What You Need to Know – Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage (CCUS)
The UK government’s energy white paper was released at the end of 2020. The 170 page document outlined some very progressive and ambitious plans to meet the UKs targets, minimise the country’s impact on the environment and reduce its energy consumption across buildings, transport and industry.
Amongst these plans is the introduction of technologies such as Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage, heat pumps, hydrogen and smart tariffs, to name just a few. Therefore, we will be launching a series of “What You Need To Know” articles to help our readers understand what these technologies are and where the government is in the process of pursuing these technologies.
To view all of these articles, please follow the link below:
Our first What You Need to Know article looks at…
Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage
Over the next decade, the UK government plans to roll out Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technology throughout the country. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that CCUS will contribute to over 16% of the total CO2 emission reductions required by 2050.
What is CCUS?
CCUS is not a new technology. It was first discussed in the 1970s and was originally known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a term still used today. The difference between the two depends on whether you use the carbon dioxide you capture (Utilisation) or store (storage) it.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is emitted from a range of business activities including agriculture, steel works, transportation and buildings. This CO2 can be captured and stored to prevent it from entering the environment and contributing to global warming.
In this case, CO2 is stored in porous and permeable rock layers thousands of meters below ground. Storage sites are located beneath non-permeable barrier rock that prevents the CO2 from expanding upwards and are accessed via wells, similar to those used in oil and gas production; CO2 is injected into the store via the well which is then plugged using cement to stop the CO2 from escaping.
Stored CO2 eventually binds with the surrounding salty water molecules and remains stored between impermeable layers of rock indefinitely.
Rather than storing all of the captured carbon, the process of Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage uses some of the captured CO2 to make useful substances or products. There are currently several technologies that are used to make plastics, concrete, chemical reactants and synthetic fuels and more technologies are being developed every day. However, for CCUS processes and products to benefit the climate there are a couple of things to consider:
Firstly, the carbon footprint of the required electricity to convert the captured CO2 needs to be zero, and secondly, the CO2 must be kept away from the atmosphere for as long as possible. If the final product re-emits CO2 at “end-of-life” then it must be captured from the air through biogenic processes of direct air capture.
Any captured CO2 that is not used can then be stored as in the CCS process.
Implementation of CCUS
Investing in and implementing CCUS technologies is not cheap. It can require a large upfront capital expenditure and any ROI on such projects can take a long time.
The UK government plans to invest £1bn through to 2025 to help facilitate the deployment of this technology. Its aim is to install CCUS in several industrial clusters with the goal of capturing 10MtCO2 per year by the end of the decade. The Government has established a CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce to provide advice on the steps needed to reduce the cost of deploying CCUS in the UK. Following the advice of the CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce, the government published the UK CCUS Deployment Pathway: An Action Plan setting out the next steps government and industry should take in partnership in order to achieve the government’s ambition of having the option to deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s, subject to costs coming down sufficiently.
The government has just closed its Phase 2 of the Cluster sequencing for carbon capture, usage and storage deployment. Phase-1 was to identify at least two CO₂ transport and storage organisations whose readiness suggests they are most naturally suited to deployment of a CO₂ transport and storage network in the mid-2020s. Phase-2 of the process focuses on individual Projects across capture applications (industry, power, hydrogen) which could connect to a Track-1 or Reserve T&S Cluster.
The government has classed an industrial cluster as areas where related industries have congregated and can benefit from utilising clean energy infrastructure such as CCUS. By implementing CCUS technologies into these industrial clusters, it enables economies of scale.