CCS technology 'not as efficient' as previously thought

29 January 2013
By Edward Gent
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Carbon capture technology may not be as efficient as previously thought

Carbon capture technology may not be as efficient as previously thought

The Government is being warned that carbon capture technology may not cut greenhouse gas emissions as effectively as previously thought.

A report produced by Professor Geoff Hammond, from the University of Bath, and Dr Craig Jones, from resource efficiency company Sustain, has found that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plants will cut the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity by only 70 per cent - 20 per cent less than previously assumed.

The article, published in the Energy Policy journal, has found that CCS could deliver a 90 per cent reduction in the direct emissions from a power station, but doesn't capture the upstream emissions of fuel production such as methane leakages, which are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, from coal mining and gas pipelining.

Combined with the fuel penalty of a CCS installation of between 15-20 per cent, which also means an increase in upstream emissions, the report argues CCS cannot possibly deliver a 90 per cent emissions reduction.

In fact, when full life cycle consumption-based emissions are considered, CCS may only deliver a 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for coal-fired electricity generation.

Dr Craig Jones, principal associate at Sustain, said: "This report demonstrably proves the importance of full life cycle emissions. We believe that it's time for governments to start considering these consumption-based emissions in their policy making.

"For example, with depleting North Sea gas reserves the UK is looking abroad to provide more and more of its fossil fuels. This will require longer transport distances and longer gas pipelines, which in turn gives rise to more fugitive methane emissions and its resulting GHG impact."

Currently, coal-fired electricity releases 1.09 kg CO2e per kWh of electricity delivered to the UK consumer and this was predicted to fall to 0.31 kg CO2e per kWh with CCS technologies.

Gas-fired electricity currently releases 0.47 kg CO2e per kWh of electricity delivered to the UK consumer and this was also predicted to fall to 0.08 kg CO2e per kWh with CCS technologies.

Professor Geoff Hammond, founder director of the University of Bath's Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment, added: "A 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions is a significant gain in terms of climate change mitigation.

“However, if Government departments and agencies presume that CCS can remove 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the power station flue gases, they will seriously underestimate the challenge of achieving a decarbonised electricity sector.

“Upstream emissions produce a drag on our ability to deliver on meaningful global warming targets in the UK and the wider world."

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