Carbon Capture and Storage: Realising the Potential

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


Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies are potentially important contributors to global efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions of CO2. If successfully developed and deployed, they could allow the continued use of fossil fuels whilst achieving large reductions in emissions. Although under active development, there are significant uncertainties about the technical, economic and financial viability of CCS. This project will conduct an independent, inter-disciplinary assessment of CCS viability from now to 2030, by a three-institution partnership from the Universities of Sussex, Edinburgh and Imperial College in close co-operation with research user organisations. Results will contribute to academic understanding, public policy making and business analysis of CCS. The project team includes expertise in CCS engineering and storage; in the analysis of low carbon innovation; and in energy economics and policy. The project has three main objectives: - To help policy makers to understand the conditions for successful commercialisation of CCS technologies with respect to a range of criteria - and to inform policy decisions on whether to make these technologies mandatory for fossil fuel power plants and other large sources of fossil fuel emissions - To develop a new approach to the assessment of emerging low carbon technologies by studying past innovations with similar characteristics to CCS, and the way in which they were developed and deployed. - To contribute to the UK Energy Research Centre's research programme by providing a source of independent expertise in CCS technologies, by improving understanding of their potential role in low carbon energy systems, and by developing tools to assess technologies with multiple uncertainties To meet these objectives, the research project includes three main research activities and a programme of engagement and dissemination. The research activities are: 1. The identification of key dimensions of uncertainty for CCS. Dimensions of uncertainty include issues such as scaling up from demonstration to utility scale (CCS technologies have yet to achieve this), integrating component technologies with one another (components of CCS systems exist, but not in an integrated system) and public acceptability. This activity will draw on insights on technology appraisal from the academic literature and practitioners (e.g. policy makers and financiers). 2. Technology case studies. This activity will examine historical and contemporary technologies that can help to understand the dimensions of uncertainty for CCS. 8-10 technologies will be chosen for analysis, including the way in which government policy, private sector strategies and other factors have affected their development. Possible case studies include nuclear power, North Sea oil and gas investment, and technologies from the military, aerospace and other utility sectors. 3. The analysis of CCS development and deployment to 2030. This activity will explore how CCS technologies might be demonstrated and deployed in the UK. The case studies of other technologies and the dimensions of uncertainty will be used to analyse these 'pathways' to deployment. A key issue for the analysis will be influence of changes in the energy market on the risks of investing in CCS technologies. The project will also compare possible pathways for CCS in the UK with similar analyses in other countries - particularly China and the USA With respect to dissemination and engagement, the project will produce outputs regularly from an early stage, publish them on a project website, and will produce a final report in spring 2012. The project will develop specific advice and implications for UK policy. It will engage with stakeholders such as policy makers, firms, regulators and environmental groups through a steering group that will meet regularly to advise on progress and emerging outputs.


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Boot-Handford M (2014) Carbon capture and storage update in Energy Environ. Sci.

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Kern F (2016) The political economy of carbon capture and storage: An analysis of two demonstration projects in Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Description The project is an independent, inter-disciplinary assessment of the viability of CCS technologies from now to 2030. Although these technologies could be a crucial component of global climate change mitigation strategies, there are significant uncertainties about their technical, economic and financial viability.

The project draws lessons from history, and concludes that previous technologies have faced similar challenges to those affecting CCS technologies today. In the past, such uncertainties have been resolved sufficiently for these technologies to succeed. While care is needed when learning from history, the findings offer some optimism that, given the right actions by government and industry, the uncertainties surrounding CCS can also be dealt with.

The report identifies four key areas where choices need to be made:

•Deciding whether to keep options open, or close them down. The French government focused on one technological variety early on for its nuclear programme. Doing this for CCS may help speed up development, but there is a risk of picking inferior technology. The authors caution that it is too early for government and industry to close down on a particular variant of CCS technology. They welcome the plans for several substantial demonstration projects which will help to identify which variants of CCS technology can be scaled up successfully.

•Designing financial support for effective CCS demonstration and deployment. A regulatory approach that makes CCS compulsory for all fossil plants will only work if the technology is more advanced, and the additional costs can be passed onto consumers. CCS technologies are not yet at this stage. In the mean time, the government should ensure that industry maximises efficiency and minimises costs of new CCS plants. History shows that not all demonstrations will perform as expected, and government should ensure that lessons are learned from successes and failures.

•CCS deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. Developing new energy technologies can take a long time, and the process is often far from smooth. The report shows that costs do not necessarily fall in the way supporters hope - and can rise for several years before they come down, as technologies are scaled up. This requires patience. Government also needs to ensure it has an independent capability to assess costs to inform future decisions about whether to continue with public funding for CCS or to divert resources to other low carbon options.

•Dealing with storage liabilities. The report shows highlights lessons from UK nuclear waste management policy to show how complex liability arrangements for CO2 storage could be. For CCS, a balance needs to be struck between limiting liabilities for investors and protecting the interests of future taxpayers. Agreements will be needed on where this balance should lie, and what arrangements are needed to fund and insure against potential liabilities.

The project is a collaboration of four universities: Sussex, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Imperial College. It was conducted in close co-operation with a stakeholder steering group, chaired by Dr Tony White.

The project team included the following people:

•University of Sussex: Jim Watson and Florian Kern

•University of Edinburgh: Stuart Haszeldine, Jon Gibbins, Nils Markusson, Hannah Chalmers, Navraj Ghaleigh, Francisco Ascui and Stathis Arapostathis and Mark Winskel

•Imperial College: Rob Gross and Phil Heptonstall

•Cardiff University: Peter Pearson

Exploitation Route Provides valuable insights for government and industry into the challenges and opportunities for CCS development
Sectors Energy

Description Please see policy impacts. In addition the research has informed interactions with a wide range of policy makers and also informed additional research such as the UKERC review of the costs of electricity generation.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description Chairs report informing committee on climate change report to parliament.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents