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Today, the BEIS Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage (CCUS) Cost Challenge Taskforce, on which Sandbag sits, has published its report to Government, with recommendations on how the UK can begin deployment of this vital technology for tackling climate change.
Back in 2012, the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce lit a fire under the wind industry, and last year we saw offshore wind contracts fall to their lowest price yet; cheaper than the price for any new build fossil fuel power. The UK’s offshore wind industry is now world-leading. Could we do the same with CCS, taking advantage of our huge storage potential in the North Sea?
The Taskforce was asked by Minister of State Claire Perry MP what steps are needed to reduce the cost and maximise the value of deploying CCUS in the UK – in order to inform the Government’s development of a deployment pathway for CCUS, due at the end of the year. Sandbag and Green Alliance are the two NGOs on the Taskforce, alongside representatives from industry, finance and academia.
The report’s key recommendations are:

  1. The Government needs to create a stable, long-term, supportive policy environment to unlock deployment at scale.
  2. Recycling pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure as they are decommissioned – and sharing them between CCUS projects – will reduce costs and risks. This will require new business models and public-private risk sharing arrangements.
  3. Unlocking industrial decarbonisation is key. Creating CCUS industry clusters will foster continuous technical innovation.

Debbie Stockwell, Sandbag’s Managing Director and Taskforce member, commented:

“CCUS is a globally important technology, vital to the delivery of the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the increase in global temperature well below 2 degrees.
It is also central to the long term future and clean growth of industry in the UK, particularly for those facilities that have limited options for decarbonisation, and the growth of a hydrogen economy.  
The Taskforce report recognises the urgency of acting now to deliver CCUS at scale and at lowest cost.  We fully support this, and believe the Government should start the process to select CCUS clusters next year.
Through early action, the UK can help to rapidly bring down the costs of CCUS, and can show it is serious about delivering the 4th and 5th carbon budgets, which is currently set to miss.

Sandbag considers that the most important next steps for the Government are:

  • Decide on the deployment pathway: CCUS is most valuable to those sectors which have limited options to decarbonise, particularly heavy industry. We do not consider that new baseload gas power generation is required, so the Government needs to be careful not to overly focus on CCUS for power generation.
  • Immediate deployment: CCUS is essential for meeting our carbon budgets cost-effectively: according to the Committee on Climate Change we need a major CO2 storage industry running by 2030. That can’t happen overnight: the Government needs to be supporting the development of clusters before 2020.
  • Shipped storage: To move fast, and send a clear signal over their commitment to CCUS, the Government should actively explore the interim step of shipping our first captured CO2 to Norway.
  • Set out the role CCUS can play in delivering net zero emissions: CCUS is already essential to meet the UK’s current obligations under the Climate Change Act, but following the Paris Agreement these obligations are likely to become more stringent soon. The UK has a chance to be a leader in negative emissions including through combining the combustion of biomass with CCUS (BECCS).
  • International reputation and trade: With Brexit almost upon us, the UK needs to look for innovative ways to remain influential on the world stage, and to give UK industry a head start in the decarbonisation challenge. Claire Perry has pioneered the Powering Past Coal Alliance to great effect – leading on CCUS technology is a clear way to allow the UK to lead on international clean growth.

With the UK and EU governments now considering a date to reach Net Zero emissions, in line with the Paris Agreement, negative emissions have become even more important for tackling climate change. We look forward to the publication of the UK Government’s deployment pathways in just a few months.