The issue of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) crisis has been thrust back into the spotlight today, after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released its Energy and Climate Change Committee Report on the topic.
The account, which has left the public with mixed responses, doesn’t actually deliver a concluded and fixed plan for the future, and instead offers a series of statements about what is deemed to be essential in order for the UK to hit its targets.
The statement detailed that the next steps for the DECC would be to devise a new strategy, and promptly, for CCS in conjunction with a new gas strategy, and that the infrastructure surrounding the transport and storage of carbon needs to be considered far in advance of it being utilised.
It also stated that the Department should assess the financial and other benefits of using the existing North Sea infrastructure, and it should seek to engage with the National Infrastructure Commission to explore options for the development of CO2 transport and storage.
However, no definite conclusions of a plan of action were outlined, leaving the public and investors still guessing as to the future of CCS in the UK.
A global deal was reached in December 2015 at the COP21 summit, in which 195 countries entered a legally binding contract to limit global temperatures to below 2°C. As part of this, the UK is therefore committed to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050.
But back in November 2015, the UK Government, fronted by David Cameron, drastically axed £1bn ($1.4bn) of funding for the CCS Commercialisation Competition, and elucidated the cut by blaming additional equipment and design security, plus extra costs for conversion by having to use existing pipelines to transport carbon dioxide (CO2) offshore.
The UK Government first promised support for CCS in 2007, and in 2012 launched the CCS competition, with the aim to see CCS projects developed before 2020. But just weeks before the final bids were to be submitted in this process, the Government unexpectedly announced that the funding was no longer available.
Commenting on DECC’s publication, Claire Jakobsson, Head of Energy and Climate Policy at EEF, raged, “The ECC Select Committee’s report reinforces the short-sightedness of the Government’s decision to withdraw funding for the CCS competition. Indeed, the Government’s own plans for decarbonising the economy had long included the growth of CCS technology and it is difficult to see how we can meet existing targets for decarbonising industry, and at a reasonable cost, without such technology in place.”
She went on to say, “For many sectors, such as steel and cement, there are simply no other options available for cutting emissions. No Government support for CCS locks many industrial sectors into a carbon intensive future, paying an increasing amount in carbon taxes and putting them at a competitive disadvantage. We are running short of time if we are to have any chance of an industrial CCS programme in the UK and the Government needs to come up with a strategy fast.”
In an answer about the report, a DECC spokesperson said, “We haven’t closed the door to CCS technology in the UK, but as part of our ongoing work to get Britain’s finances back on track, we have had to take difficult decisions to control Government spending.”
“CCS should come down in cost and we are considering the role that it could play in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK. We are committed to meeting our climate change targets in a way that is affordable and provides secure energy to our families and businesses.”
However, the report did state that “pulling the plug on the competition without warning in this way was damaging both to the relationship between Government and the industry, and to investment into the UK,” and that if the Government does not come up with a clear strategy and soon, the “knowledge, investment, assets and expertise in the UK will all be lost.”
CCS is a way of ‘decarbonising’ fossil fuel power generation. It involves capturing CO2 emitted from high-producing sources and transporting and storing it in secure geological formations deep underground. The transported CO2 can then be reused in processes such as enhanced oil recovery or in the chemical industry.