Another email from the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum (“WEET”) popped in to my in-box this week. It’s headed “Next steps for CCUS development in the UK” and is due to take place on 17th April 2023.

I’ll take a look (below) at the various conference sessions and the helpful notes accompanying the email, that enable interested parties to keep up to date with recent developments. First, however, I want to remind readers of an article that appeared on the website of The Conversation on 23rd November 2021 with the heading “Why the oil industry’s pivot to carbon capture and storage – while it keeps on drilling – isn’t a climate change solution”. Normally I find myself in direct disagreement with pretty much everything I read at The Conversation but, for once, this is an article where I found myself nodding along as I read it.

The authors point out that CCS takes different forms. One form is to try to capture CO2 as it is emitted by power stations. They refer to seven such large-scale CCS projects in the United States, and point out that despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, they were either cancelled before they reached commercial operation, or were closed down because of financial or mechanical problems. Reference is made to one ongoing CCS project in Canada, where CCS is used on a coal-fired power plant. Apparently the CCS equipment cost $1.4 billion, of which $240 million was contributed by the Canadian taxpayer. We are then told that the captured carbon dioxide, both in Canada and in a number of smaller-scale CCS projects in the US, is used to assist enhanced oil recovery. Naturally, this doesn’t play well with the authors, who are worried about climate change and who are hostile to fossil fuels. They tell us that CCS at coal power plants, which utilises the captured CO2 for enhanced oil extraction, involves putting 3.7 to 4.7 times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as it removes in the first place, when modelling the the full life cycle of this process. I’m not a fan of models, and I don’t share their instinctive concern about climate change, nor their hostility to the use of fossil fuels, but I still take the point. CCS is expensive, generally it has failed when attempted on a large scale, and where it is in place in the US and Canada, it is used to enhance oil extraction, with the net result that more – not less – CO2 is emitted overall. It’s not a good look.

How else might CCS work? Well, systems might be designed to pull CO2 directly out of the atmosphere. However, the authors tell us that such projects have huge energy requirements. Where is that energy to come from? There’s the rub:

The only type of direct air capture system in relatively large-scale development right now must be powered by a fossil fuel to attain the extremely high heat for the thermal process.

Further, we are told that a:

study of direct air capture’s energy use indicates that to capture 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide per year, this type of direct air capture system could require up to 3,889 terawatt-hours of energy – almost as much as the total electricity generated in the US in 2020.

One gigaton is

about 3% of annual global carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences projects a need to remove 10 gigatons per year by 2050, and 20 gigatons per year by century’s end if decarbonization efforts fall short.

Assuming these studies are correct, it’s difficult to see that any of this can be feasible at the scale we are told is needed. And it’s not just the practical feasibility that is an issue – there is also the question of cost. It is likely to cost trillions of (US) dollars, or so we are told, if scaled up to the extent where it might make a measurable difference to the climate. In addition, once captured, it has to be transported, either to be buried, or to be used (e.g. in enhanced oil extraction). We are told that 66,000 miles of pipelines would be required “to begin to approach one gigaton per year of transport and burial.

Of course, one doesn’t have to agree with the analysis of the authors of the article in The Conversation, but it would need a compelling counter-argument to suggest CCS is worth pursuing further. Which brings us back to the WEET conference, since it seems that UK politicians are still pursuing CCS as part of their desperate scatter-gun approach to the problem of making net zero achievable somehow.

Looking at the list of speakers, it is clear that there is no shortage of people with an interest in CCS. An important attendee at the conference is the Deputy Director for Power CCUS, at the amusingly-named Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. There is a representative of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association. According to its website it is “the lead European association accelerating the commercial deployment of CCUS through advocacy and collaboration.” They “work with members, governments and other organisations to ensure CCUS is developed and deployed at the pace and scale necessary to meet net zero goals and deliver sustainable growth across Europe.” Furthermore, “CCSA runs the secretariat services for the Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP). ZEP is the technical adviser to the EU on the deployment of CCS and CCU.” I may be doing them a disservice, but their website reads like the website of a lobby group and little more. Also attending the WEET conference is the Global CCS Institute, who are a thinktank. And, needless to say, there is an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, one of whose MPs will also be in attendance.

There’s clearly lots going on, involving a lot of time on the part of civil servants, and presumably taxpayers’ money too. We learn that a CCUS Cluster Sequencing Programme has been launched:

The strategy highlighted that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) applications in the power sector could be deployed by the late 2020s, and help deliver our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) by 2030. Engineered removals are likely to be located within or near industrial clusters, benefiting from access to CO₂ transport and storage infrastructure, essential to support delivery of net-negative emissions.

