Jun 7, 2016
Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming and associated climate change. Technologies to capture CO2 emissions from power stations and industry are therefore seen as essential to achieving UK and global decarbonisation objectives.
- The Rt Hon Lord Deben PC, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change
- Professor Peter Styring, University of Sheffield
- Professor Colin Hills, University of Greenwich and Founder Director of Carbon8 Systems
- Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association
- Richard Howard, Head of Environment and Energy, Policy Exchange
To date the focus of carbon capture research and development has been on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), whereby CO2 gas is permanently stored in geological formations. However, due to concerns over the cost of the technology, the Government took a decision to cancel its £1 billion CCS commercialisation competition last Autumn, putting the future of CCS in the UK in doubt.
Alongside this, many companies and innovators are also looking at ways to capture and re-use CO2. For example, CO2 can be used directly in industrial applications, or repurposed using a range of novel processes to create useful products such as green fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and building materials. At the event, Professor Hills will describe his pioneering process which uses CO2 gas to treat industrial residues (e.g. ash) and produce “carbon negative” building materials.
There are many other avenues to reuse CO2, which if successful have the potential to provide useful products whilst at the same time achieving significant carbon and wider environmental benefits. In effect, these technologies recast CO2 as a resource rather than a waste – the ultimate in recycling.
This event will consider the potential for “Carbon Capture and Use” technologies as a complement or alternative to Carbon Capture and Storage. It will consider the current state of technology development and the role of Government policy.
Introduction: Richard Howard, Head of Environment and Energy, Policy Exchange
Good morning everyone and welcome to Policy Exchange and to our event today, which is entitled rethinking CO2: how can we put it to good use? I’m very pleased to welcome you all to the event today. It’s great to see such a large group of people to come to what’s actually a pretty niche topic to discuss about carbon capture and use. I’m also really grateful to our panel of speakers for coming to the event today. I’ll introduce all of them in a few moments.
So I’m Richard Howard, I’m the Head of energy and environment at Policy Exchange for anyone who I haven’t met, and as the title of the event today suggests, this event is all about whether it’s possible to rethink CO2 as something that has potential uses, rather than thinking of it as a waste, so thereby stimulating new ways of potentially reducing CO2 emissions. That’s the scope of what we want to talk about today. So as we know, carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming, and I probably don’t need to reiterate to this audience the sort of imperative around reducing CO2 emissions and so on. Within that, carbon capture is a technology which is seen as immensely useful particularly due to the fact that for the foreseeable future we will be continuing to use fossil fuels, so carbon capture technology is seen by many people as a really important technology, so for example the Committee on Climate Change has said that CCS (carbon capture) is a very important technology and the International Energy Agency as well. Both organisations have also said that decarbonising without CCS would be a very costly thing to do. When people talk about carbon capture they’ve generally been thinking to date, or the focus of a lot of discussion, has been on carbon capture and storage, so geological storage, long-term sequestration of CO2 gases in geological formations like depleted oil and gas fields or saline aquifers. A lot of the discussion has been around that both at a UK level, European level and also internationally, but there are also a lot of people now thinking about potential ways to reuse the CO2, instead of sequestering CO2. So CO2can be used directly in a number of different applications, so from the most basic things like putting bubbles in fizzy drinks, but it can also be converted through chemical or biological process or mineralisation processes into a number of different chemicals and those chemicals have a range of applications.
So this slide, I won’t go through it in detail because I know that Peter Styring, one of our other speakers, will talk to you and give some specific examples – I’m not a chemist anyway and don’t profess to know anything about chemistry, I’m an economist – but this is just an example of how CO2 can be converted into a range of different chemicals and Matt, if you go to the next slide, those chemicals can be used in a wide range of applications, so there are lots of different companies and innovators talking about how CO2 can be converted through processes and used in a wide range of applications such as creating fuels, methane and transport fuels, creating construction materials. We’ll hear later on from Professor Colin Hills who’s involved in that space and also to create other products, plastics and so on. So potentially there’s a wide range of uses for CO2 if it can be converted into other materials, other chemicals, economically.
We could only find a limited amount of research which actually seeks to quantify the potential for these products and markets. There is a piece of work that was done by Parsons Brinckerhoff but that was done back in 2011 and that actually went through all the different use cases for CO2 and said what if you could mineralise carbon and make construction products, what would that mean, what sorts of volumes are we talking about, how advanced is the technology? So there is some research out there that seeks to summarise all of those things. The volumes are potentially significant although when you contrast them to total global carbon emissions they are still relatively modest. Another study has also sought to quantify the economic potential of these markets and put a value of around a trillion dollars for the sum total of all the carbon reuse markets by 2030. So potentially this could be huge economic activity but there’s huge amounts of uncertainty around all of this.
As I say, there’s lots of different technologies, lots of innovators working in this space. A number of those technologies are approaching high technology readiness levels, approaching commercialisation, so we’ll hear about some of the technologies today. This was actually a chart from a piece of work that was also done several years ago but was projecting that with the black dots, those black dots signify when the projects would be at early stages of commercialisation, so some of the technologies are either at or approaching commercial readiness or will do within the next 5 or 10 years. There’s also a huge amount of research activity, we’ll hear more from the other speakers about some of this, but I’ll pick out a couple of things: two very significant pots of money that are being diverted to think about carbon capture and reuse technology. So one is the global CO2 Initiative which is an initiative which is being driven by a number of ex-Stanford and Harvard staff and other people from companies in Silicon Valley and so on, and they’re putting up $1 billion potentially over 10 years to try and commercialise carbon capture and reuse technologies. Secondly XPRIZE have launched a competition, they’re the people who did the SpaceX competition a few years’ ago but they’ve put up $20 million as a prize fund for anybody who can crack this kind of technology to find commercial applications for CO2. There are a number of other research activities going on globally at European level and at UK level as well.
But one of the things that I find very interesting is there seems to be a lack of any real policy context for this whole area of research so there’s quite limited amount of discussion of carbon capture and use by the likes of DEC, the Committee on Climate Change, even at IPCC and the IEA. There is some discussion of these technologies but it has been pretty limited, the discussion has been more around carbon capture and storage on the chart we saw earlier. And also generally when we think about decarbonisation, there’s always a lot of enthusiasm and discussion about how to decarbonise the power sector and relatively less thought has been put into how to decarbonise industry and some of these carbon capture and reuse technologies can be applied at a much smaller scale to industries directly to capture CO2 emissions from the likes of, I don’t know, cement manufacture or something like that. So maybe we need to think quite differently, it provokes some thought that we might need to think quite differently about carbon capture and reuse in this context to how we would about largescale carbon capture and storage from power generation.
Some of the other interesting things that I think come out from this is where are the financial incentives to actually think about carbon capture and reuse? A lot has been done to put a price on carbon in the power sector, for example through the carbon price floor and the EU ETS but I think there’s a limit to which that really applies here and to the sorts of technologies that we’re talking about. And equally is there a good enough fit between this activity which is essentially about recycling a waste product CO2, that’s essentially something which we could think about in terms of waste and recycling policy but has there been sufficient thought about how that works in practice?
So a bit on my final slide, a few questions which I’d really like to tease out from this discussion, we’ll hear from a number of speakers in a moment and hopefully they’ll try and answer some of these questions but I think there are some significant questions around carbon capture and reuse about what the true potential is of these wide ranging technologies that we’re beginning to hear about; which of the technologies have the most merit, which are commercially viable or when could they be commercially viable, under what circumstances; is the carbon capture in reuse technology a complement to carbon capture and storage or a stepping stone towards it or is it an alternative? I think that’s one of the really interesting questions. There are also questions about whether some of the carbon capture and the use of technologies actually result in carbon savings or whether they just move carbon around and other policy questions about whether and how government could support this technology and the extent to which the UK might be left behind? It seems like a lot of the focus of discussion around carbon capture and reuse is in the US, so is the UK at risk of being left behind on this?
So lots of big questions, I think it’s a hugely complicated topic. We’ll hear from a number of experts in a moment who will give you a bit more of a flavour of some of the specific technologies they’re working on and some of the research they’re doing and hopefully we’ll get into some of these policy questions as well and have a bit of a discussion around that.
So just to introduce the other speakers, we’ll hear first from The Rt Hon Lord Deben who was appointed an MP in 1970 and served for 16 years as a Minister at various different ministerial roles but he had a role as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a period and also the Minister for Environment from 1992 onwards. He’s now obviously a Lord in the House of Lords and also was appointed as the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change back in 20212 and holds a number of very interesting Chairman positions in a sustainability consultancy and other businesses such as Veolia Water, so we’ll hear first from Lord Deben.
Secondly we’ll hear from Professor Peter Styring from the University of Sheffield who’s a very well-known expert on carbon capture and reuse technologies or what he, I think, describes as carbon dioxide utilisation technologies to get the terminology correct. There’s lots of terminology in this space! He is the author of a very important report that was done talking about these technologies back in 2012 called Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy and he’s also the lead on the CO2 Network which is the largest group of academics and businesses who are working on carbon capture and use technologies.
Thirdly we’ll hear from Professor Colin Hills who’s a Professor at the University of Greenwich and his focus is primarily on contaminated land remediation but he’s done a lot of work looking at the beneficial reuse of waste CO2gas for the treatment of contaminated soil and waste and we’ll hear about his fascinating technology, which from my basic understanding, allows you to combine ash from power stations or industrial processes, water and CO2 and make aggregates, which I find fascinating, and he’s received a number of different prizes for this work.
And lastly we’ll hear from Dr Luke Warren who is the Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, so his primary focus is on carbon capture and storage like the more normal form that we’ve been talking about, about geological storage for a number of the companies who are members in his network and also have interest in this space.
So a very experienced and knowledgeable panel of speakers and I’m very thankful for them for coming, so I’ll hand over to Lord Deben.
The Rt Hon Lord Deben
One of the continuous problems of my Twitter feed is, of course, the people who enter into this argument on climate change with particularly ridiculous views which they repeat again and again. And one of them is to say we need more CO2 because actually, ‘Do you not realise that CO2 is particularly good for growing plants?’ and this interesting argument about climate change continues and my trolls follow me in this life. And if you’re not a member of the Twitter feed, I ask you to join because I need troll exterminators so please sign up to @lorddeben. But it always fascinated me the way in which people can twist any sort of argument to meet their own requirements. If in the course of what I have to say I say anything about the European Union I am on those occasions not speaking as the Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, I have to say that because the law says I mustn’t, so I’m notwhen I’m speaking on that subject. But it is a subject where I’ve also heard some pretty silly ways of trying to believe that we’d be better off out which, of course, we wouldn’t be.
The truth is that people find the science of climate change extremely difficult because people find science extremely difficult and sometimes when scientists complain about people not being very numerate I want to say that there are an awful lot of scientists that aren’t very literate so trying to put over some of these issues is, I think, pretty difficult on both sides. So my job is to start the thing off by putting it into some sort of context and I apologise if you feel that some of the points I make are obvious but clearly they haven’t been obvious to members of the government leave alone anyone else. And the first obvious fact is that if we are going to fight the battle of climate change then the answers are both/and, and not, either/or, that almost everything we talk about is going to have to be part of the answer. So we as a committee are very clear in our minds that you have to have a range of elements if we are to have any chance of the sort of decarbonisation which we know is necessary. Now that doesn’t mean to say that we want all of them at the same time nor does it mean that all of them we will have forever. When I have to make the argument about nuclear power it’s perfectly possible to have a view which says that you need nuclear power as a transitional mechanism. It’s perfectly possible to argue that you need gas, whether fracked or otherwise, as a transitional mechanism. What I think is pretty difficult to argue is that there is one, simple answer to what is a very complex problem and yet, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this, but there is a kind of enthusiasm that people have for their particular answer which very often excludes anybody else. I mean the number of people who are keen on wind energy who spend all the time they can being rude about solar and vice versa is a very annoying part of the whole debate.
So I want to start by saying that there is a mix and that in that mix there are certain, in my view, absolutely essentialelements and one of them is that we decrease as fast as possible the heavily polluting means of generation which is why I applaud the government’s decision to stop generation by coal earlier than we had expected, so there’s that side of it. At the other side we have to recognise that we won’t be able to handle the issues that we need to without a number of elements, some of which are somewhat embarrassing and carbon capture with or without storage is one of those elements. The Climate Change Committee is very clear, we don’t think that as we stand today that we can envisage a future in which we have got the emissions in Britain down to the 80% cut to which we are statutorily required, leave alone moved beyond that, which is what Paris is now inviting us to do, unless we have carbon capture and storage. Now one of the problems of discussing this is that people confuse means and ends and they also confuse means of two different kinds. I’m always interested in ends, my job as Chairman of the Climate Change Committee is to achieve certain ends and frankly, if to achieve those ends it were possible to have the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change doing the splits every two seconds, if that did it, I’d be in favour of it, I’ve got no hang ups about how you do it. What I’m interested in is reaching that end. Very many NGOs get themselves tied up with particular means. Now one understands why but we have to be a bit careful about pretending that means and ends are the same thing. But there is some room for arguing that without at least some element of particular means we’re not going to achieve those ends and that’s where I think carbon capture and storage is very clearly one of those means without which we cannot do. It doesn’t mean to say that the particular mechanism which we have chosen to proceed upon and which the government finally pulled the rug under was necessarily the right one, I’m not arguing that, but what is necessarily true is that we have to have an alternative route, if that wasn’t the right one then there must be an alternative route and the government really must provide an alternative route. And the Climate Change Committee is absolutely clear about that and there are certain key elements which we define for a strategic approach to developing CCS at least cost. We have first of all to separate the support for capture and for transport and storage infrastructure, a very important part for today’s discussion. There are two things: one is the capture and the efficient capture of CO2 and the other is what you do with it after and how you deal with it after and I think we’ve suffered considerably by the mistaken conflation of those two elements.
The second thing that we to do is to be much more focussed on the strategy and the clusters which we might need for that strategy and we also need to find a way in which we can allocate suitably the risks between the public and the private sectors. I don’t think we have in any way found the answer which must be a mixed economy answer or it won’t happen. And we’ve also got to find funding instruments for capture, again capture, contracts for difference fill this role for power plants and funding should be allocated competitively to minimise cost and a new instrument will be needed for industrial projects incorporating a similar competitive element. And we also need to recognise that you need a sufficient scaled, targeted rollout, you can’t do this without a combination of industry and power plants necessary to realise the economies of scale and to allow the build-up of skills, developer and financial interest.
It’s a tall order but it would be made all the easier if we could see CO2 not as a waste but as a resource and I want to make that particular point. I think it can be taken for granted that we need CCS, it can be granted therefore that we need CC, it can be taken for granted that CCS will be a darn sight easier if the CC actually led you to something that was worth storing or using, that’s why today is so important and why I’m so pleased so many people have been involved. But it’s going to be a very hard and, I think, longer than I would like, road, but that doesn’t mean to say that it won’t be quicker if we start now. And our pressure on the government will be to recognise that we in Britain really do need to start on this route. We need to do it in three ways. First of all we need to do it because it’s important for us, particularly for our industry, it’s important for us because we cannot reach the target we need in decarbonisation without enormous extra cost if we don’t have it, so it is crucial, and thirdly it’s important for us because we ought to be the innovative leaders of this matter. And at the risk of talking about Brexit again, the one issue is that we ought to be the leaders inside the European Union because we don’t have the hang ups over CCS which some countries do have. It’s a pity they do but it’s rather like genetic engineering, you can’t manage to talk to some people about anything about GMOs because they’ve already decided it’s something they don’t want to talk about. I’m afraid CCS is like that in some countries in Europe and we need to convince that this is a proper part of our battle against climate change. So we have a very important role in Britain to fulfil. We won’t fulfil it unless the government takes practical and positive and urgent steps to plan and present a route towards CCS, particularly in the form that CC could make S merely a matter of saving resources for future use.
This is a very exciting area to be discussing. I’m sorry that so few people are discussing it; the audience today and Policy Exchange’s interest gives me great hope, I hope very much this is the beginning of a very important demarche for the United Kingdom.
Professor Peter Styring, University of Sheffield
Thank you Richard for organising this event and Lord Deben for setting the scene so eloquently and we haven’t discussed this previously but I think we’re going to be on the same wavelength.
Hopefully this clicker works otherwise I’m in trouble!
So I agree, we need CCS, that is very, very clear but I must admit it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when commercialisation projects were cancelled after the last spending review. It had been on the horizon for a while but what it did make me think was how would this affect carbon capture and utilisation and in particular the carbon capture part because no matter what we do we’re still going to need carbon capture. I was pleased to see the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change that CCS was still needed but indeed a new approach was needed. And I think this is where CCU, or [25:27] only we can’t use that in Europe because of Christian Democratic Union, but we’re now call it more CCU and how it can help. So this is a chance to reset and restart, this is a chance to relook at what we’re doing, how the carbon capture and utilisation or CCU can facilitate a step change in the way we think. It represents a change away from using CO2 as a waste that must be dumped in effect, in aquafers and[25:57] it can lead to a chemical that leads to a sustainable chemicals industry. We can decouple the UK economic growth from otherwise environmentally damaging impacts, so we can use the CO2 to do something positive. In many cases, although not all cases, CCU needs carbon capture so it can help to restart the CC part of CCS as well. That part of CCS is a huge economic and environmental burden because you’re using energy to capture the CCS. If we can develop low energy processors that will make things a lot easier and a lot cheaper. So CCU takes carbon dioxide and transforms it into new chemicals and that’s important, new chemicals, it’s not EOR, it’s not dry cleaning or decaffeination fluids. What goes into the reaction does not come out; it’s changed.
There are those that say that CO2 is unreactive and so reaction is not thermodynamically [27:06 aligned]. You cannot use thermodynamics alone to tell what’s going on. Thermodynamics and can tell us what can be done. Kinetics tells us how that can be done, and there is a difference there, you have to use the two together. Thermodynamics tells us that methanol can be produced from CO2 while the kinetics tells us what you actually need to do is add a catalyst and additional energy. That energy must come from perennial or renewable sources of heat; cannot come from fossil fuels. There are many chemicals of great value that can be produced. The McKinsey Report for the CO2 Initiative was presented at the 2016 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos and it gave a scenario where there was a US$1 billion [28:08] profit to be made from CO2 utilisation. Global governments are starting to take notice and only last week the CO2 Initiative announced a deal to produce a roadmap with the Japanese Government, and I’m very pleased to say that I’m in discussions with the CO2 Initiative to make that happen in Britain as well. So, by employing CCU we are not only displacing fossil oil from the petrochemical supply [28:39 IA] very important; we’re creating a carbon cycle, a bit like nature, only hopefully more efficient.
So how do we achieve a CO2 [28:54]? So you can see that in this cycle we capture CO2 from industry or from power stations or even from the air and we use additional reagents, renewable energy in the utilisation step to produce a product. Now there are important things here, the product can be permanently stored or it can go into something like fuel, which will then re-emit to the atmosphere but using direct air capture techniques we can take back into the cycle. So how do we achieve that CO2 economy? Urea and salicylic acid production are well established CCU technologies, in some cases for over a century. Methanol and polymer production and accelerated mineralisation are making significant commercial impact. Power 2x or CO2 fueled technologies are fast developing, especially in Europe. CCU uses a range of products that are both short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions using carbon storage.
So what are the barriers to CCU at the moment? Lack of awareness is one, but [30:16] thermodynamics. One barrier is the EU ETS, which encourages emissions over capture. The carbon price on ETS is about €18 per ton whereas capture is averaging around €60 per ton, so how can we overcome this? Well, we could set a carbon price that perhaps that’s unrealistic? More realistically we could invest in new carbon capture technologies that reduce the costs. We could also push the technology [30:59]. Most fundamental research stores at the pre-commercialisation stage. We need to establish facilities in the UK to accelerate through the technology revenue [31:09] and this needs financial support, both public and private. CO2Chem is an EPSRC Grand Challenge Network, which advocates CCU across the world and stimulates [31:25]. One of the major successes has been something called the 4CU programme grant, involving four universities over four-and-a-half years and with a budget of 4.7 million. That is trivial compared to what the German government is investing in CCU. The current investment is around €400 million over the [31:48] budget. The 4CU project is coming to a close but technologies were being developed as part of that project, which will help create the step change, not just in CCU but also in CCS, because we have developed some major new technologies for reducing the price and efficiency of carbon capture. On the more political side, the Scott project, which is the last of the FP7 projects to be funded by the European Commission, is operating over five North European countries. It’s seeking to reform the ETS to include carbon capture and utilisation, particularly accelerated mineralisation, which you can do at scale and as a permanent store. We are trying to create a renaissance in the chemicals industry. This will be announced at the final conference in Brussels on the 29th June, when I wouldn’t like to say but hopefully we will still be part of the European Union and will influence what goes on in this field. The targets of that Scott project focussed on transport fuels, which are going to be essential, we still need high-density fuel; accelerated mineralisation of the built environment, and for chemical feedstocks for the sustainable chemicals industry. This will be continued in a new two-year project called Carbon Net, involving the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, of which we’re very proud to be a part of. This will look at using c CO2Capture from non-conventional sources as well. So through CCU we have the opportunity to redefine the chemicals industry. We hope to be able to make a more sustainable supply chain and, at the same time, reduce net CO2 emissions. Every little helps. We talked about scale. By working together, academia, industry and government will have the opportunity to make the UK the world leading nation in CCU. North America was mentioned but Germany is by far the strongest at the moment.
So by making the UK the world leaders in CCU that should also have a knock-on effect that we’ll become world leaders in CCS because the CC is common to both. Richard mentioned some of the inducements on offer at the moment, so through my involvement with the Horizon Prize for CO2 reuse, we have created a prize worth €1.5 million to help develop the commercialisation of new technology for CCU through Horizon 2020. I’m also on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Cosia X Prize. So by being part of that, I’m hoping to establish the UK as a major player at the top table of CCU. We need to maintain the momentum, we need to keep going now, we need to [35:13] our rate of development. This is a long-term project, most projects that are on such a scale involve a long-term vision. So long as we’re a member state we have the opportunity for funding under the interesting projects of common European interest in the European Union. That is currently going through the pipeline and probably has a 50% chance of success. That is a €1 billion state aided investment into CCU. It’s supported by major European industries. It will need financial commitment and it will also need a very strong political will to drive that project forward.
So to conclude, let the renaissance begin. This is a good start.
