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Ministers urged to develop clear carbon capture policy

Ministers must accelerate the government’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) programme to stop the UK from lagging behind other nations, engineers said this week.

In a report on the feasibility of CCS, the ICE says that Britain will be unable to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets and become a world leader in CCS without a clear government strategy.

The Carbon Capture and Storage − Time to Deliver report makes specific recommendations including:

  • producing a separate National Policy Statement on CCS
  • producing a clear strategy for CCS development
  • giving industry the technological freedom to innovate
  • and promoting development through legislation to mirror the emerging requirements of CCS.

The report outlines the steps needed to deploy CCS nationally and globally. It includes papers from six leading experts examining regulation, storage, transportation, investment, pre- and post-combustion alternatives and the role of CCS in creating a low carbon economy.

“We have the skills and the expertise to deliver solutions. All we’re waiting for is for the government to take the lead.”

Geoff French, ICE

“We have the skills and the expertise to deliver solutions. All we’re waiting for is for the government to take the lead,” said ICE vice president Geoff French. Shadow environment minister Greg Barker agreed. “We need a step change in the government’s approach to CCS,” he said.

The UK is able to develop CCS projects but has fallen behind in the widespread deployment of the technology, said the document.

University of Edinburgh professor of sedimentary geology Stuart Haszeldine said barriers to build large-scale CCS projects were too great. “Why contemplate building a new coal station when you could just build gas − coal is now predicated for CCS but who wants this additional cost?” (NCE 23 April).

He said that while the government had brought in the regulations needed for the construction of CCS projects, it has failed to engage businesses or the public, and as a consequence little was being done.

Not on the agenda

Haszeldine pointed out that Britain has ample carbon storage capacity under the North Sea but that no pilot projects or plans for projects have been put in place. “North Sea storage could earn the Treasury around £5bn a year. But as far as I know this is not even on the agenda,” he said.

French said exporting CCS technology could be “very lucrative” for the UK. “Launching CCS on a commercial scale will require it not only to be proven technologically but also to be economically viable.

“If we want to keep a competitive lead and take advantage of the export opportunity it presents, progress needs to be greatly accelerated,” he said.

“North Sea storage could earn around £5bn a year. But as far as I know this is not even on the agenda.”

Stuart Haszeldine, University of Edinburgh

Carbon Capture and Storage Association chief executive Jeff Chapman said the country was at a crossroads in CCS technology. “We led the world in developing wind power but lost out to other countries. Let’s not allow this to happen with CCS,” he said.

Energy consulting and broking firm Incoteco principal of energy consulting Hugh Sharman questioned the ICE’s conclusions.

“CCS will add at least 20% to the first cost of a new coal-fired power plant (or the retrofit of an existing coal plant). The extra energy needed to compress and transport the CO2 will add 20% to the operating cost.

“At a time of huge energy price rises across Europe, it is most unlikely that CCS in saline aquifers will see the light of commercial day,” he said.

  • A coal-fired plant at Hatfield near Doncaster last week won £165M to fund a demonstration CCS plant as part of a European Union (EU) development scheme. CCS will be included in the third round of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which begins in 2012.

Readers' comments (2)

  • So we now have a CEO Carbon Capture and Storage Association. Who pays his £100K + salery? Perhaps as his employer, I guess, may I address him.
    Mr Chapman, Jeff, we have a master plan in Yorkshire for a pipeline network for CO2. Costing £2bn of taxpayers money it would link NO carbon capture to NO carbon storage. CO2 capture would add at least 40% to the cost of electricity, then £2bn for transport, to where? I doubt that North Sea gas was ever available at 1000psi, the minimum storage pressure for liquid CO2. So we now have a CEO in charge of a non existant source to a non existant destination. Do you require an assistant? I may or not, be avaiilable. Regards.

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  • "Why contemplate building a new coal station when you could just build gas?" asks Professor Haszeldine (rhetorically?). North Sea Gas is running out fast. The dash for gas to generate electricity since 1990 was a gross thermodynamic waste of a good resource which could be burned directly where required, and has an existing distribution infrastructure to homes and factories. Now we are having to import gas (LNG) by the shipload.

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