The UK Government has released its Clean Growth Strategy
, which demonstrates a welcome recognition that investing in low-carbon technologies to help achieve international commitments on emissions reduction can bring benefits to the country’s economy and jobs.
As a strong proponent of deploying full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in the UK, Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) is encouraged by the Government’s ambition to show international leadership in carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), with up to £100 million of investment for innovation and the setting up of a new CCUS council.
However, we are concerned that this ambition is tempered by a series of caveats, which fall short of the clear government commitment that is needed to support the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS); that the funding proposed may not be sufficient to cover the demonstration projects needed to reduce the costs of the technology; and that the timescales suggested in the strategy may not be realistic. It is not clear that the Clean Growth Strategy’s policies represent a sufficient move forward from our current position on CCS delivery in the UK.
The government’s own advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has stated that the fifth carbon budget (2028-32) will be very difficult to hit without CCS. Studies show the essential contribution of CCS to cost-effective UK decarbonisation and point to the heavy costs that will be imposed on UK consumers by a failure to enact an effective CCS policy.
A recent study by Summit Power shows that the development of a UK CCS industry – focused on an East Coast network – could provide a total economic and societal benefit of £163 billion in the period to 2060, including £54 bn of domestic economic activity with over 225,000 associated jobs and £9 bn of positive balance of trade. The Clean Growth Strategy itself states that driving down carbon emissions from our own activities “could provide a real national economic boost”, with the UK low-carbon economy growing by an estimated 11% per year between 2015 and 2030. CCS is an integral part of that growth but it needs sufficient and timely investment. We are extremely concerned that the strategy will be found lacking, and that the opportunity for new jobs and economic growth could be lost as a result.
The government’s ambition to have the option to deploy CCS at scale during the 2030s is welcomed, but it will require a stronger funding commitment to deliver the demonstration projects that will bring learning and cost reduction. The UK has an immense carbon dioxide (CO2) storage capacity, and existing oil and gas infrastructure that could be repurposed to transport CO2 (Peter A. Brownsort, Vivian Scott, R. Stuart Haszeldine. Reducing costs of carbon capture and storage by shared reuse of existing pipeline – Case study of a CO2 capture cluster for industry and power in Scotland. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control. 52: 130-138. (2016)); however, there is no mention in the strategy of infrastructure development. Decisions on the value of preserving useful on or offshore transport infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines, need to be made quickly so we can avoid unnecessary costs in the future.
We have previously expressed our concerns about the potential impacts of outsourcing the UK’s CO2 storage requirements to other countries, such as Norway. This would be a short-sighted solution, which would relinquish the opportunity to use the UK’s own resources to develop our own CO2 storage industry. The UK should not give up the opportunity to generate revenue from the sale of CO2 storage services to other European states, or surrender any control of costs and availability of storage. With significant benefits to the UK economy at stake, we urge the government to avoid such a course of action and instead focus on supporting the development of CO2 storage in the UK.
There is no recognition in the strategy of the Lord Oxburgh report recommendation to create a CCS Delivery Company. This would manage construction and risk for early projects, deliver a transport and storage infrastructure that could be privatised when established, and could cut the cost of meeting UK climate targets by billions each year. The cost of CCS is currently a significant barrier to its deployment, and we welcome the government’s proposal to establish a CCUS Cost Reduction Task Force, which we hope will look in more detail at how a CCS Delivery Company could be set up and include this in its CCUS deployment pathway. We would welcome the opportunity to provide expertise to this task force and the CCUS Council.
The UK Government’s position on CCS is positive but remains modestly funded and lacking in decisive action. Without an unambiguous and immediate commitment, the UK will lose its potential to be a global leader in the technology. We observe the intentions of other North Sea nations, such as Norway and the Netherlands, to operate CCS at scale in the 2020s and call upon the UK Government to match that ambition.