Guest Blog: Can technology unlock ‘unburnable' carbon?

04 May 2016

The Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) are set to publish a report later this month on what they see as the potential for carbon capture and storage to ‘unlock’ fossil fuel reserves. SGI's Zara Qadir previews the content and invites you to attend the report launch.

Last year, at COP21, a universal agreement on climate change was reached with the aim of limiting global warming to below 2°C. As of 2011, the world had a ‘carbon budget’ of 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (the amount of CO2 left to emit in order to have a two-thirds or greater chance of staying below 2°C). However, at our current global emission rates, this budget will be eroded within the next thirty years if we do not take prompt and effective climate change mitigation action.

The concept of ‘unburnable carbon’ emerged in 2011, and refers to fossil fuel energy sources which cannot be burnt if the world is to adhere to a given carbon budget.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a critical and available mitigation opportunity that is often overlooked and could potentially unlock these reserves while preventing CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere. The positive contribution of this technology to timely and cost-effective decarbonisation of the energy system is widely recognised.

Over the last five years, several studies have explored the ‘unburnable carbon’ concept, using scenarios of climate change mitigation and examined the impact of CCS on the projected consumption of fossil fuels.

However, while some studies have considered the role of CCS in enabling access to more fossil fuels, so far there has not been a long-term analysis on this issue to the end of the 21st century.

On 17 May, the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) will launch our second white paper ‘Can technology unlock ’unburnable carbon’?’ at Imperial College London.

The paper reviews the short and long-term potential of CCS technologies in enabling access to, or ‘unlocking', fossil fuel reserves in a way that will meet climate targets and mitigate climate change. 

The report also includes a synthesis of a multi-model comparison study on global climate change mitigation strategy. We also examine how much CO2 geo-storage is available globally and what effect different capture rates would have on CCS outcomes and performance.

SGI was founded in partnership with BG Group. Zara Qadir is Communications Manager. Please email her for a copy of the white paper, and register to attend the report launch: