Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Consortium

The UK Carbon Capture and Storage Consortium is a multidisciplinary group of 12 universities and two NERC Research Institutes which has received £2 million funding as part of the 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". The participants in the UKCCSC are not funded by industry interests on this project, although individual groups may have diverse income streams which include industrial sponsorship. For further information on the Consortium and CCS see


  Carbon capture and storage is a viable carbon abatement technology for the UK. The first full scale systems could be deployed by 2010.  Market based incentives required for early deployment are expected to be less than for analogous actions on renewables. Ample offshore geological storage for CO2 is available. The public acceptability for CCS appears to be better than for nuclear power. The main role for Government in facilitating R&D on CCS is to implement the incentive schemes for early deployment that will allow "learning by doing" and attract and focus industrial and other R&D effort. Government also needs to ensure that CCS receives appropriate attention in UK energy policy studies, that the necessary academic base for this potentially large field of activity is developed and that independent expertise is available to support the key Government role of issuing permits and providing long-term stewardship for geological CO2 storage sites.

(a)  The viability of CCS as a carbon abatement technology for the UK

  A1.  Global deployment of CCS technologies will be referred to only briefly, but it should be noted that much of the atmospheric carbon concentration abatement benefit to the UK from R&D on CCS is likely to arise through technologies and practices developed and demonstrated in the UK being replicated in other countries, particularly in connection with coal utilisation. This is a new, and therefore potentially "game changing", approach to climate change mitigation in which the UK, because of its favourable natural geological assets and drive to develop low emission energy, is well placed to be one of the world leaders.

  A2.  CCS as a carbon abatement technology for the UK will be discussed primarily in the context of its possible initial deployment in the near-term (10-20 year) to 1) contribute simultaneously to filling electricity generation and CO2 emission reduction "gaps" and 2) extend the use of North Sea industry resources, infrastructure and expertise. In the longer term decarbonised electricity and hydrogen produced using CCS could also be used extensively in the building and ground transport sectors, with potentially very high abatement levels (80% plus) for the fossil fuel component of energy supply in these areas. This depends, however, on changes in the infrastructure and end-use stock to accommodate carbon-free energy vectors, particularly for transport (as well as the necessary emission targets). Large scale biomass conversion with CCS, probably through co-utilisation of biomass with coal, would also remove CO2 from the air, as well as providing energy. This could be used as an offset for emissions from air and marine transport, where carbon-based liquid fuels have obvious technical advantages.

  By allowing the continued use of coal, which has much larger world reserves than gas or oil and historically more stable prices, CCS can also contribute to UK energy diversity and security, both in the immediate term and in 30 to 40 years time, when oil and gas may be running out.

  The scope for using CCS to effect higher levels of abatement from fossil fuel use in the future is, however, likely to be strongly affected by whether or not an established core of CCS infrastructure and expertise is built up over time using earlier opportunities. In particular, offshore facilities that have been removed, pipelines that have been scrapped and wells that have been sealed cannot subsequently be reinstated for a new lease of life as part of a UK carbon dioxide storage system. Further incremental oil is also not likely to be obtained by CO2 EOR from fields that have been abandoned.

  A3.  CCS technologies that might be considered for deployment for electricity generation in the UK over the next 10-20 years are shown in Table 1 overleaf. Coal gasification might also be used to generate hydrogen-rich gas for chemical production and oil refining, possibly in conjunction with electricity production (polygeneration).

