IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme

Accelerating CCUS Conference, Edinburgh

On 29 November, in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on the second day of the "Accelerating CCUS: A Global Conference to Progress CCUS" and the day following the UK-IEA International CCUS Summit, keynote addresses were given by Claire Perry, UK Minster of State for Energy and Clean Growth, and the IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol.



Minister Perry began by reminding the audience that the UK's CO2 emissions per unit GDP were the lowest in the developed world. However, that being the case, to meet the challenging climate targets that face us, models showed that deployment of CCUS was essential. She noted that, globally, we were way off track with CCUS deployment, with less than 4% of the deployment required by 2030 currently in operation. 



On spend, she contrasted the £20 billion global spend on CCUS over the decade 2006-15 to the substantially higher sums spent on space exploration. Given current concerns over the fragility of the Earth, she proposed the need for a rocket booster to be placed under the CCUS project.



As the UK would be "off coal" by 2025, Perry submitted there was no need to decarbonise coal-fired power generation in the UK. She made the point, however, that the challenge went further than the decarbonisation of power. With some industry emissions very difficult to mitigate, there would be a role for negative emissions, where CCUS would be key. She framed the challenge of mitigation in terms of "prevention and cure".



There were many promising CCUS initiatives in the UK. Perry highlighted her imminent visit to Drax Power Station, where a bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) project was planned using Leeds-based C‑Capture's technology to capture the CO2. She listed a further series of technologies that were progressing due in large part to support from UK government, which included Carbon8 and Carbon Clean Solutions. Perry informed delegates that the government currently had £2.5bn to invest in low carbon technologies and the latest innovation bid round had received 19 very good bids.



Perry noted that, with just 21 at-scale plants were operating globally, there remained much to be done. However, she felt the previous day's summit with policymakers and energy leaders would kick-start to the process. She mentioned how the Rotterdam initiative was showing the pathway on clusters and raised the question about what O&G infrastructure in the North Sea might be repurposed.



Collaboration, Perry indicated, was the way forward. The UK, she said, was the largest donor to CCUS globally, supporting progress in developing countries. Building partnerships was important. She mentioned the UK's work with OGCI, with Norway on sequestering CO2 in the North Sea, and the UK's determination to make CCUS important to COP24 in Poland.



Next on the podium was Fatih Birol, who also reminded the audience that an unprecedented group had attended the previous day's summit, including Ministers, CEOs and representatives of several international organisations. All present had agreed that, in the absence of CCUS, it would be practically impossible to meet climate targets. It was for this very reason that the IEA, along with others present, had taken a commitment on CCUS.



Dr Birol pointed out that CCUS was not in isolation in being of concern. Oil markets had entered a period of unprecedented volatility and uncertainty. Natural gas production and use was on the rise; in fact, there was no more talk within the energy community of a gas glut. China was emerging as a major gas consumer. Even renewables; while solar power had experienced exponential growth, he said the growth of other clean energy technologies had not been that great.



He went on to say that data gathered for the first 10 months of 2018 suggested that global CO2 emissions were on course to hit a record high, with a growing disconnect between political statements and energy markets. He noted that, around 50 years ago, 2 billion people had no access to electricity; this figure was now under 1 billion. The effect, however, was clear; global electricity demand was growing at twice the rate of global energy demand, exacerbated by growing demand for air conditioning, electric cars, etc.



Future outcomes were modelled by the IEA in its New Policies Scenario (NPS) and Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS). Dr Birol said that geographical sources of CO2 emissions would continue to change over time. Whereas in 2000, the United States and the European Union were first and second, respectively, by 2040, China would be the largest emitter (already so at present), with the United States second, India third, Africa fourth, followed by the EU in fifth place. The United States, he added, would remain the undisputed leader in oil and gas production for many years to come.



Other significant features over the period from the present to 2040 were that:

  • Renewable energy and nuclear would grow very strongly;
  • Gas use would grow very strongly;
  • Oil use would continue to grow in developing countries; and
  • Coal would still show signs of growth in developing countries.



Dr Birol then went on to discuss investments. He said that total investment in energy supply to 2040 was projected to be US$42.3 trillion, with 70% government-driven and 30% market-driven. As a result, decisions taken by government would be very important for energy development and infrastructure.  



The question was how to unlock a different energy structure going forward. He said that for the period to 2040, projections showed CO2 emissions would rise from 32 to 36 Gt in the NPS, while in the SDS, they would decrease to 18 Gt. Projections also showed that existing infrastructure, plus that under construction, would contribute 95% of the CO2 emissions to 2040 in the SDS. Therefore, he said we must intervene with existing infrastructure. The single largest contributor, he pointed out, was coal (contributing one-third), with half of coal plants less than 15 years old. Conclusions were clear: CCUS and refurbishment were the solutions. With no intervention, there would be no chance of meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement.



With his conclusion that CCUS was critical, he said the future lay in the hands of governments. Of course, there was no single solution: indeed, the need for renewable energy technologies was also critical. However, he emphasised that there was insufficient deployment of CCUS so far. Public funding of CCUS over the past 10 years, he said, lay at just 3% of the funding renewables had enjoyed in the past year alone. CCUS, he declared, must be part of the solution. The previous day's UK-IEA Summit signified a new start for CCUS! Over the next year, the IEA would be making CCUS a priority at COP24, Davos, the CEM and the 2019 IEA Ministerial.

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