Memorandum from The Royal Society
We are pleased to be able to respond to the
Committee's call for evidence for the inquiry into "Carbon
Capture and Storage":
Carbon capture and storage should
be considered as part of a package of possible approaches to prevent
CO2 reaching the atmosphere. These include using less
energy, using renewable and low carbon energy sources and developing
technologies that allow the continued use of fossil fuels while
reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We recommend that the Committee
consider in detail the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) Special report on Carbon dioxide capture
and storage (IPCC 2005).
The capture of CO2 from
large stationary sources is technically feasible, but expensive.
Without an appropriate incentive, or an economic framework to
fund its installation and use, it is unlikely to be deployed widely.
Capturing CO2 and compressing it for transportation
and storage requires additional plant and processing, which reduces
the overall efficiency of the plant, thereby increasing the cost
of generation, as well as the amount of CO2 per kilowatt
of energy produced. However this additional CO2 could
also be sequestered. Technological advances could help to reduce
costs and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the capture
Consideration should also be given
to the potential scale of the industry and associated infrastructure
required if carbon capture and storage is to deliver substantial
reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
In our report Economic instruments
for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions (Royal Society 2002)
we recommend that a price should be attached to the emission of
CO2 to the atmosphere, either through a carbon tax
or by tradable emission permits. This has the potential of making
carbon capture and storage economically viable. However consideration
is required as to how to design an effective economic instrument
that can ensure the long-term investment that this technology
requires. Such an incentive could come from the EU Emissions trading
scheme. In the short term, financial incentives may be needed
to ensure that all new power plants are designed to reduce the
cost of retrofitting capture technology.
Storage of carbon dioxide is already
being undertaken in a number of places worldwide, primarily for
the use of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). The geology surrounding
active oil and gas wells is largely understood and offer good
prospects for use as storage sites. For the UK the detailed knowledge
from the North Sea oil and gas industry means that their potential
use for CO2 storage is reasonably well understood.
However less is known about the geology globally and before widespread
global deployment is undertaken considerable effort will be required
to characterise and understand the geology of other potential
sites, particularly if saline aquifers are to be used rather than
oil wells. The recent IPCC Special Report (IPCC 2005) highlights
the need for further geological characterisation of potential
CO2 storage sites.
The Committee should consider issues
relating to the storage of CO2 including clarification
around who will own, regulate, fund and monitor the long-term
storage of CO2. In addition consideration should be
given to the timescales required for implementing the appropriate
regulatory and legal agreements. The DTI review of the feasibility
of carbon dioxide capture and storage in the UK (DTI 2003)
highlights the need for clarification or amendment of the OSPAR
Convention and the London Convention/Protocol, which govern the
disposal of wastes in or under the oceans. Although these conventions
do not prohibit the use of CO2 for EOR or other operational
reasons, it may take several years to secure international agreement
for the widespread storage of CO2.
Despite the potentially huge global
capacity for sequestration offered by ocean storage, where CO2
is deposited on or above the sea floor in the deep oceans, consideration
must be given to the environmental risks. In our report on Ocean
acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (Royal
we highlighted that research into the impacts of high concentrations
of CO2 in the oceans is in its infancy.
The program of funding and development
of CCS within the UK should take place within the broader framework
of international activities to ensure that it is contributing
to an international program of emission reduction. Even if the
UK were to capture and store a substantial quantity of its own
emissions, this would be only a small contribution to the global
reductions in emissions required to reduce the risks posed by
climate change. However by showing leadership, the UK might engage
with India and China in managing their potential future emissions
of carbon dioxide effectively, to much greater global effect.
The Committee needs also to consider
the potentially important role that public opinion could have
on the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage.
Our comments refer to previous Royal Society
studies. We would be pleased to provide copies of these and/or
expand on any of the points outlines below.
14 IPCC (2005). Special Report on Carbon dioxide
Capture and Storage-Summary for Policymakers. IPCC Geneva,
Switzerland. http://www.ipcc.ch/activity/ccsspm.pdf Back
Royal Society (2002). Economic instruments for the reduction
of carbon dioxide emissions. Document 26/02 http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/displaypagedoc.asp?id=11309 Back
DTI (2003). Review of the feasibility of carbon dioxide capture
and storage in the UK. Department of Trade and Industry URN
Royal Society (2005) Ocean Acidification due to increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide. Document 12/05 http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/document.asp?id=3249 Back