A new report has found that carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants will cut the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of electricity by only 70%, up to 20% less than had previously been assumed.
The report was produced by Professor Geoff Hammond, University of Bath, and Dr Craig Jones, Principal Associate at resource efficiency company, Sustain.
While the report has found that CCS could deliver a 90% reduction in the direct emissions from a power station, it doesn’t, however, capture the upstream emissions of fuel production – which are 25 times more potent as a GHG than carbon dioxide.
Combined with the fuel penalty of a CCS installation (between 15-20%), which means an increase in upstream emissions, the report proves that CCS cannot possibly deliver a 90% emissions reduction.
In fact, when full life cycle emissions are considered (consumption-based emissions), it is claimed that CCS may only deliver a 70% reduction in GHG emissions for coal-fired electricity generation.
An example of upstream emissions might be fugitive methane emissions from coal mining and gas pipelining.
Dr Jones said, “This report demonstrably proves the importance of full life cycle emissions. We believe that it’s time for governments to start considering these consumption-based emissions in their policy making.”
“For example, with depleting North Sea gas reserves the UK is looking abroad to provide more and more of its fossil fuels. This will require longer transport distances and longer gas pipelines, which in turn gives rise to more fugitive methane emissions and its resulting GHG impact.”
Professor Hammond, Founder Director of the University of Bath’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment, added, “A 70% reduction in carbon emissions is a significant gain in terms of climate change mitigation. However, if Government departments and agencies presume that CCS can remove 90% of the carbon dioxide in the power station flue gases, they will seriously underestimate the challenge of achieving a decarbonised electricity sector.”
“Upstream emissions produce a drag on our ability to deliver on meaningful global warming targets in the UK and the wider world.”
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