A two-year research project by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) concludes that most of the uncertainties facing the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) can be resolved in theory but there is a tough road ahead.
The report, Carbon capture and storage: realising the potential?, looks at the technical, economic, financial and social challenges facing the technology and the role that CCS could play in the UK’s long-term energy portfolio.
“We still don't know when CCS technologies will be technically proven at full scale, and whether their costs will be competitive with other low-carbon options,” says lead author, Jim Watson, director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex.
So the report gives a cautious welcome to the government’s long-term development plans and relaunch of its £1 billion demonstration competition, but warns that it is vital that the government commits to several full-scale projects as soon as possible.
“Only through such learning by doing will we know whether CCS is a serious option for the future, and how the technical, economic and legal uncertainties currently facing investors can be overcome,” says Watson.
The report also concludes that it is too early for the government to choose one particular CCS technology to back. Instead, the £1 billion competition should be an opportunity to try out different technologies and identify the most promising.
Establishing a mandatory requirement for CCS too early could also be damaging, cautions the report, and will only work once the technology is more advanced.
The path will not be smooth, the report goes on, warning that in the development of a new technology costs can often continue to rise for several years before they start to fall, requiring real commitment and patience.
“It will be vital to keep options open in the government's CCS commercialisation programme,” advised Watson. “There is a long way to go before CCS is a reality at full scale.”
For further information:
UK government launches CCS competition and new roadmap (3-Apr)
UK government launches £20 million CCS competition (13-Mar)
Parliamentary committee seeks clarity on UK government CCS plans (8-Dec 2011)
Failing to invest now in carbon capture is risking jobs, say UK’s trade unions (18-Oct 2011)
19 April 2012