On 27 June, the UK government wrote into law its commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The same day, it announced that £26 million was being awarded to carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) pilot projects designed to accelerate the technology’s deployment. These decisions are directly influenced by the May 2019 publication from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC): “Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”. The CCC, commissioned by the government and one of its top climate policy influencers, stated that “[carbon capture] is a necessity, not an option, for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”. The funding, awarded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is spread across two schemes.
The first is the Call for CCUS Innovation. It has had its funding increased from £15 million to £24 million. It supports feasibility studies, industrial research, and experimental development projects in CCUS. Its primary aims are to reduce the costs of CCUS and to encourage quicker and more widespread deployment of CCUS in the UK and internationally. Its projects include a large-scale initiative also at Drax run by C-Capture that aims to make the UK’s largest power station also become the world’s first negative-emissions power station.
The second is the Carbon Capture, Usage and Demonstration (CCUD) programme. Its focus is on the utilisation component of CCUS. It covers industrial-scale demonstration projects in CCUS that aim to capture up to 70,000 tonnes of CO2 per year for use in industrial processes and accelerate cost reductions in CCUS of 20-45%, or £10-20/MWh. This includes another project at Drax, led by Drax Group, which proposes to use carbonate fuel cells for co-generation from carbon capture. Another is a project led by Origen Power, which aims to produce zero-carbon lime. Lime is an important but carbon-intensive industrial feedstock. Origen Power proposes a lime production method that releases CO2 only as a pure gas, more suitable for capture than the waste streams of traditional lime production.
The dual actions of committing to the long-term 2050 emissions target with immediate policy action through funding CCUS Innovation and the CCUD are a step towards a comprehensive decarbonisation strategy for the UK.