Professor Colin Hills, University of Greenwich and Founder Director of Carbon8 Systems
Good morning. IT’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you about a technology which is developed and is actually commercialised. Lord Deben mentioned that we should be looking at carbon dioxide gas as a resource. Well some of us do and some of us have been doing that for a very long time. One of the issues we have in using a CO2 as a resource is its cost. It’s actually getting it from a point source at a price that means that we can reuse it to make something which has a price which is then attractive, and that is something fundamental to address as we go forward. But before I start my talk I have to say that I was challenged just after getting in here a little while ago, by somebody who said, ‘You’ve got a technology and I dare you to say it’s not going to save the planet.’ Well, it’s not! But what I can present to you is a benchmark. It’s something that is out there, it’s working in a commercial environment and it’s producing a product that’s fit for purpose, and that’s a very important statement to make, because it means we can do it. It’s not about what we might be able to do, it’s about what we’re doing now and where we can build from.
I’m going to talk to you about manufactured aggregates from carbon dioxide and waste, and so I think it’s really necessary to have a look at what mother nature does, what our planet does, and then to talk of minimisation of carbon dioxide in waste, so actually manufacturing something of use from that reaction.
So this, I took this picture a few weeks ago near the North Foreland in Kent and it’s a beautiful, sunny day we’re looking at the white cliffs, and those white cliffs are telling us a story. They’re telling us about how our planet deals with CO2, how it takes it out of the atmosphere and it locks it into the geosphere. If we actually examine that process, in fact there’s a number of processes, it can give us some indication of how we might be able to manage CO2 in a way that’s less energy intensive and produces products that are analogous with geo-materials.
So if we look back at geological history, and here we have, on the y axis time, on the x1 axis carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and on the x2 axis the average or number of times, the current average, we see that over the last 500 million years the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has gradually been dropping, and that has reduced because of earth processes; it’s the weathering of rocks that are exposed at the surface due to plate tectonics and the it’s the solubilisation of CO2 into the sea. It’s precipitation chemically but also the way biota takes that CO2 to make shells and skeletons and when they die they go down to the sea floor to make a pelagic ooze. And the earth is really good at managing CO2, it takes it out of the atmosphere very efficiently; but unfortunately it’s over geological timescales, and the carbon cycle is too long for us. We can’t hang around for 200 million years. But what we can do is we can look at what is happening here and try and speed up these processes and manage them in a way that is beneficial for us. In research that’s going back more than a decade, we’ve found that we can actually react a whole range of different, high-volume industrial waste streams with CO2 and that carbon dioxide is mineralised as carbonates, such as the chalk you saw in that picture a few minutes ago, and if we managed the reaction environment, we can actually produce a solid, and that solid has the sort of properties that enable reuse, and there you see a variety of waste, including bauxite, red mud, paper ashes, metal dust, other thermal process waste as well. And we can make an aggregate that looks like this. Now you say, ooh, that’s interesting, it’s a swirly-whirly structure. Well this transmitted light micrograph is actually showing the structure of an aggregate that we’ve manufactured and it has these concentric layers of carbonate built upon one another. And these are analogous with what are called ooliths or pisoliths, which mother nature makes in abundance, and some of you may even have some nice polished limestone in your bathroom or in your kitchen containing these structures. And so we can mimic earth processes in a controlled environment to make an aggregate that looks like that in thin section, in about 15 minutes. Not your hundreds of millions of years, but in minutes. And if we mess around with or alter the various process parameters such as the amount of moisture we have in the system, the speed in which we are aggregating or rotating our samples, the resonance time and batch size, we can get a whole range of different particle size distributions and particle shapes formed. And this gives us an option then to target a reuse scenario.
So, to give you a little bit of background information, we use about 250 million tons a year of construction aggregates and worldwide that’s about 25 gigatons, that’s a lot of aggregate. So if we can take high-volume waste streams and we can carbonate them and put them into the material supply chain, there’s an awful lot of scope to get those aggregates used, but also to not be disruptive to what is an established business, and although estimates are very hard to come by, there’s probably somewhere in the region of 1 gigaton of 7 CO2 reactive waste produced annually each year around the world, and if we can harness those and combine them with low cost CO2 preferably taken from a point source, we can make useful products and we can get those back into the material supply chain. But market forces rule, so we have to do it in such a way that they are cheap and they are fit for purpose and they are accepted by regulatory bodies and the national standards that govern these things. Now Carbon8, which is a spin-out of the University of Greenwich, has been very fortunate in getting an end of waste derogation for the aggregates that I’ve been showing you, and we can get those sold into the construction industry through their use in concrete blocks, and these aggregates, they meet European standards for lightweight aggregate and the blocks meet the European standard for medium-dense and other block, so they’re fit for purpose. And that’s really excellent because that’s the benchmark that we’re talking about. If we can make aggregates we can make other monolithic materials, we can make sheet materials and so on, and that’s where I hope we will be going with this technology. And as Richard mentioned, we can also use CO2 to stabilise and enhance contaminated soil and soil geotechnical properties by precipitating carbonate out into the soil matrix. So this is Carbon8’s production aggregate. It’s made from air pollution control residues that are carbonated. They can take up about 20% of their own weight of CO2 in the reaction, although we try and put less CO2 in than that because the CO2 is very expensive, because it comes in a nice, shiny tanker and we’d rather have it out of the end of pipe from a flue gas somewhere.
And this aggregate is currently being produced at about 150,000 tons per year but with current plans for development, I think by 2020 we should be producing probably closer on half a million tons of this aggregate per annum going into concrete blocks. Now that may sound like a lot to you, but if you consider that a medium-sized block manufacturer would be making a million blocks a month, you see it’s not much. We’re just actually getting this product into the blocks but not exclusively. This is a picture of Carbon8’s most recent plant, its second UK plant, in Avonmouth. There you see silos for holding the various ash wastes and if you look inside you can see a series of mixes and various conveyance equipment, not particularly high tech but the way that the wastes are presented to the CO2 and managed thereafter is the key to making this aggregate. And there you see some aggregate bays with the product being stored, just looks like any other manufactured aggregate stored at a site.
So to summarise, we can actually mineralise CO2 now and we’re doing it commercially in products that are analogous to earth-derived materials. They are fit for purpose, they meet British and European standards, and we will be producing these aggregates in considerable bulk within a few years. As I mentioned, there are lots of other applications that we want to look at, building on this success, and as the regulatory and financial climate changes and becomes more enabling, I think this industry has huge potential to grow and be really quite significant.
What do we need? We need changes to the regulatory environment, particularly throughout Europe, which there is not a level playing field out there. We also need the price of carbon to reduce so we can mineralise more of it, and that will be really contingent upon lower cost methods of CO2 capture.
So I’ve brought some resources with me which I’d be more than pleased to make available to you after the meeting. I’ve got a video showing Carbon8’s latest plant in operation so you can get a feel for how it works and its scale. I’ve brought some samples of aggregates, I’ve also brought a section of concrete made with carbonated aggregate, and if you twist my arm I’ll even do the world-famous bottle experiment where we can react some material with CO2 right in front of your very eyes. So thank you very much.
Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association
My name’s Luke Warren, I work at the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, so as the name suggests we are a trade body that represents companies interested in developing carbon capture and storage technologies. These companies are also interested in developing carbon capture and use technologies; after all, these are commercial enterprises and therefore they are very efficient at finding opportunities to either sell or give away their CO2 rather than have to pay to admit that or pay another entity to store that CO2. So the most obvious example of CCU technologies that are mature and are being used at scale around the world are CO2 enhanced oil recovery technologies, so CO2 EOR. This is very much a mature sector, been operating for 40 years in North America and currently is storing tens of millions of tons of CO2 every year, and certainly there is a lot of interest in trying to replicate those CCU markets in other regions around the world. But we also have members interested in other CCU opportunities, so we have a member that operates a refinery; it captures the CO2from that refinery and it pipes it to greenhouses and that CO2 is used in the greenhouses to enhance the growth of whatever happens to be growing within the greenhouse. Now that displaces paraffin that otherwise would be burnt in order to elevate the CO2 levels, so the net result is a saving, I understand, of 200,000 tons of CO2 a year, so I’m sure everyone would agree that that’s certainly something that’s well worth doing. Now when we look at the whole debate around CCS and CCU, I think there has been a change over the last few years. I think the term CCU probably really started in North America, which I think is a reflection of the mature CCU market there, but I think it’s very evident that there is a lot of interest now in starting to look at this in more detail, so we are seeing other jurisdictions starting to look at this and trying to think about how we can start to find some of these profitable opportunities for CCU and our view is that that is very much to be welcomed. I think there is clearly going to be strong synergies between CCS and CCU going forward. And if we look here at the UK, one of the obvious large-scale CCU opportunities is the potential to use CO2 in the North Sea, particularly in the Central North Sea, to improve production of depleting oil fields there, and there’s been quite a lot of studies that have been undertaken of CCU potential in the North Sea and they suggest that we could potentially be storing millions of tons of CO2 in the North Sea over the period 2020 through to 2030 and potentially beyond. Obviously dependent on oil prices and the degree of government intervention to enable CO2 EOR technologies to be deployed at scale, but the biggest barrier there, funnily enough, is actually the access to the CO2 and actually when you look around the world, the biggest limit on the growth of CO2 EOR technologies is access to CO2, and certainly the view of many operators in the North Sea is that CO2 EOR will never really take off until we actually have CCS starting to be developed at scale and CO2, the operators in the North Sea can see CO2 being brought up into the central North Sea at sufficient volumes, and once they have that confidence in the product being there, then they will undertake the pilot studies and they will look to see if there are commercial opportunities to deploy that technology. So I think any policy framework within government that actively tries to identify the synergies, tries to look at how you enable these different sectors to be brought together, is going to be very welcomed, and I think certainly our view is that over the last few years we’ve not seen that attempt within government to try and identify those synergies, and indeed one of the tragedies from our perspective of the decision at the spending review back in November 2015 to cancel the two CCS competition projects is that actually that removed the potential to get the CO2 into the central North Sea, so the Peterhead project was going to be moving a million tons of CO2 out to the Goldeneye field, which is in a highly prospective area for CO2 EOR, and there were certainly I think a number of operators looking at how they might be able to utilise those volumes to undertake some pilot injections and then use that to then undertake a full-scale injection in the 2020s. So unfortunately I think the row back on CCS policy has had a negative impact on that particular part of the CCU market. So I think we’re clearly very supportive of CCU technologies, we think where these can be developed they should absolutely promote it, but we are also cognizant that there are a number of limitations around these technologies.
Now if you were to go up to areas like Teesside and other industrial regions, you can go to industrial facilities and you can see pure food-grade CO2 that’s currently being vented to atmosphere, so these are coming from industrial facilities where they are capturing the CO2 as part of the chemical process. Obviously if they can develop a revenue stream for that CO2 they will do so, so they sell as much of it as they can into the market, so you see a lot going into the food and beverage market, potentially into other markets, but there’s only so much CO2that you can actually supply to these markets before they’re over-supplied. So the rest of it is simply vented to atmosphere. There’s no other process by which they can abate those CO2 emissions. So what we really see is that there are no markets at the moment that can address the volumes of CO2 that’s produced by UK industrial activity, and that’s a big challenge going forward.
So there was some work undertaken recently by government, BIS and DEC, looking at potential market for CCU going forward, so by the mid-2020s, under their moderate scenario, and moderate was above business as usual, they found potentially a demand for 0.5 to 0.7 million tons of CO2 a year. Under a high scenario that could rise to 3-4 million tons of a CO2 a year. So material, but it’s not going to deliver the emission reductions at the scale that is implied by the various carbon budgets that have been established. And we see a similar pattern at the global level, so demand today possibly in the order of 200 million tons, colleagues may have more up to date numbers there. By the middle of the century you could be looking at perhaps a market size of 600 million tons of CO2 a year, but this is in the context of a world that today is emitting 32 giga-tons of CO2 a year. So it’s welcome where we can find these opportunities, but it’s not going to be the panacea in and of its own right.
The second point, I think we’ve touched on this a number of times, is actually trying to quantify the environmental benefits of some of these technologies, because certainly CCU does not always result in abatement of CO2. Often the technology is in fact storing the CO2 for a period of time. That could be a matter of days, weeks, months, perhaps decades, and for some of these technologies it could well be permanent but we do need to be cognizant that the CO2 is not always going to be permanently abated, so some of the scenarios for high levels of CO2 demand for CCU may not actually equate to abatement of those volumes of CO2, and I think this has been a challenge actually for policy makers. How do you actually quantify what the environmental benefits of these technologies are? So we don’t have the methodologies in some cases to enable us to accurately understand the CO2 abatement coming from the technology, so that creates challenges then in terms of creating a policy framework that’s going to reward that. So I think that’s certainly an area that needs to be worked on going forward, because until we really understand what CO2 abatement is, I think it’s going to be very hard to justify substantial pots of public funding to be used for technologies that are notionally supposed to be resulting in CO2 emission reductions.
And then I think the third point we’d make is that actually the majority of these technologies at the moment are relatively immature, so they are at relatively low TRL levels and so that creates uncertainty around the costs of a technology, the potential size of the market and when that market might be realised, so certainly from our perspective we don’t see any scenario over the next decade or so where we could actually see CCU technologies actually pulling through the required investment in CCS technologies. So what does this mean in terms of going forward, what are the implications for government policy? Clearly we should absolutely be supporting CCU technologies. I think our sense is that a lot of that support at the moment is very much going to be in the innovation, perhaps pilot-scale phase, but we absolutely should be putting public funds into that activity. We also need to be much more actively looking at developing the synergies between CCS and CCU. There’s going to be a very, very strong regional component here. I think any scenario that looks at how these technologies roll out over time, I think you’re going to be seeing regions where you have clusters of emitters linked together with CO2 infrastructure that enables that CO2 to be used for storage as well as use. So I think answering your question, Richard, I think we very much see CCS and CCU as being complementary and not an alternative there.
However, we do still see that there is a need for CCS technologies, particularly as you get towards the end of the next decade, where we still need to be driving deep emission reductions in the power sector, energy intensive industries and heat, and CCS looks like it has a very critical role to play there. So we would very much echo the views of the Committee on Climate Change, that we do still need to see CCS progressed here at the moment, we do need to see an alternative strategy put forward for how we promote that investment, and unfortunately from our perspective following the announcement at the spending review in November 2015 to pool the funding for CCS, we haven’t yet got a clear idea from government how it’s going to progress CCS. So that’s something we’re very keen to engage with the government on over the coming years. Thank you.
So I’m conscious of time. We’ve got about half an hour left, and I want to keep a lot of time for questions from the floor. I’m just going to ask one question, which any of you are free to answer. We’ve heard a lot about the different technologies, about the potential of different CCU technologies, and people mentioned a number of different barriers to those technologies coming to fruition, but I’d just like to invite any further comments … what are we missing here? Is it about creating a market for CO2, is it about policy support for CCU technologies, what is needed to actually accelerate this opportunity?
