Note on CCS Policy
I started out enthusiastic about CCS and annoyed with environmentalists who where against the technology. My positions was due to my concern about the development of China and India and the potential for shifting these economies over to renewable forms of power(1).
However, after reading a superb report (2) by the Wuppertal institute i started to question both the merrits of ccs and the promise when compared to alternatives. The big point that comes out of this report is that when you consider total carbon emissions from coal rather than just the percentage of emissions that you can capture from the coal you end up with carbon reduction of around 65% rather than 90% when we look purely at direct coal emissions.
It is also worrying to me that by simply swapping coal for coal + ccs will give you a more pollouting plant in terms of local air quality. Given the air quality in asia i do have some feeling about the morality of promoting a very expensive and more pollouting form of power that has the sole advantage of reducing carbon emissions.
I realise that there is some interest in these technologies within Russia, hopefully more than in asia. I don't have references to hand but i did some reading on political/technical/scientific opinions in China about CCS and the attitude was one of extreme skepticism. Let me know if you want the paper.
These are my concerns about CCS. With limited govornment budgets i do think that offshore renewables should be a priority for the UK. So i do have some concerns about expenditure on CCS displacing expenditure on what i think deserve to be national priorities exploiting our natural advantage.
If money is to be expended on CCS technologies then i would not disagree with this so long as the warnings of the Environmental Audit Committee are taken seriously:
'“The possibility of ccs should not be used as a fig leaf to give unabated coal-fired power plants an appearance of environmental acceptability” .
In order for CCS to be seen as anthing other than an expensive and distracting measure, it will have to be tested on entirel ccs plants, not 20% CCS plants. Indeed, we alread have plenty of old coal plants to test post-combustion technology on.
My initial view that CCS isn't nessicary for UK electricity supplies and is more usefully considered an export technology is unchanged. We have a vast offshore wind resource, soon to be quantified more acurately by Boston Consulting Group. The key question is one of transmission: r&d and investment in infrastructure would be an alternative to investing in CCS which is VERY expensive.
The Wuppertal institue report is so notable because it looks not only at emissions per net unit of energy produced, but also at transport, mining and processing emissions.
Home del.icio.us Digg This!