BECCS: the carbon capture technology the UK is relying on to reach net zero

Published: May 17, 2022 1.43pm BST

Power station on a sunny day next to a farm
Drax power station, North Yorkshire. John Morrison / Alamy Stock Photo

Overall, the UK spends hundreds of millions of pounds every year on the wood-burning power stations this technology would supposedly remove the emissions of. But can it deliver the kind of reduction in carbon output the country and the world needs?

To answer this question, first it’s important to understand what scientists mean by the term “negative emissions” – especially if you want to decipher climate change news for yourself.

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Wholesale market design ‘no longer fit for purpose’ for rapidly decarbonising system – National Grid ESO

National Grid ESO came to its conclusions through the third phase of its ongoing programme of analysis into market reforms. Image: Getty

by Molly Lempriere Deputy Editor, Current±

National Grid ESO came to its conclusions through the third phase of its ongoing programme of analysis into market reforms. Image: Getty

National Grid ESO has suggested that a nodal, location-based wholesale market would be the ideal shift of the market – with the current design to impose excessive costs if left.

This comes as part of the third phase of its ongoing programme of anaylsis into how GB electricity markets should be reformed to achieve net zero cost effectively.

The ESO found that the current market wasn’t designed for net zero, with wholesale electricity market reform required to deliver net zero at significantly lower cost to industry and consumers.

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In numbers: How much waste is produced in the UK – and how much is recycled?

As part of edie’s Circular Economy Week 2022, we take a look at the official facts and figures about how much waste is generated each year in the UK, and outline recycling rates for waste streams including plastics.

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by Sarah George Published 23rd May 2022


In numbers: How much waste is produced in the UK – and how much is recycled?

This week (23 – 27 May) is edie’s Circular Economy Week – a week-long editorial campaign designed to inform and inspire sustainability, energy and resource efficiency professionals to take bolder steps towards an economy free from waste.

As part of this campaign, this feature provides a snapshot of the levels of waste currently being generated in the UK and of how this waste is managed. It covers plastics, e-waste, food waste and waste from construction, demolition and excavation.

The UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recently published finalized statistics on household waste generation and recycling during 2020 – the most recent full year for which data is available. That paper confirmed that the UK had missed its target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020. The recycling rate for household waste dipped from 45.5% in 2019 to 44% in 2020, with Defra attributing backwards progress to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Challenges to the circular economy during lockdown included disrupted recycling collections, increased use of hard-to-recycle masks and PPE containing plastic, and the ending of in-person refill services. With lockdown restrictions now lifted in the UK, there is a major opportunity to increase the focus on the circular economy in policymaking and across the private sector. Here, edie provides an updated baseline from which progress must now be made.

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Uskmouth conversion to burn waste abandoned; battery planned for site

Simec Atlantis Energy (SAE) has abandoned plans to convert a coal-fired power station at Uskmouth to burn pelletised waste. Instead, the company plans to install a 230MW battery on the site.
The company announced plans to convert the existing power plant to burn biogenic waste and non-recyclable plastic back in August 2018. In 2020 it said it expected to reach financial close in late 2021, building one 110MW unit immediately and planning a second at a later date. It was at that stage looking for data centres as long-term customers for the power generated.
However, a planning application was ‘called in’ by the Welsh Government in October 2021 (previously it had been under consideration by Natural Resources Wales), at which time SAE complained that the direction “has been left to the very end of the NRW process and follows over a year of detailed information sharing between SAE and NRW”. It called the decision to delay the project “a blow to South Wales”.
Uskmouth site has a 230MW grid connection previously used by the coal-fired power station, along with significant land and infrastructure that make it a prime location a battery storage system, said SAE, announcing the change of plan. The company has now submitted a Modification Application to National Grid, for the change of plans, and a screening report to Newport City Council in relation to the battery construction.
As SAE is not pursuing the Uskmouth Conversion Project and withdrawn the relevant application it has sold associated items of plant, and it said, “This contract brings in immediate funding to SAE’s business, helping to secure SAE’s broader objectives and delivering value for shareholders”. It has signed a £1.2 million contract with Wye Valley Demolition to remove the surplus plant and equipment.

