Multi-scale Energy Systems Modelling Encompassing Renewable, Intermittent, Stored Energy and Carbon Capture and Storage (MESMERISE-CCS)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: The Centre for Environmental Policy


The UK needs carbon capture and storage (CCS) as part of its energy mix to minimise the cost of decarbonising our economy. CCS will have to fit into an electricity market that is increasingly dominated by inflexible nuclear and uncontrollable wind. It will therefore be vital that the CCS plants we develop are sufficiently flexible to interact with this new system, and balance the rapid start and cycling abilities with the lowest possible capital and operating costs. Flexible CCS will be characterised by the ability to simultaneously interact with the complex electricity system of the future and also the downstream CO2 transport and storage system. Rather than burning fuel purely in response to electricity price, CCS operators will also have to factor in waste storage costs, which will suffer similar complexity due to constraints on CO2 transport and injection rates and gas composition.

This project will identify the flexibility bottlenecks in the CCS chain and also promising options for the development of resilient CCS systems. These models will internally calculate CCS plant load factors and electricity wholesale prices, thereby enabling a rigorous, technologically- and temporally-explicit, whole systems analysis. Feedback from CO2 storage operations will exert an as-yet unknown impact on the feasible operating space of the decarbonised power plant. We will explicitly quantify the interactions between the above- and below-ground links in the CCS chain. Sample CCS chains developed will be assessed in more detail concerning their broader role in the UK energy system. The implications of technological improvements in critical technologies such as advanced sorbents, improved air separation technologies and the availability of waste heat will also be considered.

On a larger scale, the inter-operation of sample UK-specific CCS networks with intermittent renewable energy generation will be examined from an internally consistent whole-systems perspective. The internalisation of exogenous boundary conditions (e.g., the role of renewable energy and CCS plant load factors) and the development of multi-source-to-sink CCS system models will enable the most accurate assessment to date of how CCS will fit into the UK energy system and would interact with other energy vectors. The linking of CCS and renewable energy generation system models will allow us to examine the opportunities and impacts associated with the co-deployment of renewable energy and CCS in the UK. This will feed into a wider policy analysis that will examine the dynamics of changing system infrastructure at intermediate time periods between now and 2050.

Dissemination of research output will be continuous over the duration of the project. We will engage with the academic community via publication in the international peer reviewed scientific literature and presenting at selected conferences. Owing to the topical nature of this research, public engagement is a priority for us. We plan on creating and managing a project webpage will provide real time insight into project progress and intermediate conclusions and results. All research papers and presentations will be available from this site. Similarly, we will conduct a continuous horizon scanning activity as part of this project. Our website will be continuously updated with a view to providing an understanding of where our research fits in the broader UK and international research arena.

This work will be carried out via the development and integration of detailed mathematical models of each link in the CCS chain. We have engaged with a leading UK-based software development company with whom we will work to make these models available to the academic and broader stakeholder community. Further, a version of the modelling tools suitable for use by the general public will also be prepared. It is expected that this tool will be analogous in form and functionality to the DECC 2050 Calculator.

Planned Impact

It is well accepted that CCS will be a key part to achieving our climate targets whilst simultaneously ensuring security of electricity supply. Therefore, research work aimed at reducing the cost-increase associated with low carbon electricity will directly benefit a wide range of beneficiaries.

The following groups will benefit from this research:

1. The UK economy (including UK households) which will benefit from a quantitative analysis of the least-cost pathways to providing a low carbon energy future from a variety of power generation sources. Ultimately, this has the potential to reduce electricity bills by advancing understanding.
2. The CO2 capture and systems industry (mainly power, gas processing and oil and gas producers) will benefit from understanding real world constraints on CCS systems operation and optimization.
3. Government and regulators who require objective information about technology pathways and their impact on energy supply, CO2 emissions and the economy.
4. The UK CCS Research Centre funded by the EPSRC who will use the data, tools and training for further input into the strategic directions for academic CCS research.
5. The public who require an understanding of where CCS fits in the context of the whole energy system, including a clear picture of its costs and benefits compared with alternative energy technology pathways.

Further CCS is a major green growth opportunity for the UK; by the late 2020s, CCS-related UK-based economic activity is expected to be in the region of £3-6.5 billion/year and is expected to create up to 100,000 highly skilled UK based jobs. This work will directly feed into this activity. Through the CCS Commercialisation Competition, the UK Government has recognised the importance of expediting the deployment of CCS. There is a relatively small window of opportunity for the science and translation community to build on the UK's head start in this area.

Both the APGTF and DECC CCS roadmaps identified whole-systems research and development as one of the key short term (5-10 years) needs with an emphasis on obtaining an understanding of system flexibility to cope with changes in demand and the ability of decarbonised power plants to interact with both the energy market and the CO2 transport and storage system. Additionally, the LCIG CCS TINA identified whole-systems optimisation as the enabler of all value identified with UK CCS. This project lies at the forefront of cross-cutting research into the whole-systems flexibility of CCS. Thus it is of key strategic importance to the future development of the emerging UK CCS industry.

This research team leads the academic research block for the White Rose CCS project and this proposal will compliment that activity. This work builds on previous RCUK investments in low carbon energy systems in general and CCS in particular and is complementary to several other on-going research efforts in the area of low carbon energy systems across in addition to leveraging the outcomes of other research work. This serves to highlight the cross-cutting and trans-disciplinary nature of this work; in addition to Carbon Capture and Storage, we complement research in the Energy Storage and Whole Energy Systems research areas. In this way we will boost the health of UK energy systems research areas by linking several research areas. To our knowledge, this is the first time that an interdisciplinary project of this kind has been proposed; thus ensuring the UK's lead in this key emerging industry.


10 25 50

publication icon
Bui M (2018) Dynamic operation and modelling of amine-based CO2 capture at pilot scale in International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control

publication icon
Bui M (2018) Carbon capture and storage (CCS): the way forward in Energy & Environmental Science

Description • To model the impact that CCS might have on future UK electricity market conditions, we need to understand the potential influence of other emergent technologies such as electricity storage devices. If these were able to operate on a large scale they would influence prices, market behaviour and future investment decisions. We have taken an existing approach to the calculation of potential earnings of a small-scale storage device - one that stores so little electricity that its impact on the behaviour of generators and prices is negligible - and adapted it to deal with the case of a notional large-scale storage device. This algorithm is now available to use in our MOSSI electricity market model, allowing the influence of large-scale storage to be included in the study of possible market evolution and the future role of CCS.
• We have developed detailed models of coal- and gas-fired power plants integrated with amine-based CO2 capture processes. These models have been soft-linked with both electricity market models and also CO2 storage models
• We have performed sensitivity analyses of the impact of various simulation parameters - injection rates, injection patterns, reservoir heterogeneity, hysteresis - on the dynamic storage capacity of the Bunter sandstone in the Southern North Sea. We have found that the dynamic capacity can be well represented with a simplified model suitable for incorporation into whole systems models of energy in the UK.
Exploitation Route The models and methodologies we develop can be used by others in their own work
Sectors Energy

Description Met with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (Bill Gates' $1bn clean energy fund) to discuss UK energy policy
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Description Met with the Department for Exiting the EU (DEXEU) to discuss energy policy priorities
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description Collaboration with ETH Zurich 
Organisation ETH Zurich
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Expertise and intellectual input on research design and methodological development.
Collaborator Contribution Same
Impact Two joint papers submitted to Energy which detail our methodological advances in simulating wind and solar energy (requisite inputs to this project)
Start Year 2015
Description Collaboration with Prof. Adam Brandt, Stanford University 
Organisation Stanford University
Department Department of Energy Resources Engineering
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contributed knowledge of CCS and EOR and a PhD student was seconded to work with Prof. Brandt
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Brandt supervised a PhD student, Clea Kolster and helped her to develop a techno-economic model showing the tradeoffs between CO2 price and oil price in incentivizing CCS with Enhanced Oil Recovery
Impact There are papers in preparation
Start Year 2016
Description Collaboration with Professor Robert Zimmerman, Imperial College London 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My research team is running simulations and implementing mathematical models to develop a simplified model representation of the UK North Sea reservoir system.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Robert Zimmerman is supporting the development of the simplified model system through his background in the development of analytic models of processes of geological fluid dynamics
Impact The work is ongoing
Start Year 2017
Description Collaboration with Thanos Panagopoulos (UC Berkeley) 
Organisation University of California, Berkeley
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Virtual Wind Farm model, which is background IP being used in the MESMERISE project
Collaborator Contribution Machine learning and big-data analytics to develop improved modelling of wind farm output
Impact None yet
Start Year 2017
Description CCS Forum 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact international best-with-best workshop, jointly funded by the RSC and FCO, aimed at identifying the CCS research needs for the next decade
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Electric Insights Quarterly and website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We are now working with Drax Power to produce a quarterly newsletter, and they maintain a website of accessible and processed data from Elexon and National Grid, showing the state of the electricity system in Great Britain. The insights in the newsletter, commenting on developments in output shares by generator type, wholesale prices, carbon emissions, and similar indicators, draw on the research for this project. The newsletter has been mentioned in several national newspapers or other media outlets (particularly the finding that over half of Britain's electricity was low-carbon in the third (summer) quarter of 2016) and the website is now regularly referred to by the Financial Times as a source of electricity data
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021,2022
Description Panel discussion at Energy Systems Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A panel discussion at the Energy Institute's Energy Systems Conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, on future energy policies, including a discussion of CCS policy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016