Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is essential for the future of UK low-carbon electricity. So says the Energy and Climate Change Committee report on CCS, published today [Wednesday 21 May], and so says the UK Government.

The UK is uniquely positioned for developing CCS. It has inventive manufacturers to develop CO2capture equipment, industries to engineer equipment and pipelines, and a world-leading offshore hydrocarbon industry to undertake safe and secure CO2 storage. The Committee states that the UK should concentrate on developing its massive, and potentially profitable, offshore storage in depleted oilfields and saltwater aquifers – hundreds of years’ worth. And it points out that the UK Government should better inform its public about the benefits.

The UK has an outstanding civil service, which has delivered the correct legislation, regulation and electricity market reform rapidly and to the highest quality. Two full-chain CCS commercialisation projects (Peterhead, Aberdeenshire; and White Rose, Yorkshire) are also being examined, but they will not begin operating until 2018 at the earliest.

But why is the UK so slow at developing this technology, which the Committee says will reduce wholesale electricity costs in 2030 by 20% – and will halve the extra cost of low-carbon power by 2050, according to the Energy Technologies Institute? The delivery of CCS takes time to build the necessary equipment. If we are to meet these milestones, the UK must have another five projects under construction by 2020.

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said, “We all want a secure future, which includes low-carbon energy. Developing five CCS projects now will cost each UK household around £30 per year. The UK needs more than 30 of these to start building before 2025. To avoid extra costs later, we must develop our CO2 storage now. That is a good insurance premium against the 100% certainty of future carbon taxes and future global change. Avoiding CCS investment may look cheap today, but is storing up high-cost trouble for later.”

Ironically, three fully commercial projects await the UK Government’s use of market powers, which already exist, to kickstart development. Summit Power’s CCS proposal at Grangemouth could create 5,000 construction jobs from 2015, 2Co Energy’s Don Valley CCS Project in Yorkshire was once a leading European project, and Teesside Low Carbon could decarbonise a large part of the UK chemical industry. All are withering due to a lack of government attention. All could pipe CO2 offshore to produce additional oil recovery from depleted fields, which would more than pay for their costs through oil tax revenue.