Carbon Capture and Storage - Realising the Potential?

Carbon capture and storage: realising the potential? is the culmination of a two-year project funded by UKERC and led by Professor Jim Watson, Director of the Sussex Energy Group .
The project is an independent, inter-disciplinary assessment of the viability of CCS technologies from now to 2030.  Although these technologies could be a crucial component of global climate change mitigation strategies, there are significant uncertainties about their technical, economic and financial viability.
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.

The report identifies four key areas where choices need to be made:
  • Deciding whether to keep options open, or close them down. The French government focused on one technological variety early on for its nuclear programme. Doing this for CCS may help speed up development, but there is a risk of picking inferior technology. The authors caution that it is too early for government and industry to close down on a particular variant of CCS technology. They welcome the plans for several substantial demonstration projects which will help to identify which variants of CCS technology can be scaled up successfully.
  • Designing financial support for effective CCS demonstration and deployment. A regulatory approach that makes CCS compulsory for all fossil plants will only work if the technology is more advanced, and the additional costs can be passed onto consumers. CCS technologies are not yet at this stage. In the mean time, the government should ensure that industry maximises efficiency and minimises costs of new CCS plants. History shows that not all demonstrations will perform as expected, and government should ensure that lessons are learned from successes and failures.
  • CCS deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. Developing new energy technologies can take a long time, and the process is often far from smooth. The report shows that costs do not necessarily fall in the way supporters hope – and can rise for several years before they come down, as technologies are scaled up. This requires patience. Government also needs to ensure it has an independent capability to assess costs to inform future decisions about whether to continue with public funding for CCS or to divert resources to other low carbon options.
  • Dealing with storage liabilities. The report shows highlights lessons from UK nuclear waste management policy to show how complex liability arrangements for CO2 storage could be. For CCS, a balance needs to be struck between limiting liabilities for investors and protecting the interests of future taxpayers. Agreements will be needed on where this balance should lie, and what arrangements are needed to fund and insure against potential liabilities.

The project is a collaboration of four universities: Sussex, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Imperial College. It was conducted in close co-operation with a stakeholder steering group, chaired by Dr Tony White.

The project team includes the following people:
  • University of Sussex: Jim Watson and Florian Kern
  • University of Edinburgh: Stuart Haszeldine, Jon Gibbins, Nils Markusson, Hannah Chalmers, Navraj Ghaleigh, Francisco Ascui and Stathis Arapostathis and Mark Winskel
  • Imperial College: Rob Gross and Phil Heptonstall
  • Cardiff University: Peter Pearson

Briefing paper

Energy Insight: Carbon Capture and Storage - Analysing uncertainty

Research report

Carbon Capture and Storage: Realising the potential?

Case study reports, summaries

The Nuclear Programme in France (1950s-1980s)

The economic and financial viability of landfill in the UK – a regulatory analogue to carbon storage

The management of radioactive waste in the UK (1956-2011)

Public acceptance of natural gas infrastructure development in the UK (2000-2011)

The early development and deployment of FGD in the US (1960s-1970s)

Scaling up and deployment of FGD in the US (1960s-2009)

The politics of FGD deployment in the UK (1980s-2009)

Natural gas network development in the UK (1960-2010)

The development of the CCGT and the ‘dash for gas’ in the UK power industry (1987-2000)

Working papers

‘Pathways and branching points for CCS to 2030’ Work Package 3, Task 6 Working Paper

Carbon Capture and Storage: Realising the Potential? Work Package 3, Task 5 Working Paper, Version 2.1

Journal papers and book chapters

Watson, J., Kern, F. and Markusson, N. (in press). Resolving or managing uncertainties for carbon capture and storage: Lessons from historical analogues, Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Markusson, N. et al (2012) A socio-technical framework for assessing the viability of carbon capture and storage technology. In Press Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Markusson, N., Shackley, S. and Evar, B. (Eds), The social dynamics of carbon capture and storage: Understanding representation, governance and innovation, Earthscan (forthcoming)

von Stechow, C., Watson, J. and Praetorius, B. (2011). Policy Incentives for CCS Technologies in Europe: A Qualitative Multi-Criteria Analysis, Global Environmental Change 21(2) 346-357.


Media release: Carbon Capture and Storage - New research from UKERC shows tough road ahead to realise potential

Listen to Professor Jim Watson outline the findings of the UKERC CCS report on BBC Radio 4 Today, 19 April 2012 (interview starts at 03.18)

Watch YouTube footage from the UKERC CCS media briefing, hosted by the Science Media Centre: