Gas with CCS in the UK – Waiting for Godot?

This paper by Howard Rogers addresses the issue of the challenges in establishing Carbon Capture and Sequestration at a commercial scale in the power generation sector, especially as this has been repeatedly proposed as a key policy in furtherance of CO2 emission abatement in the last decade.
For those who have become increasingly frustrated by claims about, rather than demonstrations of, the contribution which natural gas can make to a low carbon economy, it has become important to understand more of the detail behind the headlines of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). This paper shows that all aspects of the implementation of CCS projects are complex, albeit that the underlying technologies have been used individually in the petrochemical, refining and upstream industries for decades. Costs, and technical and commercial complexity go a long way towards explaining why there is no gas-fired power plant with CO2 capture and storage in operation or under construction anywhere in the world. The few gas-related CCS projects which exist mainly serve to process natural gas to grid specification and either store CO2 close to gas production sites, or use it for enhanced oil recovery.
With slower than expected progress of other forms of power generation, UK policy makers have come to the realisation that gas-fired capacity will remain important for a considerable period of time. This in turn will mean that the question of whether CCS should be fitted (and retrofitted) to gas-fired power generation is likely to move higher up the UK’s climate policy agenda. Howard Rogers’ study demonstrates that, on paper, gas-fired generation with CCS can be more competitive than the low carbon generation options such as Offshore Wind, generally assumed to grow most significantly in the UK over the next decade but the commercial complexities of CCS projects set out in this paper, do not give cause for optimism about its future development, absent a clear and sustained commitment from government.
It is no part of the OIES Gas Research Programme’s remit to promote natural gas, either in the UK or more generally. However, our research increasingly suggests that the likely future role of gas in energy balances has been, and continues to be, under-estimated in a range of countries, including perhaps until very recently, the UK.

By: Howard Rogers