Carbon Capture and Storage: Essential for our Future or a Trojan Horse for Big Oil?

by Hugh Richards (GlosCAN), May 2018 (updated 20 June 2018)

This was the title given to a Stroud Green Party ‘Coffee House Meeting’ held at Star Anise Café in Stroud on Friday 13 April 2018. It was organised by Rod Nelson and Martyn Cutcher, and the main speaker was Tim Dixon, who is Programme Manager of the IEAGHG (based in Cheltenham), with a short counter-presentation given by Sarah Lunnon of Stroud Green Party (and member of the GlosCAN Steering Group).

The purpose of this attempt to summarise the event is to try to distil out the main issues from a political/campaigning perspective, rather than get into technical aspects, and to make this summary intelligible (and useful, I hope) to readers who were not present. Apart from my concluding statement, I have tried to keep my own opinions and input out of this account, except where I have felt it necessary. [I have put such personal input in square brackets, like this.]


First, some background on the main speaker, Tim Dixon, and on IEAGHG. IEAGHG is the IEA Greenhouse Gas Research and Development programme. It was set up by the International Energy Agency, which is an agency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). IEAGHG is funded by industry and governments of OECD and non-OECD member countries. IEAGHG is a research and development organisation focussing on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) but does not advocate for CCS. Tim Dixon has worked for IEAGHG for about ten years, having previously worked in a secondment into the Civil Service to help develop the UK and EU regulatory regimes for CCS and before that for the UK Department of Energy’s Energy Technology Support Unit, which used to manage government-funded research into various forms of energy, including renewables and hot-dry-rock geothermal. Education and outreach are not part of IEAGHG’s mission and Tim was giving of his own time to be involved in this event.

[In that context, it is understandable that the ‘slides’ he used in his presentation were quite technical and not tailored to this particular audience. He agreed to share the slides with the organisers, and they may be viewed here. I suggest they should be seen as providing a general impression of his presentation, which I think was pitched at the right level for the audience, but did not explain every detail or acronym on the slides. One particular point that could be misunderstood is the reference on Slide 34 to ‘Aquifers throughout’ as potential ‘CO2 sinks’ in the UK context. This is referring to ‘deep saline aquifers’ (see Slide 2), not aquifers with fresh water resources.]


Tim’s presentation (as linked to in previous paragraph) sought to address the following broad questions:

  • ‘What is CCS?’ [and how is it regulated] – Slides 2-9
  • ‘Why CCS?’- Slides 10-25
  • ‘Where is CCS happening?’ – Slides 26-35
  • ‘What are the challenges to CCS?’ – Slide 36.

In addressing the ‘What is CCS?’ question, the presentation was evidently intended to provide confidence that deep injection of CO2 into geological strata is a routine operation in the current oil and gas industry, that significant leakage back to the surface will not be an issue, and that CCS is and will be more tightly regulated than the oil and gas industry.

In addressing the ‘Why CCS?’ question, the presentation emphasised that the global ‘energy’ and ‘industry’ sectors account for over 50% of current greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from ‘point sources’ of CO2 that could be amenable to CCS. These include electricity generation from fossil fuels and manufacture of steel, cement and chemicals. In future, CCS combined with bio-energy (BECCS) could be a significant ‘Negative Emissions Technology’ that removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Tim also mentioned ‘direct air capture’ of CO2 from the atmosphere, but described that technology as ‘not yet available’.

In addressing the ‘Where is CCS happening?’ question, the presentation was evidently intended to convey the message that there are numerous pilot and demonstration-scale CCS projects around the world, with a wide variety of CO2 sources, CO2 capture technologies, and CO2 end-destinations.

The final main Slide (No. 36) presents challenges faced by CCS in going from demonstration scale to the huge number of ‘full scale’ schemes that would be needed for CCS to play anything like the role envisaged in the IPCC’s scenarios for meeting the Paris Agreement goals. [I think it would be fair to say that Tim identified the single largest factor as the first one listed, namely the ‘low or inexistent carbon price’; that is, the failure of the true costs of fossil carbon emissions to be borne by either the producers or users of fossil fuels, cement, etc.]









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3 thoughts on “Carbon Capture and Storage: Essential for our Future or a Trojan Horse for Big Oil?

  1. There’s been a great development since the talk and comments made.

    Just yesterday, Netpower have announced that they have succeeded in firing up a radical new gas powerstation with integrated cheap carbon capture. No CO2 emissions, no smokestack. They also claim it costs no more than a conventional gas power station and is far smaller.

    The UK government has been funding various research into Carbon Capture, this one is a full size demonstration plant in Texas. The UK government has put £7.5m to this project using the UK invented Allam cycle (which it mentioned in the “Clean Growth Strategy”, BEIS 2017, p70, see link below). It has taken 2 years to build and the process had never been tested at full scale until now. All that’s needed is to attach the generator.

    Instead of Carbon Capture being an addon process, it is an essential part of it, the turbines run on compressed CO2, also giving high pressure pure CO2 suitable for Carbon Capture.

    We’ll need decarbonisation of the grid and this seems a successful way to do it. I think there’s an opportunity to also retrofit houses and decarbonise transport for many other benefits.

    More in these two articles and the BEIS doc below:

    BEIS Clean Growth Strategy

  2. But might this be a cheaper alternative to the energy storage that is required to provide energy when renewables are not able to meet required demand (e.g. on a dull, windless day in winter)?

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