The Cluster Sequencing Process aims to deliver a minimum of 2 clusters by the mid-2020s and 4 by 2030. The recent Phase-2 shortlist identified the power CCUS, CCUS-enabled hydrogen, and industrial carbon capture (ICC) projects that will proceed to the next stage of due diligence.

Perhaps inevitably, there is a CCUS Investor Roadmap. It strikes me as being the usual delusional stuff:

The UK is ideally positioned to lead the global development and deployment of CCUS, with the world class industrial experience and world leading capital investment landscape to enable innovation, development, and growth. It has one of the largest potential CO₂ storage capacities in Europe (an estimated 78Gt of CO₂ storage capacity in the UK Continental Shelf), making it one of the most attractive business environments for CCUS technology.

This investor roadmap summarises the current engagement of government and industry and outlines further opportunities to deliver on national CCUS objectives in collaboration with investors.

At least the infrastructure problem is to be discussed at the conference, with the notes referring to “overcoming practical barriers around transmission and storage – grid and pipeline connections – storage capacity and availability – improving options for transportation”. Other issues are recognised too – “CCUS clusters within the wider energy market: integration in the context of current system challenges – minimising costs to consumers – engaging investors”.

A section on “incentives” mentions “assessing how the conceptual framework can incentivise the availability of low-carbon, non-weather-dependent, dispatchable generation capacity”. A good question!

Another section on “addressing barriers” talks about “overcoming challenges to deployment at the pace and scale necessary in the later 2020s”. However, since I won’t be attending the conference, I can’t let you in to the secret as to what the magic solution will be.

As with so much to do with the net zero agenda, the cost and likely lack of viability of CCUS at scale bothers me greatly, but so far as I can see our politicians aren’t phased by the cost, problems and impracticability of it all – not in the least. I wonder if any of them have read the article in The Conversation? Meanwhile, the great net zero circus continues to roll forward. Will it ever run out of steam?


  1. Hi Mark

    The SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project to which you linked was a fiasco.

    I remember when the Graun lauded it.

    However, it forgot to mention:

    1. That the CCS process incurs a large parasitic load – almost 25% of the Boundary Dam power plant’s output.

    2. The Boundary Dam generating plant had to be de-rated by 20%, from 139 MW to 110 MW.

    What the Graun fails to report often tells more about a project’s practicalities & viability than its writer ever can.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Department for Energy Security and Net Zero: replete with oxymorons.

    The trouble with CCS is that it is entirely parasitic. There’s no “commercial” or “investment.” All there is is a massive drain on productivity with no tangible benefit.

    Too, one gets the distinct impression that most of the enthusiasts do not want CCS to work – in case that might enable the decadence of the West to go on. Those who like the idea of CCS like the idea of being paid for a spurious service.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hardly plant food when the plants themselves make the stuff and especially at night, expel it directly into the atmosphere as a waste product.


  4. Alan, every living thing respires, and therefore produces CO2 as a waste product. Plants are no exception. But if plants were unable to absorb net CO2 from the air, they would rapidly perish.

    And the rare exception do not emit CO2, even at night:

    Another group of plants employ “CAM-cycling”, in which their stomata do not open at night; the plants instead recycle CO2 produced by respiration as well as storing some CO2 during the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another way to look at the phrase ‘plant food’:

    – plant is literal, food is a metaphor

    And the phrase ‘greenhouse effect’

    – greenhouse is a metaphor, effect is well, a rather tricky-to-explain effect (try Nullius in Verba on Climate Etc in Nov 2010 for example)

    In both cases the metaphor is imperfect. And in both cases the phrase has come to mean something above and beyond the metaphor. Like plants dying if they can’t absorb any CO2. And growing better if the atmospheric concentration of the life-giving gas is higher than before. Hence global greening. Where green is a metaphor … or is it? I’ll stop now.


  6. Mark,

    Thanks for putting the spotlight on the costs and practicalities of CCUS. Readers may be interested to see that Michael J. Kelly has written a substantial article on the subject of cost and practicality over at Judith Curry’s site. In his case the article covers the more general topic of net zero targets, albeit narrowly focused upon the USA.

    Incidentally, you say you are not a fan of models. The way I prefer to put it is that I am a fan, but not a fan of those who afford them too much evidential weight.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. John, thank you for the link, to another article that should be compulsory reading for deluded politicians and net zero activists.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Climate change: New idea for sucking up CO2 from air shows promise”

    A new way of sucking carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in the sea has been outlined by scientists.

    The authors say that this novel approach captures CO2 from the atmosphere up to three times more efficiently than current methods.

