Carbon Capture and Storage: Realising the Potential

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Business Management & Economics


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

Description This research, which was funded as part of the UK Energy Research Centre, systematically examines the uncertainties facing CCS technologies in the UK. It uses historical evidence to explore these uncertainties, and the conditions under which they can be at least partly resolved. The historical evidence base comprises nine case studies, each of which focuses on a technology that is partly analogous to CCS. The report draws on this evidence to develop potential pathways for CCS in the UK to 2030, and uses this analysis to draw conclusions for current policies and strategies.

The research reaches three general conclusions. First, our historical case studies show that uncertainties can be reduced sufficiently for progress to be made. In some cases, they can be resolved entirely. This offers some optimism that, given the right set of circumstances, the uncertainties that affect CCS can also be dealt with. However, care is needed when learning from historical contexts that differ widely from the current situation in the UK. Second, interactions between uncertainties matter. They can reinforce each other, both positively and negatively. There can also be tradeoffs between uncertainties where attempts to resolve one uncertainty could result in the exacerbation of others. Third, the resolution of all uncertainties is not required for CCS to be financeable in the UK. Similarly, the derailing of plans to realise the potential of CCS may not require everything to go wrong - but this could be caused by a 'critical mass' of uncertainties persisting for too long.

NB: Impacts, publications and other outcomes from this research have (as agreed with NERC) been reported as part of UK Energy Research Centre phase 2 award reporting.
Exploitation Route Throughout the research, there was extensive engagement with academics, industry and policy makers - including through a dedicated project steering group. The implications of the research for decision-makers are included in the final report (see link to URL).
Sectors Energy

Description The project, which ran from 2010 to 2012, engaged extensively with policy makers (primarily in the Dept of Energy and Climate Change), industrial firms interested in CCS and wider stakeholders (NGOs; academics). The findings informed decision-making by government in preparation of their CCS commercialisation programme; and developed the evidence base on the extent to which strategies and policies for CCS can take into account evidence from other technologies. The results were discussed extensively, including with the then Minister of State Charles Hendry MP, officials within the Dept of Energy and Climate Change, industry groups (e.g. the industry task force on CCS cost reduction). It was also presented at international conferences, led to opportunities for comparative research (especially between the UK and Canada), and was published in academic journals.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Winskel, acted as expert witness for Scottish Parliament's Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee on 5th Sept., Edinburgh
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review