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Renewed Push for CCS in the UK

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Nikki Brain, Policy Manager at the CCSA, reflects on the outlook for CCS in the UK over the coming year:

 

As we are now one month into 2018, let’s take stock of where we are with CCS in the UK.

Back in October last year, the Government released its much awaited Clean Growth Strategy (CGS), which contained a set of new commitments to move forward with CCS in the UK. For those with an interest in UK climate policy this is a welcome development, given that CCS remains critical to meeting our carbon targets at least cost, and the only option for deep decarbonisation for some industries.

The new approach set out in the CGS emphasises collaboration between Government and the private sector; recognises the role CCUS can play in decarbonising multiple sectors including industry, power, heat and transport; and highlights the economic potential CCUS represents to the UK.

 

The Government has established a CCUS Ministerial Council; a high level advisory body to review progress and priorities for CCUS. By summer, a CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce will deliver a plan to reduce the cost of deploying CCUS in the UK. Both the Council and Taskforce have direct Ministerial involvement from Claire Perry (Minister for Energy and Clean Growth) and both recently held their first meetings. This is a positive sign that Government wants to move quickly with this process and that there is high level support within Government to drive forward on CCUS. Furthermore, government has committed to responding to the Cost Challenge Task Force with the publication of a CCUS deployment pathway by the end of this year as well as reviewing the delivery and investment frameworks for CCUS.

At the heart of the Government’s new approach to CCUS is the ambition of “deploying CCUS at scale during the 2030s, subject to costs coming down sufficiently”.

But what does this actually mean?

As we have seen in the case of offshore wind in the UK, significant cost reductions can be achieved by cycles of deployment and innovation. Last month, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its assessment of the Clean Growth Strategy, recommending that the UK should develop two industrial CCS clusters in the mid-2020s to enable build-out at scale in the 2030s.

 

It is clear from this and previous CCC reports that if the UK is to meet its 2050 climate change target, CCS will need to capture tens of millions of tonnes of CO2 by 2035. The graph below from a recent Summit Power report shows that, with a steady build-out rate, the UK should aim to capture 5 million tonnes of CO2 by 2025 and 10 million tonnes by 2030. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Summit-Power-build-out-rates.JPG

Therefore the first CCS projects must be in operation during the 2020s. If we were to wait until 2035 for the first projects to begin operation, this would lead to an unrealistic build-out rate and increased pressures on the supply chain and construction companies who would struggle to meet demand.

So, does the Clean Growth Strategy include sufficiently strong policy signals to enable this to happen?

The Committee on Climate Change gave a clear answer in their response to the Clean Growth Strategy; given the importance of CCS for longer term emissions reduction, the commitment from government is not yet strong enough.

CCS will be critical to decarbonisation of skilled industries in the UK such as steel, cement and chemicals. When fitted to fossil fuels, it will play an important role in providing a flexible source of low-carbon electricity, and CCS also represents the cornerstone for developing low-carbon hydrogen in the UK for heat – should this path be chosen. At the launch event of the Committee’s report, Lord Deben was keen to stress that CCS is inevitable if the UK is to reach net-zero emissions and therefore, a “no CCS” scenario should not be considered as an option for the UK.

 

Now that the Cost Challenge Taskforce has held its first meeting, the challenge over the next few months is for industry and government to work together to outline an ambitious and realistic deployment pathway for CCS in the UK. The offshore wind success story shows what can be achieved when Government and industry collaborate to drive large-scale deployment and cost reduction. We now need to do the same for CCS.