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ScottishPower and Storegga set out green hydrogen plan

ScottishPower and Storegga, the firm behind the Acorn carbon capture project, have formed a partnership to develop green hydrogen production plants across Scotland.

The first project to be progressed will be the Cromarty Hydrogen Project, located just north of Inverness.

The project is designed to deliver up to 20 tonnes of green hydrogen per day from 2024 and has, subject to customer demand, the potential to scale to 300MW in a series of modular expansion phases.

It will displace existing fossil fuel sources and enable the supply of green hydrogen into the heating processes of distilleries, with additional potential application to other local manufacturing, food production, and industrial heating applications.

The Cromarty Hydrogen Project follows a successful feasibility study by ScottishPower and Storegga, undertaken in collaboration with major distillers Diageo, Glenmorangie, and Whyte & Mackay – all of which have operations in the Cromarty region.

As part of meeting ambitious carbon reduction targets set by one of Scotland’s most valuable exporting sectors, the use of green hydrogen will decarbonise production processes, helping make Scotland’s national drink greener.

Discussions on similar projects for other customers and industries are also underway.

Being ‘home-made’, green hydrogen has clear benefits in terms of security of energy supply.

As well as accelerating the potential for cleaner industrial heating processes, green hydrogen is poised to transform the heavy transport sector across the country, with clean fuel potentially powering vehicles such as refuse collection trucks, buses, and HGVs.

Green hydrogen is also a suitable alternative clean fuel for rail, air and shipping.

Barry Carruthers, Hydrogen Director at ScottishPower said: “This is a really exciting milestone in our ambitions to support the growth of green hydrogen production across the country and the decarbonisation of heavy industry.

"We can now get to work on turning plans on paper into tangible and deliverable projects that will transform industry in the Highlands – making a long and lasting difference for people, businesses and communities.

“We’re excited to be working with Storegga to help create a clean energy future for this stunning and vital economic region of Scotland.”

Andrew Brown, Head of Hydrogen at Storegga said: “The Cromarty Green Hydrogen Project is expected to be the UK’s largest green hydrogen facility when it commences operations in 2024, and is expected to rapidly expand thereafter.

“Storegga has been working with the distilling sector on the energy transition since 2014. In 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association’s Pathway to Net Zero report identified that hydrogen would play a key role in enabling Net Zero for the distilling sector.

"Phase 1 of the Cromarty Hydrogen Project is expected to be the first of many as we develop a broader green hydrogen manufacturing capacity in Scotland this decade. Storegga is proud to be working with ScottishPower and the distillers on this groundbreaking project.”


Poor land management and natural resource exploitation threatens half of global GDP, UN warns

A major new report from the UN has revealed that 40% of the world’s land is degraded and warned that, without major restoration and preservation efforts, there will be grave outcomes for society, nature and climate.

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by Sarah George 28th April 2022


Poor land management and natural resource exploitation threatens half of global GDP, UN warns

Globally, human activity has altered the way that 70% of land is used, according to the UN

Published on Wednesday (27 April), the UN’s second Global Land Outlook assesses land-use trends across the world, tracks land degradation and outlines future scenarios in which opportunities to protect and restore land are taken. Importantly, it emphasizes how land degradation contributes to food insecurity, mass migration, economic losses, biodiversity loss and the global temperature increase.

The headline finding is that around 40% of land globally is already degraded. Degradation to date has largely been driven by sectors linked to deforestation, such as forestry and intensive agriculture. Agriculture alone now occupies 40% of global land. This has already resulted in negative impacts for half of the global population, predominantly in the Global South.

