Globally and domestically, CCUS is likely to play a vital role in achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency, amongst others, have advised on the central role CCUS must play to achieve the Paris Agreement. CCUS will likely be a globally significant technology in both developed and developing countries, supporting the low carbon energy transition.
Carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) is, according to the UK Government , likely to play an essential role in helping the UK meet its net zero by 2050 commitment. This is because of the role CCUS can play in supporting decarbonisation across the UK economy, including:
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in its Net Zero report to Government (May 2019) advised that “CCUS is a necessity, not an option” and has advised that between 75-175Mt CO2/yr may need to be captured and stored in the UK by 2050. The CCC recommend that deployment is prioritised in the 2020s so that 10Mt CO2/yr is captured and stored by 2030, a recommendation that has been echoed by the BEIS Select Committee to Government. The CCC, BEIS Committee and a number of other influential organisations (e.g. the CBI) have all called for the UK Government to raise its ambition on CCUS and prioritise deployment in the 2020s.
UK Government policy on CCUS is set out in its CCUS Action Plan, published at the UK hosted (with the International Energy Agency) Global CCUS Summit in November 2019. The Action Plan set out that the UK sees an opportunity to become a global leader on CCUS and the Plan is designed to enable the UK’s first CCUS facility to be operational from the mid-2020s, as an essential first step to meeting the Government’s ambition of having the option to deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s.
The Action Plan set out a number of commitments and priorities to meet the mid-2020s deployment commitment (and the 2030s ambition), chiefly:
The Global CCS Institute regularly ranks the UK as a leader in its CCS Readiness Index for example.
The UK Government has already implemented a regulatory framework for CCUS, driven by the European CCS Directive. The EU CCS Directive requires stringent measures for carbon dioxide storage site selection to be in place which mean that no geological storage of carbon dioxide is possible without a carbon dioxide storage permit. For example, a site beneath the North Sea in UK territorial waters can only be used for carbon dioxide storage after detailed technical and environmental assessments show there is no significant risk of carbon dioxide leakage or damage to human health or the environment. This includes an evaluation of any potential seismicity to ensure the safe and permanent storage of carbon dioxide. In the UK a carbon dioxide storage permit application will be considered, and issued, by the Oil and Gas Authority in accordance with European legislation.
In addition, a CCUS project will need to comply with health and safety assessments from the Health and Safety Executive. Any CCUS project and will also require permits and approval from the Environment Agency (or the equivalent body in Scotland and Wales).
The UK Government has stated that CCUS is likely to play an essential role in the UK meeting its net zero commitment. The CCC have advised that CCUS is a necessity. A regulatory framework to enable CCUS deployment is in place. The challenge going forward is putting in place new CCUS business models – for which the UK Government is currently consulting on – and sending a clear and strong deployment signal to CCUS developers and investors.
The UK, as with other countries, has tried to deploy CCUS before without success. In the context of ‘net zero’, getting it right this time is imperative.