  A4.  CCS technologies could begin deployment at full scale in the UK by 2010 if economic, regulatory and other conditions were favourable. The BP/SSE Miller/Peterhead project using CCS from a 350MW natural gas power station for EOR is scheduled to start operation in 2009 ( A new 800MWe IGCC at Teesside being developed by Progressive Energy reportedly aims to be in operation by 2010.  Commercial post combustion capture technology from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will have been demonstrated at small scale on coal flue gas by 2006 and will probably be offered commercially from 2008 with earliest operation also perhaps by 2010 (it is possible, however, that the Large Combustion Plant Directive deadline in 2016 would be the preferred date for any post combustion capture retrofits to existing pulverised coal plants). CO2 storage in depleted offshore oilfields for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is technically and legally feasible now. Storage in offshore aquifers and depleted gas fields is also technically feasible but may currently not be permissible under the OSPAR and London treaties for CO2 originating from land-based installations. The UK government is currently working to extend these treaties to include environmentally sound storage.

  A5.  CCS deployment could achieve emission reductions approaching 50 MtCO2/yr by 2020 from estimates in a previous UKCCSC publication, as summarised in Table 2 below: (

Table 2


  A6.  CCS electricity generation economics for a power plant operator capturing CO2 on site depend on lower net operating costs offsetting the increased capital costs for the capture plant and other equipment. Fuel input per unit electricity is increased by approximately 20-25% for coal and 10-15% for gas to provide the energy to drive the CO2 capture process, and there will also be a charge for CO2 storage (except possibly with EOR). But charges for carbon emissions would be reduced (by approximately 85%) and there may also be further incentive payments for low-emission generation, giving a net reduction in operating costs.

  An alternative business model for a fuel supplier involves selling hydrogen-rich gas "over the fence" to a gas turbine combined cycle (GTCC) power plant operator. Fuel prices are higher than for natural gas, but carbon emission costs are lower. The value added to the natural gas, coal (or possibly, cheaper, petroleum coke) used, with pre-combustion capture, to generate the hydrogen covers the capital costs of the plant and CO2 storage costs.

  Additional costs required to produce "decarbonised electricity" from CCS would vary with fuel prices and site- and technology-specific factors for the capture and storage components but are probably in the range of 1-3 pence per kilowatt-hour (p/kWh), with most of this attributable to the cost of capturing and compressing the CO2.

  A7.  CCS must be recognised in the EU ETS to provide a financial reward for the carbon emission savings. Currently geological storage is not included as a valid sink within the EU ETS, but there is a DTI study that indicates a way in which it could be included (

  A8.  Geophysical feasibility: Current CO2 storage projects at the Sleipner and In Salah gas fields and the many enhanced oil recovery projects (including the Weyburn project) clearly indicate that it is technically possible to inject and store CO2 underground for the short to medium term (at least 2 decades). Long-term storage cannot be directly demonstrated as CO2 injection has only been carried out for the last 20-30 years, but natural CO2 and CO2-rich gas accumulations are thought to have existed for millions of years.

  Depleted natural gas and oil fields have a proven ability to retain buoyant fluids so should be able to retain CO2 for very long periods, providing that their exploitation has not damaged the seal that previously retained hydrocarbons and that reaction with CO2 does not allow leakage. Although it is more difficult to prove that "traps" identified in saline aquifers can retain CO2, many such traps have been used for natural gas storage, and it is expected that there will be significant storage capacity in saline aquifers.

  A9.  UK storage capacity: From a UK perspective there is significant storage potential in the rocks beneath the UK Continental Shelf, especially in the areas that contain our reserves of oil and natural gas: potential storage capacity in UK oil and gas fields is approximately 6.2 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt = 109 tonnes) and total UK storage capacity is likely to comfortably exceed 20 GtCO2 (approximately 125 years of current UK electricity sector emissions or 40 years of current total emissions). These estimates were made by the British Geological Survey, who have submitted evidence independently.

  A10.  Monitoring and long-term stewardship: A framework for monitoring CO2 underground will be necessary to prevent or mitigate potential leaks. 4D seismic could detect the movement of CO2 underground. Measurements should be compared to predictive numerical models. The location of all abandoned wells should be recorded—as is done already in the North Sea—with rules for filling the wells with CO2-resistant cement. The wells should be monitored for leaks of CO2. If CO2 is leaking, wells can be recompleted, or reservoirs depressurised by pumping out CO2 and injecting it elsewhere. The responsibility for long-term monitoring would have to lie with the Government and not private industry and a UK Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Authority might need to be established to take overall responsibility for the regulation of this new industry and eventually to provide long-term stewardship for the CO2 stored underground.