Professor Peter Styring
This is a debate so we’ll start by addressing what is CCU? I would challenge the view that EOR is a mitigation technology, in the same way that some CCU technologies were challenged. Certainly if you’re making fuels from CO2 then it’s a short-term displacement. EOR is exactly the same. EOR produces new fossil fuel which wouldn’t otherwise be recovered at that cost and then 90% of that is emitted into the atmosphere through combustion, so we have to have a level playing field, so one of the challenges is setting the appropriate boundaries. We need lifecycle assessment over the processes, but they need to be clear, they need to be honest. If you’re going to use EOR to produce fuels, you have to be clear that you’re not talking of cradle to gate, so you’re not talking the wellhead, you’re talking about the ultimate destination. So CO2 utilisation is a mature technology. You asked about the figures. The current use of CO2 is around 250 megatons per annum, which is small, when you compare that to 32 or 36 giga-tons, but then again CCS is suffering and it’s suffering globally, that if you look at the non-EOR projects around the world, according to the global CCSI, there are only 2.1 megatons of CO2 being captured by non-EOR CCS projects, or 27 megatons if you include EOR. So one of the challenges is myth busting, that CCU is just producing more fuel. It’s displacing fuel, it’s taking fossil fuel that would otherwise be used and providing an alternative route. So it goes against the notion… there were some papers published last month which said we have to save humanity by using more fossil fuel. Now that’s crazy! Look at what Norway’s done. Norway is a very unique situation but it has lost of hydro, so it’s saying by 2025 there will be no petroleum-based cars on Norwegian roads. They can do that because they have the infrastructure but they’re still going to produce natural gas, they’re still going to produce oil. So we need to put this in the right context and the problem is, like you said, there is a lot of technology at the fundamental level which needs that push to take it to commercialisation, and that really is the stumbling block, getting support to go from TRL level 4 which most are currently at at the moment, up to TRL level 7 and above. And certainly the Scott project, I’ll give you details of that later but you can go on the Scott project website and you can see the TRL levels of CCU technologies across Europe and across the world.
So from that answer, Peter, it sounds for me that it’s mainly about just R&D funding, whether that’s private or public, but Colin, your technology’s in quite a different space. That’s not where you are, is it? It’s more about trying to find a commercial market and make a commercial model that works.
Professor Colin Hills
Yes, well there is that. I mean it does work out there by diverting waste from landfill, taking the liability for waste and managing the risks associated with the waste to make a product, but there are lots of barriers that have not been spoken about yet. One in particular is public acceptance, it’s the acceptance of the materials’ users. I mean for example we came across one organisation that said, ‘We won’t use any new materials unless they’ve been around and used for 10-15 years.’ Now that’s not accepting of new technology.
And quite interestingly, in this particular field, that is construction materials, there is a tendency for nearly all the materials standards to be related to geologically derived products. Now most aggregates are produced by geological processes in the ground at great depth over very long time periods and they’re very high quality, and so these companies will be putting materials, aggregate-like materials into concrete, the aggregates have a strength of 100 megapascals but the concrete has a strength of 20 megapascals. There’s a tendency to over-engineer. And it’s very difficult to reproduce in 15-20 minutes a material that has taken millions of years to form, to get the same materials properties. So there has to be some acceptance there that they will be fit for purpose but they’re not necessarily like for like. And so that’s just one of the many barriers that we face as we go forward.
Luke or Lord Deben, did you want to come in on this point?
I think one of the barriers, which is very simple, is that until there is a real sense in this country that the government is serious about the whole project, it’s difficult to get quite a lot of people on board, and I think that is a barrier. It’s just a very simple barrier and the government is not good, any government this is, not a comment about this government, although I could make comments about it, but any government is not good at recognising the damage and effect it has on making certain decisions on the market generally, and deciding what it did decide, for what might well be very good reasons, in terms of terminating the previous thing and not putting in its place something which showed its commitment, but merely saying it was committed, is not something which actually creates an atmosphere of confidence. So for me the major barrier is one which we have to overcome, and which the Climate Change Committee will be seeking to get the government to overcome, which is to create the atmosphere in which people can move forward with certainty. Government has to do this and it doesn’t matter whether you’re free marketeers or not; the truth is the government has a role to play in the establishment of priorities and in the delivery of certainties in what is a very uncertain world.
I think I’d probably go back to the point around scale, so I think particularly if you look at the companies that we mainly interact with, so these are large emitters, so these are energy-intensive industries, this is power sector, potentially companies interested in large-scale heat technologies, and I think one of the challenges they face at the moment is understanding … they don’t yet see that CCU technologies are applicable at the scale that’s relevant to them. So they are looking at how they can transition to a low-carbon economy over the next decade, 15 years or so, and at the moment those opportunities don’t seem to be there from CCU. So it seems that for many of these sectors actually CCS is the only technology that’s available.
Interesting. Right, let’s open it up to the floor. I saw a hand go up very early at the back. Have we got a roving mike?
Nigel Vibart Dixon, CEO of Freedom, a Renewables Consultancy
Thanks for a very interesting debate. Here’s the problem: first of all there isn’t anything like enough money going into developing technology that will take us, as a nation, and Europe as a group of nations, into a position of industrial dominance over the next 50 years. We need something in the order of £20-30 billion invested. Secondly, it needs to be done in the form of a creative government-private sector-university partnership. All of these very clever carbon capture and utilisation ideas and projects that are working, they’re starting to work, require an infrastructure, they require political infrastructure, they require communication with a public that doesn’t understand, and so my challenge, and this is a respectful challenge to the Committee for Climate Change, is to up your game on PR. You’ve got to grab some sexy headlines, you’ve got to shake up public opinion, because the government will only react to public opinion. And the final point is, and this is a question, I’m not trying to dive into the debate about remain or Brexit, I’m finding it so boring, but … is there a problem with either national governments or pan-national governments investing in such a way that might be seen or perceived as subside into the private sector, a way that might breach EU rules?
Well no, there isn’t a problem on that basis frankly. I mean there might be at some stage in the long distant future, but there really isn’t. There’s no difficulty in getting round that. Getting round is the wrong word. I mean you don’t need to have the difficulty.
I’ve been in politics in one way or another for a very, very long time, and when things aren’t going as you’d like them to do, the answer is always you’ve really got to get the PR better, you’ve actually got to get out there and get people to understand it. The Climate Change Committee is neither constituted nor placed to do the PR. We neither have the resources nor indeed is that what our job is. It’s a job that needs to be done and I quite agree. Our job is to provide the means whereby people can do that job. We provide the information, we provide the scientific backup, and we provide the judgement, which I think over the years has become very well recognised. I think people do accept that we have been extremely accurate, we have sought always to be as objective as possible and we have admitted where the problems are, where the doubts are, and on this we will proceed, in the very near future, to lay out what we think to be the parameters and priorities for the government in terms of CCS. That’s part of a programme, first of all before the end of the month comes our document on assessment of the last year; then there will be some further extension on the CCS matter, and then the government will have a further document which will say what issues we think it’s got to cover in its own statement about how it’s going to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budget. In the meantime the government will have made its announcement about the fifth carbon budget. I frankly would be delighted to be in the PR business on this front, but we aren’t, we can’t be, neither statutorily can we be, we can inform and it’s our job to keep people informed, we hope that our website does that, but that is the limit of what our resources are, which are very narrow indeed, and I need to have the scientific base to be able to make any statement at all which is where I spend my money. I spend it on being able to tell people what is true.
