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IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme

Jasmin crop‘Unburnable carbon’ refers to fossil fuel reserves that cannot be used and the resulting greenhouse gases emitted if the world has a limited ‘carbon budget’. This situation leads to the question: what role does technology have in addressing these concepts and concerns related to them?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) both mention the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a way to preserve the economic value of fossil fuels in carbon-constrained scenarios. Organisations such as Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), the Smith School Stranded Assets Programme (Oxford University), and University College London (UCL) have recently assessed these topics. These include assessments of the role of CCS, suggesting it will have an insignificant impact on the amount of the world's fossil fuel resources that can be utilised in a 2°C climate scenario. However, some of these reports view CCS from a resource-limited perspective, for example taking conservative views of the amount of CO2 storage capacity available and on availability of CCS before 2050.

Therefore, IEAGHG has commissioned a study on this topic to the Sustainable Gas Institute. The study has undertaken an assessment of the relevance of CCS in terms of the ‘unburnable carbon’ concept. This study does not aim to assess or provide evidence of the ‘unburnable carbon’ concept but rather to look at the role of CCS technologies in such concepts. This report will also not evaluate other approaches to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use other than CCS, such as hjosir efficiency low emission (HELE) technologies.

The key messages from the report are:

This report fits into a larger exercise undertaken by SGI on the topic. You can find the follow-on SGI White Paper here:  
Tim Dixon’s blog on the launch event of the SGI White Paper is available here: 

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