Carbon capture and storage shows tough road ahead to realise potential

Professor Jim Watson, Sussex Energy Group

Government plans to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to reduce carbon emissions received a cautious welcome today (Thursday, 19 April). Professor Jim Watson, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex and lead author of a new report on CCS, said that most of the uncertainties facing these technologies can – in principle – be resolved.

The report, Carbon capture and storage: realising the potential? is the culmination of a two-year project funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). The report assesses the technical, economic, financial and social uncertainties facing CCS technologies, and analyses the role they could play in achieving UK energy policy goals. Its publication today follows the announcement earlier this month of a new long-term strategy for CCS by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, including the re-launch of the UK’s £1 billion competition to develop commercial scale CCS projects.

Professor Watson said: ‘We still don’t know when CCS technologies will be technically proven at full scale, and whether their costs will be competitive with other low-carbon options. So it is vital that the Government’s commitment to these technologies leads to several full scale CCS projects as soon as possible. Only through such learning by doing will we know whether CCS is a serious option for the future, and how the technical, economic and legal uncertainties currently facing investors can be overcome’   

The report draws lessons from history, and concludes that previous technologies have faced similar challenges to those affecting CCS technologies today. In the past, such uncertainties have been resolved sufficiently for these technologies to succeed. While care is needed when learning from history, the findings offer some optimism that, given the right actions by government and industry, the uncertainties surrounding CCS can also be dealt with.

But even if rapid progress is made with the UK’s re-launched demonstration programme, which aims to have CCS plants operational later this decade, difficult choices will remain for government and other decision makers, say the authors.


Notes for editors

To download a copy of the report, visit UKERC

For further information, or to interview Professor Jim Watson or any of the other authors, please contact Charlotte Knight at the UK Energy Research Centre: 020 7594 1573

The UK Energy Research Centre carries out world-class research into sustainable future energy systems. It is the hub of UK energy research and the gateway between the UK and the international energy research communities. Our interdisciplinary, whole-systems research informs UK policy development and research strategy.

University of Sussex Press Office: Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune,  Tel: 01273 678888

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 19 April 2012