    The warming gas can be transformed into bicarbonate of soda and stored safely and cheaply in seawater.

    The new method could speed up the deployment of carbon removal technology, experts say.

    …CO2, although a powerful warming agent, is relatively diluted in the atmosphere at around 400 parts per million (ppm) in air.

    So big machines that require large amounts of energy are needed to both absorb and discharge the CO2.

    This new approach, using off-the-shelf resins and other chemicals, promises far greater efficiency and lower cost, say the scientists involved.

    The research team have borrowed an approach used for applications in water, and “tweaked” existing materials to remove CO2 from the air.

    In tests, the new hybrid absorbing material was able to take in three times as much CO2 as existing substances….

    But it’s still expensive, even assuming it works:

    Professor SenGupta shares that optimism, believing that this new approach can remove CO2 for less than $100 a tonne.

    And, evidencing Jit’s point (above) that some activists just hate fossil fuels, regardless, there’s this:

    Some scientists are reluctant to put too much emphasis on new and emerging technologies like direct air capture because they fear that it could dilute the carbon cutting efforts of governments and individuals.

    If CCUS works (I have my doubts) then why could climate alarmists possibly object, and why we would then need to carry on with expensive, nature- and economy-destroying carbon cutting efforts?


  9. Let ’em get on with it.

    Every last molecule of CO2 they suck out of the atmosphere will – according to Dalton’s law – be rapidly replaced by a molecule of CO2 out of the oceans, which contain quit a lot!


  10. “Jeremy Hunt’s budget to announce £20bn funding to cut carbon emissions
    ‘Reset’ of clean energy policy, including small nuclear reactors, is response to Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act”

    …The Treasury said Hunt plans to announce “unprecedented investment” of £20bn spread over the next two decades into carbon capture and low carbon energy projects and “commit to spades in the ground on these projects from next year”.

    Carbon capture and storage is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activity such as steel and cement production, transporting it, and then locking it into underground storage sites.

    The move will comes as a relief to developers of a string of carbon capture projects, which have been awaiting government approval. These include the Acorn CCS project designed to support the decarbonisation of two St Fergus gas terminals in Aberdeenshire, and Viking CCS, a 34-mile pipeline that will take carbon from industrial sites on Humberside and lock it under the North Sea.

    The government hopes to store 20-30m tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030, equal to the emissions from 10-15m cars. Britain has set a legal target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “Optimism grows for Acorn Project carbon capture scheme”

    Optimism is growing that Scotland’s first carbon capture and storage facility is finally about to be given the go-ahead.

    The Acorn Project at the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire would pipe harmful greenhouse gas emissions under the North Sea.

    It missed out on government support back in 2021.

    Now the Treasury has hinted it might be back on as part of the Chancellor’s spring budget later in the week.

    It had been described previously as “shovel ready” but was instead placed on a reserve list.

    In a trail of Wednesday’s statement, the Treasury announced a “reset” with “unprecedented investment in domestic carbon capture” totalling £20bn over the next 20 years…

    We’ll see. If it goes ahead, it’ll be adding to the net zero bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Carbon Cull-chur,

    Once they learned they could put their hands in the revenue till with impunity,
    so long as their fear ‘n guilt messaging prevailed, it was full steam ahead for
    the bureau-krats (in the immediate future) and full steam back to the Dark Ages
    for the cits.

    And plants will jest have to learn to get along without CO2.


  13. And people wll need to learn to live without O2

    plants make oxygen when they make sugar and they use CO2 to do it

    Imagine all that oxygen not being made because the plants never got it. Could the food shortage be in part caused by missing CO2?

    Also think about the ocean and its plants. They also add oxygen and take in CO2.

    How might the world be better (more plants mean cooler planet)

    A quote from the above

    “Increasing the green cover of cities by 10% or more could help temper the local temperature rise projected for coming decades as climate change manifests (Gill et al. 2007). Plants cool the surface of the planet in two ways. They cool the air by evaporating water through their leaves. They also moderate the temperature of the ground surface by shading it from direct sunlight. Both of these processes have the greatest impact on sunny summer afternoons.”

    Several studies show that the more CO2 the better and healther the plants. They use the increased CO2 for increased photosynthesis


    “The sink is getting larger because of a rapid increase in plant photosynthesis, and our new research shows rising carbon dioxide concentrations largely drive this increase.
    So, to put it simply, humans are producing more carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is causing more plant growth, and a higher capacity to suck up carbon dioxide. This process is called the “carbon dioxide fertilisation effect” – a phenomenon when carbon emissions boost photosynthesis and, in turn, plant growth.”


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