Industry bodies have rallied to defend carbon capture and storage (CCS) after a report claimed it wouldn’t be able to deliver the emissions reductions needed in the coming years.
The Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) partnership, the UK’s largest grouping of CCS researchers, described the technology as an “essential part of climate action”.
The group added that all processes to slash greenhouse gases are “needed immediately” and that it’s “unhelpful” to cherry-pick methods.
It follows the release of a study by the Tyndall Centre, which revealed “significant CCS capacity” is unlikely to be materialise until the 2030s.
It also said fossil fuel-based CCS is “not capable of operating” with zero emissions and that estimated capture rates of 95% are “unproven in practice”.
In response, the report’s commissioners, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness, described the technology as not “remotely credible” and called for funds to be diverted towards renewables and energy efficiency projects.
In response, SCCS said: “As we head towards the COP26 talks in Glasgow this year, every country signed up to the Paris Agreement must demonstrate how climate targets will be met.
“CCS is an essential part of climate action, alongside a shift to 100% renewable energy and more efficient use of resources. All methods to reduce emissions are needed immediately and, in our view, it’s unhelpful to cherry-pick technologies.
“CCS is a transitional technology that has been operating safely and at scale for nearly 30 years. Projects being developed in the UK show how CCS can be rolled out cost-effectively and incrementally, with resulting experience and knowledge having a global value.
“Without CCS, we cannot tackle emissions arising from heavy industry, including the manufacture of steel and cement, which even the renewables sector requires.
“With a focus on fossil fuels, CCS enables a rapid transition without creating mass unemployment and social disruption. It can be deployed swiftly, since it is a proven technology, and also has roles in generating low-carbon hydrogen and enabling the removal of CO2 already in the atmosphere- in other words, negative emissions.”
The development of CCS in the UK is still in its early stages, with the UK Government identifying it as a key facet of the planned energy transition.
A total of £1 billion has been pledged to develop four operational CCS sites by 2035, while Holyrood recently announced £80 million to support its development north of the border.
At the St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, the Acorn project is exploring using existing oil and gas infrastructure to inject and store CO2 in depleted gas reservoirs.
Last week, North East Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage, one of the drivers behind the scheme, was awarded more than a million pounds to develop a roadmap for decarbonising swathes of industry in Scotland.
Oil and Gas UK
Responding to the environmental group’s claims, Will Webster, trade body Oil and Gas UK’s policy manager, said: “We agree that tackling climate change will require a range of solutions and that we should neither rule out nor rely on any one technology which could help meet our shared goal.
“Our industry has a role to play in putting our essential expertise to good work to make sure we have a range of tools in our toolbox to help all parts of the economy reduce carbon emissions.
“Every industry will have a different approach depending on factors such as availability of alternative energies, efficiency and scale. Carbon capture is one of several key emissions-reducing technologies that is required for the UK to reach its net-zero objective by 2050 and has been recognised as critical by the Committee on Climate Change.
“We know that for harder to decarbonise industrial sectors and flexible power generation it will be especially important to capture emissions at source.
He added: “Work is already being done to nurture a home-grown energy transition, with exciting CCUS projects taking place in Teesside and Peterhead.
“Meanwhile, many of our members are expanding their outlook and incorporating, investing in, and accelerating low-carbon solutions such as wave and tidal, solar, and floating wind.
“We are currently negotiating the North Sea Transition Deal with governments to ensure continued development of CCUS, and we stand ready to work with both governments to inform policy development on achieving net-zero.”
Pale Blue Dot
Nick Cooper, chief executive of Storegga Geotechnologies, which owns Pale Blue Dot Energy, another of the drivers behind the Acorn project, said that the climate campaigners had missed the point of CCS.
He added: “Global Witness are correct in stating that CCS is currently subscale and that a massive expansion in global CCS capacity is overdue. Global Witness are also correct in stating that the majority of the currently operational CCS projects (mostly in North America) are been used to facilitate incremental, or ‘enhanced’ oil production.
“So we agree that whilst this earlier generation of CCS projects have helpfully proven the technical basis for CCS, they have generally not supported net zero ambitions.
“However the worrying error in Global Witness’ conclusions is that they have missed the purpose of the new generation of CCS projects and Global Witness appear confused as to exactly what they will be used for.
“Let’s put the record straight: the new generation of CCS projects are completely different in purpose from the earlier generation; they are a critical piece in helping achieve net zero.
“It is crucial for everyone to understand that the new generation of CCS projects being proposed in Europe have no relation at all to oil production.
“They are being solely designed to provide a safe, permanent storage for captured CO2 emissions. These CCS projects will then facilitate the build out of the crucial technologies of carbon capture, DAC (Direct Air Capture) and the production of hydrogen, as a clean burning fuel.”