UK CCUS strategy ‘outdated’ for current industry use

Article by Aniqah Majid

The report from Carbon Tracker found that CCUS would work best in select industries like cement and hydrogen

THE UK’s current carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS) strategy is overpromising and failing to consider industry alternatives that are cheaper and cleaner, according to a report published by climate change think tank Carbon Tracker.

Looking at its application in sectors such as cement, steel, and hydrogen, the report found that CCUS did not show evidence leading to substantial cost reductions and failed to reflect the industry use of new renewable and hydrogen-based technology.

The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero introduced its CCUS plan in December, outlining its goal to create four CCUS clusters across the north of England and North Wales with the capacity to store 2030m t of CO2 a year.

Backed by £20bn (US$25.4bn) in taxpayer funding the programme was based on the recommendations in the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, which named CCUS as one of the main factors in the UK’s next decarbonisation phase.

Which sectors would CCUS benefit?

The Carbon Tracker report did not rule out the use of CCUS entirely, instead proposing the government should focus on delivering to select sectors.  

The cement industry is a large producer of CO2, but removing emissions from cement production cannot be done through traditional methods like fuel substitution or electrification.

Though the report found a high delivery risk in using CCUS in the cement industry, as the technology has not been proven to be effective at an industrial scale, it acknowledged that the industry had no other alternatives to decarbonise and had a low-cost premium in deploying CCUS compared to other industries.

However, the report found that CCUS would be inferior to hydrogen turbines and electric arc furnaces (EAF) in the steel sector, recommending that the government abandon CCUS and focus on the long-term transition to hydrogen-based green steel. The report made similar conclusions in the power and gas sector, with renewable and hydrogen-based alternatives posing more of a financial benefit to those industries.

Taxpayer burden

Carbon Tracker warned that using CCUS to decarbonise biomass-based power generation would result in technical challenges, stranded assets, and cost premiums, forecast at £20bn.

It points to the UK’s large-scale bioenergy with carbon capture, use and storage (BECCS) strategy used at the Drax power station as being a high risk, as it would require a subsidy scheme that could “lock taxpayers’ money into a long (1525 years) and costly (£26£43bn) contract.

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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