Unless action is taken to protect and restore land at scale, the report warns, half of global GDP – $44trn – will be at risk by 2050. In a business-as-usual scenario, at least 12% of the world’s agricultural and pasture land will enter a potentially irreversible decline in productivity, risking food security and livelihoods. This further degradation will have knock-on impacts with regard to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. On the latter, an additional 69 billion tonnes of CO2e will be generated by land-use by 2050 in this scenario.

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Garioch District Heat - a community information event. A local answer to the energy crisis?

Garioch District Heat

Concerned about the cost of the energy crisis? – come along to this Information Event in Inverurie Town Hall on Saturday 7th May 2022

  • A Local Answer to the Energy Crisis

Did you know that 80% of your energy bill is for heating and hot water?  Come along to find out about Garioch District Heat – a community-owned company for community benefit.

Over £20M leaves our community every year to go to the big power companies. Let’s keep it here for the benefit of the community.

Come along  and find out just how you can help shape the future of energy use in The Garioch

  See -  www.gariochdistrictheat.net   for the link to book a free place, or click here to go direct to the booking site


A revolution in carbon capture and job growth

By Aniruddha Sharma 

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This rotating packed bed is at the heart of a revolution in carbon capture that will a huge impact on industrial emissions.

Roughly 40 percent of the American workforce lives in manufacturing-heavy working-class towns, neither cities nor farming-dominated rural regions. Many industries that these communities rely on are among the hardest to decarbonize, such as refineries, as well as cement and steel plants.

Finding a clean technology solution is vital to sustaining local job markets while also reducing emissions. There is a growing acceptance that carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) is this solution.

Carbon_Clean_Embedded_Image_2-24-2022_1

US Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Dr. Jennifer Wilcox toured Carbon Clean's technology at Doosan Babcock's Emissions Reduction Test Facility while in Glasgow for COP26 

Last fall’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden — allocated about $12 billion for carbon capture and industrial emission reduction, directly supporting a massive increase in the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure industries. The inclusion of this funding in the legislation points to the strong political need to ensure that American industries adapt to a net zero economy — and the importance of CCUS to achieving this.

This is also the case globally. The International Energy Agency is clear that it will be impossible to reach net zero without accelerating the industrial adoption of CCUS; deployment needs to be 50 percent higher than current projections to reach global net zero goals.

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ECIU cautions that barriers to onshore wind could cost £10bn by 2035

The UK currently has 14GW of onshore wind, which is set to grow to 20GW.

The UK currently has 14GW of onshore wind, which is set to grow to 20GW.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has criticised the lack of governmental support for onshore wind, highlighting that by 2035 the shortfall in the rollout of the technology could cost each household £125.

It follows the release of the British Energy Security Strategy on 7 April, which – despite rumours that the government was set to triple onshore wind targets in the run-up to the document – provided little additional support or ambition for the technology.

This was met by disappointment from a number of groups, with many highlighting the broad public support – onshore wind is supported by 80% of the population, a figure that rises to 87% when households get cheaper bills due to local wind farms – and low cost of the technology.

Currently, the UK has 14GW of onshore wind; 8.5GW in Scotland, 2.9GW in England, 1.1GW in Wales and 1.2 GW in Northern Ireland, according to government data. Based on turbines currently under construction and projects that have received planning permission, this is set to rise to 20GW.

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UK Energy Strategy - Press Release

Graphic with the text 'Energy Security Strategy'
  • The Prime Minister’s plan boosts Britain’s energy security following rising global energy prices and volatility in international markets
  • bold new commitments to supercharge clean energy and accelerate deployment, which could see 95% of Great Britain’s electricity set to be low carbon by 2030
  • ambitious, quicker expansion of nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, oil and gas, including delivering the equivalent to one nuclear reactor a year instead of one a decade
  • over 40,000 more jobs in clean industries to be supported thanks to measures, totalling 480,000 jobs by 2030

Cleaner and more affordable energy to be made in Great Britain under bold plans to boost long-term energy independence, security and prosperity.

