CCS explained

Why do we need CCS?

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has been identified as a vital technology for climate mitigation. Many organisations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) agree that the targets for greenhouse gas emissions, set out in the Paris Agreement, cannot be met without CCS.

In 2019, the UK government announced its support for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology in both its Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy, recognising the key role CCS can play in decarbonising the UK economy.

CCS is a necessity, not an option, for reaching net-zero GHG emissions

The CCC states that CCS is a necessity not an option. UK net-zero scenarios involve aggregate annual capture and storage of 75-175 MtCO₂ in 2050, which would require a major CO₂ transport and storage infrastructure servicing at least five clusters and with some CO₂ transported by ships or heavy goods vehicles.

CCS is the only way to decarbonise certain industries

Industries such as steel, cement, refining chemicals, glass and ceramics all emit CO2 as part of a chemical process required in production. Currently, CCS is the only technology option that enables deep decarbonisation for these industries.

CCS could open up new markets for the UK

The UK has vast storage capacity available, opening up potential cross-border business opportunities, as well as providing inherent advantages for the UK as a producer of net-zero products.

CCS enables the creation of low-carbon hydrogen

Hydrogen is a gas that when used to generate energy, only produces water as a waste product. It can be used to power heavy vehicles and heat homes as well as for replacing fossil fuels in a range of industrial applications.

CCS helps secure and create jobs

CCS helps retain jobs in the regions that rely on heavy industry and creates fundamental infrastructure for regional low-carbon clusters, which are at the heart of Clean Growth Regeneration Zones.

CCS is proven

CCS projects are already in operation in a number of countries, including the UK.

CCS is safe

There is considerable long-term evidence to show that CO2 can be stored safely and securely.

CCS with bio-energy (known as BECCS) has the potential to produce net-negative CO2 emissions

BECCS works by combining biomass fuels (made from plants), which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. When biomass is combusted in a power plant that CO2 is ordinarily released, but with CCS it is captured. CO2 can also be captured directly from the air.

CCS balances the inflexible costs of nuclear and the intermittency of renewables

CCS with fossil fuel power generation can work together with renewable energy as CCS power plants have the ability to be shut down when renewables can meet energy demand and started up when they can’t, such as on wind free days. CCS plants can change output extremely quickly when required and offer reduced costs when not running, features that nuclear power plants cannot offer.

How does CCS work?

Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration (CCS) is essentially a three stage technology where CO2 is captured from human-made CO2 emission sources, transported via a network of pipelines or shipping and stored in deep subsurface geological formations.

Carbon capture and storage process

Storage overview

Transport overview

Using CCS allows net-zero operation for electricity and hydrogen generation from fossil fuels and industrial processes, such as steel and concrete manufacture. CO2 is captured before it reaches the atmosphere and then injected and safely stored in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs, non-potable saline aquifers or unmineable coal seams. In some countries, mainly the USA and Canada, captured CO2 is also used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). If CO2 is captured when biomass is burnt, or directly from the air, then this gives a net CO2 removal to balance emissions from other sources such as agriculture or air transport.

As well as the technical aspects of capture, transport and storage, CCS involves non-technical disciplines which are vitally important to get CCS projects started and to ensure that they run smoothly. Aspects such as public perception, policy and international relations are all key to the global development of CCS.

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Carbon capture

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Carbon storage

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Systems and Policy