IEAGHG’s GHGT conference helped stimulate the concept of BECCS

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By Tim Dixon

11 October 2021

I don’t normally read the Sydney Morning Herald, but a connection on social media drew to my attention to an interesting article in August this year on the history of BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage).This article attributes the origins of combining bioenergy with CCS to Dr Kenneth Möllersten of Sweden and consequently interviewed him. Kenneth is a former collaborator with me for the UNFCCC and an old friend of IEAGHG’s, so I checked in with him.

I learned that the history of BECCS was actually researched earlier by Carbon Brief and published in an article in 2016. Kenneth confirmed that the idea of BECCS arose from his PhD work on reducing emissions in the pulp and paper industry and from him attending our GHGT-5 conference in Cairns in August 2000, which brought the subjects together for him. With a colleague Michael Obersteiner (of IIASA) they discussed the concept and subsequently published a paper on the BECCS concept in Science in 2001, which speculated that very large contributions from BECCS could indeed enable globally net negative carbon emissions. It should be noted that at a similar time in the USA, David Keith and Jamie Rhodes were also starting to explore the concept of BECCS, sharing their work in a paper to GHGT-6 in Kyoto in 2002 (and elsewhere). I can recommend both of these history of BECCS articles, well researched and both balanced on the positives and negatives of BECCS and including the significant role subsequently given to BECCS by the IPCC.

We are now at GHGT-16! This conference is to be hosted by France physically in Lyon in October 2022. As we have just opened the call for abstracts to gather in the latest work on CCUS, including BECCS, I hope that further new ideas, concepts and collaborations will be stimulated as we have seen with previous GHGTs.

N.O’Malley, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2021 How carbon emissions can be sucked out of the atmosphere (smh.com.au)

Carbon Brief, 13 April 2016 Timeline: How BECCS became climate change’s ‘saviour’ technology – Carbon Brief

M.Obersteiner, K.Möllersten, et al, Science (2001) Vol294 pp786-787, Managing Climate Risk 

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