POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)
According to global climate and economic models, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere will be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. Among Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) techniques, these models assume that Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) could play a prominent role. This POSTnote summarises why BECCS has been included in the models, outlines the challenges and trade-offs of deploying at scale, and considers policy options for supporting its development.
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- Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is a system of technologies. It combines biomass (plant matter or organic waste) for energy generation, with the capture and permanent storage of the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- BECCS is one of the ‘negative emissions’ technologies projected to play a major role in global climate mitigation. It will be needed if the Paris Agreement goals are to be met.
- The scale of BECCS projected in some models has raised concerns around the sustainability of bioenergy and overall carbon footprint of BECCS required to deliver negative emissions.
- Its development requires robust and transparent policy and sustainability frameworks; with environmental, economic and social dimensions; as well as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) infrastructures that do not yet exist.
Evidence from global models of the climate, economy, energy and land use systems – Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) – suggest that some level of Greenhouse Gas Removal is needed to achieve this Paris Agreement goals to limit global warming to well below 2˚C.
Estimates of the mitigation potential of BECCS within IAMs vary considerably. There are a number of potential challenges associated with the widespread use of BECCS, primarily around scale and land availability. Robust governance frameworks, which ensure transparency and sustainability, would be required. In addition, there are risks relying on the technology for future mitigation future when significant uncertainties currently exist around its cost and its potential to achieve negative emissions.
Estimates by the Committee on Climate Change suggest that the UK mitigation potential of BECCS ranges from 20 to 51 MtCO2 (equivalent to 5-14% of UK CO2 emissions at 2018 levels). Suggested UK policy approaches to supporting BECCS’ development could include integrating BECCS into carbon markets such as the EU ETS, supporting pilot and demonstration schemes, and investing in CCS infrastructures.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders, and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
- Prof Patricia Thornley, Aston University*
- Keith Whiriskey, Bellona Foundation
- Theo Mitchell, Bellona Foundation
- Mark Preston Aragonès, Bellona Foundation*
- Chris Gent, Carbon Capture & Storage Association*
- Mike Hemsley, Committee for Climate Change*
- Prof Gideon Henderson, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs*
- Peter Coleman, Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy*
- Sherry Siobhan, Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy*
- Stephen Forden, Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy*
- Luke Jones, Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy*
- Nicholas Doherty, Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy
- Richard Gow, Drax*
- Dr Jo Howes, E4tech*
- Dr Mike Norton, European Academies’ Science Advisory Council*
- KelseyPerlman, Fern*
- Prof Paul Fennell, Imperial College London
- Dr Niall MacDowell, Imperial College London
- Prof James Skea, Imperial College London
- Dr Sara Budinis, International Energy Agency*
- Dr Mary Booth, Partnership for Policy Integrity*
- Samuel Stevenson, Renewable Energy Association*
- Michelle Morton, Shell*
- Joanna Coleman, Shell
- Prof Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen*
- Dr Jo House, University of Bristol
- Dr David Reiner, University of Cambridge*
- Dr Mathilde Farjardy, University of Cambridge*
- Dr Andrew Welfle, University of Manchester*
- Dr Robert Bellamy, University of Manchester*
- Dr Clair Gough, University of Manchester, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research*
- Dr Alison Mohr, University of Nottingham
(* indicates contributors who reviewed the note)
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