  A11.  Public acceptability: CCS still has limited public awareness. Research by the Tyndall Centre and Cambridge suggests that the public are not opposed to CCS and become more in favour as they learn more. However, acceptance of the technology is dependent on 1) acceptance of climate change as a serious and urgent problem and 2) that CCS would be implemented as part of a portfolio of measures (including renewables and energy efficiency) and not at the expense of other mitigation options. CCS appears to be more acceptable to the public than nuclear power.

(b)  The UK Government's role in funding CCS R&D and providing incentives for technology transfer and industrial R&D in CCS technology

  B1.  Deployment to allow "learning by doing" is the most critical incentive for R&D into all aspects of CCS technologies and how they can be used for the benefit of the UK. The importance of this route for renewables has already been recognised, with the Government putting in place support mechanisms, most notably ROCs, to bring these technologies to large-scale deployment earlier than pure market conditions would allow. Similar market based incentives, although probably at a lower cost per unit of production, are required for CCS technologies. If forthcoming, the first full scale UK CCS projects could be operational by about 2010.  Specific incentives should also be considered for the new offshore activity of combined CO2 storage and EOR. Government actions to establish suitable incentives would immediately release significant amounts of industrial R&D and focus complementary R&D activities in academe and government. Many of the industrial organisations involved are multinational companies and so would be able to bring funds and expertise from a much wider base to their flagship projects in the UK.

  B2.  Government must consistently identify CCS as an energy technology area in the same way as "nuclear", "hydrogen", "biomass", "renewables" etc. and give it generally equivalent attention in official planning and communications if its possible contributions to UK energy supplies are to receive appropriate attention in R&D activities. Significant progress has already been made in this area, notably the DTI CAT Strategy Report and the POST note on CCS but, given that CCS is such a new field, consistent and sustained effort is needed to ensure that relevant applications and benefits are not overlooked.

  B3.  Government must support R&D on how CCS fits into the big UK energy picture because many aspects of CCS technologies and their use go well beyond the concerns of individual organisations. The TSEC programme and specifically our UKCCSC project is one successful example of this, but it needs to be backed up by further and more detailed cross-disciplinary work as the field develops.

  B4.  Government must support the development of independent UK expertise on the long-term issues associated with licensing, monitoring and closing geological CO2 storage sites so it can ensure that CCS is being conducted safely and with appropriate levels of environmental protection. This will both help to achieve public acceptance of CCS and also protect the interests of the Government itself, as the body to whom residual long term responsibility for these sites will inevitably devolve. Some of the necessary R&D can, and should, be undertaken through international collaborations, but many issues will arise that relate to specific UK geological conditions and site characteristics. The environmental consequences for leakage of CO2 into the marine environment are also a particular UK concern.

  B5.  Government must fund academic R&D projects that train the next generation of CCS experts and build up centres of UK expertise for all elements in the CCS capture, transport and storage train as well as produce immediate research results. Both the Research Councils and Government Departments such as the DTI are already funding a limited number of academic projects on CCS, but there are essentially no previous generations of CCS-aware people for a future expansion in UK CCS deployment to draw on. Young scientists and engineers are, however, generally very enthusiastic about a career in this field and rapid progress could be made if more resources were available.

  B6.  Government must support UK involvement in international CCS projects and networks—as a cost-effective way of undertaking R&D and ensuring that its benefits are transferred back into the UK. Dissemination within the UK is also a critical element in the process. A number of such collaborations are already under way but potential opportunities are likely to increase with time. The scope for international CCS projects to contribute to furthering the aims of UK policy on global climate change mitigation also exists.

October 2005

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