The UK government has announced plans to lead a global project to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage technology.
Alongside Saudi Arabia and Mexico, the government has pledged to commit £21.5m to research into making carbon capture and storage more efficient and affordable, both for the environment and the taxpayer. The new technology involves capturing carbon emissions at source and cleaning them in various ways to reduce their harm to the atmosphere. The treated carbon can then either be used for other applications (such as in industry) or safely stored as waste in underground tanks.
From the total sum invested, £15 million will be offered to projects, with a single grant as large as £5 million for a UK-led project. A further £6.5 million will go towards an EU-based research and development programme, collaborating with Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and others.
The government has pointed out the benefits of such a move, if successful, will be economic as well as environmental. The boost to technology and infrastructure firms would be substantial, as well as to the industrial and supply sectors in general.
Energy Minister Claire Perry announced the move last Wednesday, saying: “My ambition is for the UK to become a global technology leader in carbon capture, working with international partners to reduce its costs. As the UK has led the debate globally on tackling climate change and pioneering clean growth, we are leading this global challenge with an initial £21.5 million investment in CCUS innovation – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”
The government’s Industrial Strategy sets out their plans for the industrial and infrastructural sectors in the near future.
The research process into carbon capture has already started at some of the UK’s power stations. For instance, Drax, the largest energy producing facility in the UK, has announced earlier this week that it is to pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage product of its kind in Europe – with the intention of making the plant fully carbon negative. The £400,000 scheme will be one of the world’s first tests of biomass energy combined with carbon capture and storage – a process known as BECCS.
Chris Rayner, technical director of participating firm C-Capture, said: “By the end of the project we plan to have operated a unit capable of capturing one tonne of CO2 per day. We would need units operating in the thousands of tonnes per day to capture a substantial amount of the CO2 that Drax produces.”
He stressed that this was merely a pilot, and that the plant realistically would not be carbon negative for some time.
Much of the impetus behind these plans has been provided by the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set out that the rise in global climate change must be significantly lower than the 2°C predicted by 2050. To this end, technology similar to that to be trialled at Drax will need to be installed and working to full capacity in the next decade or so.