Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Consortium

Submitted by UKCCSC Management Committee:
Jon Gibbins, Imperial College London

Stuart Haszeldine, University of Edinburgh

Sam Holloway, Jonathan Pearce, British Geological Survey

John Oakey, Cranfield University

Simon Shackley, University of Manchester

Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory


  The UK Carbon Capture and Storage Consortium, with members from 15 UK universities and research institutions, is part of the Research Councils' "Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy (TSEC) programme". The mission of the consortium is "to promote an understanding of how options for decoupling fossil fuel use from carbon emissions through the use of carbon capture and storage could be used to assist the UK in achieving an energy system which is environmentally sustainable, socially acceptable and meets energy needs securely and affordably".

  To place the proposal results within a UK "whole systems" perspective, the Consortium mission will be carried out through close collaboration with UKERC and the National Energy Network. The project runs for three years from June 2005, to provide research inputs to the rapidly moving UK energy debate.

  Further details of the Consortium and background information on CCS can be found on the web site:


CCS in the UK electricity generation sector

  It appears possible that carbon capture and storage will have a significant role to play in the UK generation sector, and this potential should be recognised in the Committee's deliberations.

  DTI UEP electricity generation mix figures for 2000-20 and some illustrative alternative scenarios for 2020 are shown in Table 1 overleaf.

  The UK power generation sector contains opportunities for the commercial deployment of a wide range of CCS technologies. However, the "commercially viability" of some or all of these measures for deployment in 2020 depends entirely on final UK carbon emission targets and the ability of alternative options to deliver at a lower price. Additional costs for the "decarbonised electricity" options using CCS are probably in the range of 1-3 p/kWh. The scenarios shown in Table 1 include an option in which significant coal generation capability is retained. This would probably involve some existing power plants being upgraded from sub-critical to supercritical steam conditions and having post-combustion CO2 "scrubbers" added. It is also likely, however, that some new Integrated Gas Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants with CO2 shift to hydrogen would also be built—several such schemes are already being planned. In the longer term, further existing coal power plants may be upgraded to oxyfuel operation or be repowered with gasifiers.

  Natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plant may also have CO2 capture fitted. This could be pre-combustion capture with intermediate production of hydrogen, as at the proposed Peterhead/Miller scheme, or use post-combustion capture technology. Natural gas plants are likely to offer relatively low-cost CO2 capture so long as gas prices are also low, particularly for new NGCC plant that is designed for capture from the outset. The last column in Table 1 shows this option—the amount of NGCC plant capacity with capture corresponds approximately to new plant that would need to be built between now and 2020 to meet demand in a high-gas scenario. In any case it is important that all new UK power plant is built to be "capture ready", even if capture equipment is not installed when it is built. Depending on future natural gas supply conditions, some existing NGCC plant may be modified to operate on gas from new coal gasifiers—these would also be suitable for CO2 capture either when built or subsequently.

  The UK has significant CO2 storage opportunities offshore, with probably the greatest absolute capacity of any European country after Norway and the best combination of CO2 sources relatively close to potential CO2 sinks. Storage capacity for UK oil fields as a result of enhanced oil recovery has been estimated at approximately 700 Mt CO2. Storage capacity in saline aquifers may be significantly larger (possibly orders of magnitude larger) than this but estimates are more difficult due to the uncertainties surrounding poorly characterised aquifers. To develop this potential, however, needs a value to be given to CO2 by emissions trading, or by UK government fiscal policy—as well as public and legal acceptance. Deployment of such a strategy is viewed as best value bridging technology towards much more drastic CO2 reductions between about 2020 and 2050.

  The abundance of CCS options in the UK also brings challenges. A range of stakeholders need to participate in developing effective strategies and there is a risk of excessive diversification and dissipation of effort. As a result, new integrated research projects have been proposed to study the issues involved in getting the best value for the UK out of CCS applications and to make sure that maximum benefits are achieved through international collaboration on technology development. The DTI CAT (Carbon Abatement Strategy) and the Research Councils' TSEC (Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy) initiative are both planned to address CCS issues in depth, and to place them in an integrated UK energy system context and to consider the social, environmental, economic, technological and other aspects. Environmental and health and safety issues surrounding CCS on a range of temporal and spatial scales require a focused and coordinated research activity. In the longer term, it is hoped that a UK Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Authority will be established by the UK Government to take overall responsibility for the regulation of this new industry, and eventually to provide long term stewardship for the CO2 stored underground.

Global applications for carbon capture and storage technologies

  The UK energy economy has the potential to develop and demonstrate CCS technologies that could find applications in many other countries. The UK has the opportunity to make a leading contribution in this field, because of:

    —  its industrial expertise in a number of key areas;

    —  the need for new UK power plant capacity over the next two decades;

    —  a window of opportunity in the next decade for enhanced oil recovery in the North Sea;

    —  national CO2 emission targets that could justify the deep reductions that CCS technologies can give; and

    —  a fortuitous combination of geological endowment, with subsurface engineering.

  CCS is likely also to see early use in other countries over the next two decades and, even where immediate deployment is not justified, it is important to ensure that new power plants are designed and built to be "capture ready". This can generally be done at minimal cost, for conventional pulverised coal and NGCC plants as well as new IGCC stations. It would then be possible to add CO2 capture rapidly and at relatively low cost whenever political and economic conditions develop to justify it. The capability to achieve rapid and cost-effective deployment of CCS technology, as part of a portfolio of demand and supply side options to manage carbon emissions, is also likely to encourage a positive approach to atmospheric CO2 concentration stabilisation.

21 September 2005

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 16 April 2006