Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage strongly welcomes today’s report by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which urges swift action to support the delivery of carbon capture and storage (CCS) across the whole UK economy by 2026.
The UK has committed to meet climate targets enshrined in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, and CCS offers the most cost-effective way for us to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But, as the Committee points out, if the UK Government continues to avoid the provision of confident and effective policy, and the right environment for investment, this opportunity will be missed. And that will significantly increase the cost to the public of tackling climate change.
The range of technologies that are collectively known as CCS will be needed worldwide to reduce emissions from industry, heat, power and transport, and to achieve “negative emissions” when combined with sustainable bioenergy.
Put simply, CCS involves separating and capturing the CO₂ where it is produced. This includes industrial operations making cement, steel and fertiliser, or power stations or hydrogen production for heat and transport. We also need infrastructure to transport that CO₂ to geological storage sites, such as depleted oil and gas fields, which held fossil fuels securely for millions of years.
To keep costs down, this infrastructure needs to be available to all CO₂ producers. But in any case, the Committee confirms that initial outlay will rapidly halve the cost of reducing emissions – and that has to be good news for the UK Government and the wider public.
The report points to the need for a consistent policy environment, which puts an end to the “chopping and changing” of the previous decade. Reliable policy keeps risk low for investors, gives a clear signal to the public and provides businesses with the confidence to build UK-based supply chains.
As the largest CCS research group in the UK, SCCS is ready and able to support the UK Government in accelerating the delivery of CCS. Our researchers are part of international moves to improve capture technologies, establish the best ways to transport CO₂, and understand where and how it can be stored safely and securely. We are also doing work to identify where costs can be reduced – such as through re-purposing pipelines that are currently used to bring gas onshore from the North Sea.
Scotland is home to the Acorn project, which has an advanced low-cost design for a small-scale, full-chain CCS project that could be built out to deliver a network serving both the UK and Europe. The Caledonia Clean Energy Project being developed at Grangemouth could also kickstart carbon capture clusters in the Central Belt.
Both projects are agonisingly close to being realised but they need government support, and sooner rather than later.
Prof Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said:
We’re pleased to see the CCC challenging Government to act with more than just warm words: the UK is ready and able to deploy CCS – we just need support from Government to do it. CCS uses well-established technology in novel and reliable methods, and academic research is improving it all the time. The only thing stopping us is the upfront cost of developing the first CCS networks regionally in the UK – and we know from global experience that costs will come down greatly once we actually start using the technology.
The UK has the offshore geology to store vast amounts of CO2, and offshore industry skills to do it safely and securely. To not use these extensive natural resources would be a dereliction of duty, and a waste of public money. The CCC recommends that CO2 should be stored by 2026; we know that we can do better and faster than that.
The UK Government’s CCS Cost Reduction Task Force is expected to recommend action to recommence CCS before the end of 2018. We urge the Government to listen to its advisers and to follow its own advice. This will safeguard existing jobs, create new jobs, make the UK more productive and futureproof the UK economy.