The government’s British Energy Security Strategy sets out how Great Britain will accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, whilst supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term – which could see 95% of electricity by 2030 being low carbon.

The strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from this safe, clean, and reliable source of power. This would represent up to around 25% of our projected electricity demand. Subject to technology readiness from industry, Small Modular Reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline.

A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, and we will launch the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund this month. We will work to progress a series of projects as soon as possible this decade, including Wylfa site in Anglesey. This could mean delivering up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade, accelerating nuclear in Britain.

Our ambitious plans also include:

  • Offshore wind: A new ambition of up to 50GW by 2030 – more than enough to power every home in the UK – of which we would like to see up to 5GW from floating offshore wind in deeper seas. This will be underpinned by new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from 4 years to 1 year and an overall streamlining which will radically reduce the time it takes for new projects to reach construction stages while improving the environment.
  • Oil and gas: A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects planned to launch in Autumn, with a new taskforce providing bespoke support to new developments – recognising the importance of these fuels to the transition and to our energy security, and that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad.
  • Onshore wind: We will be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills.
  • Heat pump manufacturing: We will run a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition in 2022 worth up to £30 million to make British heat pumps, which reduce demand for gas.

We will also look to increase the UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity which could grow up to 5 times by 2035, consulting on the rules for solar projects, particularly on domestic and commercial rooftops.

We will aim to double our ambition to up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen and utilising excess offshore wind power to bring down costs. This will not only provide cleaner energy for vital British industries to move away from expensive fossil fuels, but could also be used for cleaner power, transport and potentially heat.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:

We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead.

This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills.

This plan comes in light of rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This will be central to weaning Britain off expensive fossil fuels, which are subject to volatile gas prices set by international markets we are unable to control, and boosting our diverse sources of homegrown energy for greater energy security in the long-term.

Consumer bills will be lower this decade than they otherwise would be as a result of the measures this government has taken.

The British Energy Security Strategy will also increase the number of clean jobs in the UK by supporting; 90,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2028 – 30,000 more than previously expected; 10,000 jobs in solar power by 2028 – almost double our previous expectations; and 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030 – 3,000 more than previously expected.

In total, the British Energy Security Strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and, together with the Net Zero Strategy, is driving an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment into new British industries including Offshore Wind and supporting 480,000 new clean jobs by the end of the decade.

Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:

We have seen record high gas prices around the world. We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our move towards cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy.

The simple truth is that the more cheap, clean power we generate within our borders, the less exposed we will be to eye watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control.

Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximising North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the coming years.

The strategy follows a series of engagement by the Prime Minister and ministers across government with key industry leaders, including from the oil and gas, wind and nuclear sectors. The government continue to work with industry in the coming weeks to drive forward these commitments as fast as industry can deliver.

Notes to editors:

  • Prices of renewables have been consistently decreasing, with the price of offshore wind dramatically falling by around 65% since 2015, onshore wind prices down 50% since 2013, and residential roof top solar panels are now less than 50% the price they were a decade ago.
  • In the immediate term, we’re providing £9 billion package of support for consumers to manage rising cost of living. This includes a £150 council tax rebate from April and a further £200 energy bill reduction in October to cut energy bills quickly for the majority of households, while the energy price cap continues to insulate millions of customers from even higher volatile global gas prices. We are investing over £6.6 billion to improve energy efficiency and decarbonise heating over this parliament. In the next few years this will deliver upgrades to over half a million homes, delivering average bill savings of £300.
  • To further drive down demand, and permanently reduce energy bills in the longer term, a temporary VAT cut on the installation of energy efficiency projects such as solar panels, insulation and heat pumps will be in place for the next five years to 2027.
  • Britain’s first nuclear power station in a generation, Hinkley Point C, is currently under construction, and we are in constructive negotiations with the developer on the Sizewell C project in Suffolk. The 2 projects combined would generate about 6.5GW of power.