Professor Peter Styring
OK, so this is where people like CO2-Chem come into play, because we are an independent organisation that advocates CO2 utilisation and strangely enough also CCS, and we’re set up to do that, so we’re organising the international conference in Sheffield in September, the biggest conference on carbon dioxide utilisation, and for the first time it’s coming to the UK in recognition of what we’re doing as a community. Now I would invite you to the final day, the Thursday, where we’re going to have a policy session, Secretary of State Rudd has been invited to address that meeting, we have politicians, industry coming in from Europe, where we’re going to look at the political context, we’re going to look at the public perception, there’s a whole session dedicated to public perception and public awareness. It’s very simple: if you don’t ask the right questions of the public, you don’t get the right answers, and I met with Lord Deben earlier this year, who put me in touch with the Committee on Climate Change and we had a very useful discussion, and we would like to work closely with the Committee on Climate Change in advocating carbon capture policy through our extensive network. Over 1,100 members worldwide. But it’s people like us or the Scott Association which is being formed in Brussels at a European level, to do that advocacy work.
Now one of the things we were asked is to produce a roadmap, a vision document for 2050. That’s a crazy amount of time! That’s seven political administrations. You have to have a policy that is robust and cross-party. It has to be adopted in such a way that going from administration to administration with all the changes that involves, that that policy is solid, robust, scientifically and economically sound, and by doing that, through CO2-Chem and the likes, we hope to be able to raise the awareness of the public.
Just to answer the final question that you asked there, which is whether or not European Union is in some way a barrier to this investment, actually I think on this particular point you’d have to give real credit to the Commission. They have tried very hard over the last decade or so to actively promote CCS in Europe. Their state aid guidelines are very, very clear, that they will take a very favourable view of state aid for CCS and in fact I think they’re quite concerned that Europe has not developed a technology and other regions have actually really started to progress quite far with the technology, and if that’s not addressed in the near term, then potentially Europe starts to present itself with a structural challenge in terms of how it’s going to decarbonise, particularly as we move forward into the 2030s and beyond. So in fact I think they’ve been a real enabler for CCS. It’s actually been the member states that haven’t come forward with the complementary national policies that probably held back CCS in Europe.
Jeremy Nicholson, Energy Intensive User Group
Really interesting discussion. We’re very pleased that it’s [74:38] from just storage to potential use as well. We’ll see how long that takes to transform into active projects. With that in mind, two quick questions. Firstly, even if in an ideal world you have a robust carbon price, would that be enough to accelerate development of these technologies, or where we are now, the CCU, is it more about direct grant support or something along those lines? It would be interesting to hear your views on what’s the best way of accelerating things, even if in the long run carbon pricing is the way to go. And secondly a technical question: I assume for most of these processes that the CO2 stream we have in waste gases in industry or the power sector are insufficiently pure and you need something [75:19 IA] something, and some quick comments about what would be needed to do to those waste streams in order to make CO2 that can be used as feedstock.
Professor Colin Hills
I can say that the process we’ve been developing, you do not need food-grade CO2. 50% CO2 in the stream is fine, but if it was laced with sulphurous gasses that could be problematic and so there needs to be an element of scrubbing, but 50% CO2 is perfect for our process.
Professor Peter Styring
I think the key is bringing the cost of CO2 capture down too. It’s not setting a carbon price, because that’s open to fluctuations and abuse even, so it’s brining that capture price down, and one of the things that we’re trying to do with Colin at the moment is produce 50% pure CO2 in a pure stream. You can use conventional desulphurisation technologies in getting rid of the NOx front end and getting rid of water, but if you just need a 50% stream we think we can produce … we talked a couple of weeks ago and we think we can produce CO2 at around …well, less than €50 per ton, and we can do it at a capacity which is not unrealistic of about 0.9 megatons per annum. Now that’s comparable with [76:47] Power, with the [76:50] project, which at the moment is running into difficulties. It’s been in the press, it’s running at 40% capacity due to technical issues. I think using the technology that we’re developing, again that’s come from fundamental research funded by the Research Councils on a very low budget, we think we can go to just short of 1 megaton per annum in a very cost-effective process. So we have that opportunity to reduce the price.
The impurities, again, part of the 4CU programme we’ve looked at impurities in the gas stream. It could tolerate oxygen for example, a lot of CCU projects, oxygen has been an issue. It can tolerate NOx and SOx, it depends on the catalysts you use. And these are not isolated processes, these are a wide range of different technologies, so again it will be a case by case basis. We need to match the technology to the industry, but by using a modular system for capture, we can go at whatever purity we like. It’s not aiming to give you 99% purity. We can give 50% at half the cost. So we can tailor that to the needs of the industry.
So Peter, just to clarify, the capture technology you’re talking about there, is that the same or different from what we were talking about in terms of capture from power stations? Is it a different technology or can you elaborate on that?
It’s the same concept but different technology.
And it’s cheaper?
If you sign an NDA, we can give you more but we feel this is so important that it needs to go now to commercialisation, so we’re looking to scale it up now and demonstrate it.
Is this a University of Sheffield thing?
Don’t ignore the importance of a carbon price. Actually I’m sure you won’t, but don’t do that because this world doesn’t work unless people start paying the proper price for things, and I’m a pretty liberal Conservative in terms of socially liberal and such like but I really do think we do have to learn that if you don’t pay the proper price, and the proper price is the cost to individuals and the community of doing particular things or buying particular things, and we’ve never done that as far as carbon is concerned; you need to [79:19]. So don’t let carbon go on being outside the normal price arrangements. So that is important, but it isn’t the immediate importance which we’re talking about in lowering the price of being able to capture. That’s why I always emphasise the word capture, because whatever happens after it, unless you can lower that price of capture, you’re not going to be in a position either to use it or indeed to store it.
Professor Peter Styring
Having a cost competitive feedstock, which is really what we’re talking about, is critical for industries going forward. There’s another thing that’s really very important and that’s logistics. You want your source of CO2 close to where it’s going to be used and also close to the market. That is not always possible, and so logistics is very important because if you’re shifting materials around, whether it’s CO2compressed or in a liquefied form or bulk materials that you’re going to react it with, then you add price. And … there was another thing, which has gone straight out of my head! I’m sorry.
I think innovation is important, I think there’s lots of companies out there that are looking at some very, very interesting second and third generation capture technologies. Some of those are being built now at a reasonable scale, but actually cost reductions don’t just occur through innovation. Particularly in the case of CCS you will see probably the greatest cost reductions coming from the development of infrastructure, which enables you to develop economies of scale, and also the cost of capital. So we need to get the financial community comfortable with these technologies so that they can start to lower the cost of capital and we can see very, very significant cost reductions being driven through those elements. So that suggests you need an innovation policy and a deployment policy, so you can actually realise all of those cost reductions.
Don’t forget that most of the cost reductions in offshore wind have come from things which are really nothing to do with offshore wind, because there has been a demand, because there is a long order book ahead, you’ve been able to build them onshore, use bigger boats, therefore put these things up for ten months of the year and not five months of the year. You’ve been able to do all sorts of terribly ordinary things, which have slashed the price. And if you look at the actual technological, I mean not in the technical sense but in the way the public would think of it, there has been very little change in this. It’s been the mechanisms by which you have delivered it that have cut the cost and that’s why I think what you’ve said is so important. It’s not just technical innovation, it is mechanistic innovation. How do you make this thing work more effectively?
Professor Peter Styring
I remembered my point. I’d just like to make it!
Retro-fitting. It’s very difficult to go along to an emitter and put a bayonet fitting in the bottom of the flue and suck the CO2 out. Many of these industrial processes have dynamics that can be very easily upset by the sort of capture technologies that are available. But going forward it makes great sense to me for us to be thinking about building capture into new [82:37 IA]. So we make them capture [82:43 IA]. That’s really important and I acknowledge there are costs involved but there may be mechanisms available to offset those costs because it’s really important we do access these sources of CO2 going forward without impacting on the processes that are involved.
