SCCS welcomes today’s announcement that the UK Government is to invest “at least £800 million to establish two or more carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters by 2030”. All of our work is with this one goal in mind: the realisation of CCS at commercial scale as part of a global transition to net zero carbon.
It has been a long time coming but today’s commitment marks the real start of the beginning, whereby we begin to put the nuts and bolts together to form a CCS industry that returns fossil carbon back underground.
Prof Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said:
With today’s £800 million commitment from Government to invest in CCS, the UK can now walk the talk. We have borrowed extensively from our carbon credit card in the past 300 years. Now we can start to pay back the debt.
This is not the same as previous CCS announcements because it applies across all of UK industry, not just power generation. CCS is one part of a wide, strategic and comprehensive move by the UK to become a decarbonised, high-value industrial society.
It has been clear for many years that CCS is not just nice to have. It is essential to deliver a net zero ambition by mid-century and stop contributing directly to global climate change. CCS can also deliver renewed jobs, cleaner air and greater energy security for the UK.
The essential nature of CCS has been explained by Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage for the past 15 years. And more stridently emphasised by the UK Committee on Climate Change since 2018. It was repeated again this week by modelling analysis from the Energy Systems Catapult.
But is £800m enough? Yes. With successive iterations of design, the concept of a minimum viable CO2 capture and storage system has been developed. In Scotland, the Acorn project led by Pale Blue Dot has recognised that re-using existing oil and gas pipelines, and re-using appraisals of geological storage sites in well understood depleted gas fields can wipe hundreds of millions off the start-up price.
Acorn is the UK’s most shovel-ready CCS project and could be operating by late 2023 for a price of around £250-300m. This project can also serve additional parts of the UK, such as Teesside, using shipping and establishing a system at very low entry cost.
The UK now needs to establish a market giving value to stored CO2 and making CCS a viable business proposition.
Charging emissions taxes does not work, we can see that in France. A storage market can be achieved by paying complex and expensive subsidies from government. But storage market is much quicker and cheaply enacted by creating a Carbon Takeback Obligation to store an annual percentage of fossil carbon produced by or imported into the UK by oil, gas or coal companies. Those fossil fuel companies have to arrange and operate the geological storage, to discharge their Carbon Takeback Obligation.