[83:08], University of Cambridge
I just wanted to make a comment about the costs related to CCU because I think in the beginning it’s quite natural that you concentrate on talking about carbon capture costs, but when you want to activate carbon dioxide and make some useful products, you need other compounds as well and usually that’s hydrogen and when you do the math you actually realise that the cost of hydrogen will dictate the economics of CCU technologies, and if you want to make them sustainable, the hydrogen needs to be essentially zero carbon as well. We could do it from natural gas but we would need to have CCS to make a zero carbon hydrogen to do CCU, which doesn’t really make sense, so it would need to come from electrolysis of water using zero carbon electricity, and any significant amount of CCU products would require a huge amount of zero carbon electricity, which would all be on top of what we need to do to satisfy our current demand of electricity.
Professor Peter Styring
OK, so one of the things that’s important is that there is a lot of curtailed renewable energy in this country and other countries, and we did a study with [84:30 IA] where 40% of their wind generation is curtailed. Now they were looking reuse that to produce urea and to produce diesel for agricultural use, so it’s about energy storage and this is making the most of the renewable excess energy, so that what is otherwise curtailed and switched off. And so hydrogen yes, that is essential. A lot of people have said use solar power, because if you take 2% of the solar radiation falling on the Sahara in one day, that will give you the annual energy use for the world. One problem, there’s no water, and that comes back to Colin’s assumption that you need everything on site. So yes, you do need other incentives but not every CCU technology is energy intensive, so Colin has a demonstration, which I’m sure he wants to do, which is the mineralisation, which actually generates heat within the process. It uses vast quantities of CO2 if it’s not £100 per ton as it currently is, and it produces heat, and that heat can go back into the heating system. And also if you take the electrolysers for example, when you produce hydrogen you also produce oxygen. That’s currently vented to the atmosphere. Why don’t we take the oxygen and recycle it into an oxy-fuel combustion unit, for example? So there are lots of different circular economic approaches where we can maximise all the assets that we have in any process.
Professor Colin Hills
I’ll just give a plug to a very interesting piece of work that’s going to be out, I understand, in the first week of July, possibly the second week of July, which is called Leeds 21, and it is looking at how you decarbonise the heat system using hydrogen, and they’ve had to look in a lot of detail about the various sources for that hydrogen. Some interesting challenges coming forward I think around heat.
Talking about political interest and also following on from the speaker from Energy Intensive Industry, I noticed Lord Heseltine’s report is out today on the future of Teesside and how to help Teesside. What relevance do you think carbon capture and utilisation has to Teesside and the heavy industry there?
Professor Peter Styring
OK, very, very important question. We have Mark Lewis in the audience from Tees Valley Unlimited. Myself and Katie Armstrong, who’s the manager of the CO2-Chem network, who was just going to stick her hand up, we’re writing the CCU roadmap for the Tees Valley at the moment, so the Tees Valley is obviously very, very interested in using CO2 utilisation in energy intensive industries and high CO2 emitters, so that’s ongoing and also Scotland. With Peterhead being cancelled, we’ve just written a report for the Scottish government which looks at the potential for CCU in Scotland. So it’s ongoing on a political level. We have identified the region, we’re also talking to Port Talbot about what happens when the new British Steel facility, formerly Tata, whether we can put CCU technologies into Port Talbot. So it’s active, it’s on-going, and watch this space.
Michael Priestnall, Innovate UK
I have got a discussion point but first let me just say that Innovate UK does have £10 million available through the Energy Catalyst, which is open at the moment for innovators that could be in the CCU area, so take a look at that.
I just wanted to point out that some of the innovations in this area of utilisation don’t go through a capture step, so there’s been a lot of emphasis in the discussion around the need to split into two parts, let’s get capture as cheap as possible and [88:52] for using it. [88:55]Skyonic, that’s doing CO2 utilisation on a cement-works in Austin, Texas, the capture process is integrated with the utilisation, so there’s no production of pure CO2 in that process, and I think it’s important to keep those options open in any policy approach that’s taken, so policy is focussed purely on let’s get CO2 as cheap as we can, so that it can then be used for things, it potentially cuts out those processes that really integrate everything in the most efficient way, and if one needs to look at, point to policy approaches that could work, I think Alberta is a very good place to start. They have done a huge amount of work in developing a very effective technology-neutral approach to CO2sequestration, to the extent that they didn’t intend to create a process, a policy that would encourage utilisation or even negative emissions, capture from the air, but those are all perfectly within scope of their scheme. So I think we should build on what others have done already very effectively and perhaps take advice from them on what could be done to improve their policy approach.
Professor Peter Styring
Again, I would fully agree and I know Mike was at the Faraday Discussions last year and we presented some work on [90:28] acetic acid using flue gas and even direct air capture, and you have to have energetically enhanced materials to work alongside the CO2 but those are possible. The techno-economic analysis he presented there was challenged because it looked too good. The problem is economy of scale. At the moment, taking [90:49 IA] you may be using a litre flask in the lab, it’s expensive, but when you go to equivalent scale of let’s say acetic acid [90:57] Monsanto process and you scale the CCU technologies accordingly, they become cost competitive. And that’s why I say we need to up the odds and go to the higher TRL levels, because it’s only by doing that we can show that there is an economy of scale. But no, you don’t always need CO2 to be purified. That’s a major driver. If you can do a process without CO2 purification, that really brings the costs down. And a big problem there was oxygen, because there’s oxygen in flue gas as well. We’ve shown that sensitivity to oxygen is maybe 1% so you can tolerate a 1% loss on a process that’s operating at almost 100% conversion.
Chris Belk, Conservative Transport Group
The government’s got a very up and running scheme of innovation catapult centres. I’m familiar with the one in transport, which is focussed amongst other things on keeping the UK a market leader worldwide in autonomous vehicles. I heard somebody say we should be doing the same thing in this whole carbon capture and utilisation area. What are we doing to try and encourage the government to set up yet another catapult centre? It’s an existing mechanism, so it’s just more of the same.
Professor Peter Styring
In terms of Sheffield there are plans to investigate the use of a catapult. I’ve talked with the Catapult people at Innovate UK. What we need to do is make sure there’s not duplication of effort across different sectors.
Transport is important. [92:54] transport, one of the things that we cannot avoid in the next maybe 50 years is the use of high energy density fuels, kerosene, [93:05] are unfeasible for long-haul transport. If you look at the EV alternatives, they’re just impossible. You’re not going to fly an aircraft on lithium ion batteries, it will never take off in all senses.
And we did some work with the Department of Transport a couple of years ago on looking at long-haul and they’ve got a beautiful infographic which shows a long-haul 3,000 km articulated lorry for doing transportation across Europe, to run a lithium ion battery on one of those would take a 52 ton battery. That’s not going to work, so the idea of energy storage through CCU is one area that we can address that, by reducing the fossil content, but there are also some innovative ways that we can couple CCU in with electrification of transport systems. So yeah, we are looking at transport but we need to make sure that we’re not duplicating effort.
In term of the carbon capture and storage side of it, I mean really there are no significant technological barriers to deploying the technology. If you look at the developments over the last ten years, I think most of the outstanding questions have been addressed there, so it’s really a question now of policy. So what’s our ask going forward? It’s not around more R&D. It’s around how do we actually put in place policies that enable early commercial deployment of this technology, and that has to be the priority.
Professor Colin Hills
I tend to agree. There’s all sorts of things we can do with the mineralisation step. It’s having the environment to allow that to happen.
Well, thank you to all of the speakers. Unfortunately Lord Deben had to go but …
I think it’s been a really interesting discussion. Thanks to all of you for coming along, and –
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