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Carbon capture can drive a 21st century revival of British industry (What’s left of it!)

August 22, 2016

By Paul Homewood




AEP finishes his series on energy policy with a long, rambling piece on carbon capture and storage. I won’t bother repeating it all, but here is the gist:




Renaissance beckons for the once great industrial hubs of northern England and Scotland, and the unexpected catalyst may be stringent global climate controls.

What looks at first sight like an economic threat could instead play elegantly to Britain’s competitive advantage, for almost no other country on earth is so well-placed to combine energy-intensive manufacturing with carbon capture at a viable cost.

The industrial clusters of the Tees Valley and the Humber are linked by a network of pipelines to depleted and well-mapped oil and gas fields in the North Sea, offering rare access to infrastructure for carbon storage deep underground.

Liverpool has old wells of its own offshore in the Irish sea. Scotland’s heavy industry in Grangemouth and the Forth have feeder pipelines to the Golden Eye.

Such sites may not be worth much today – with carbon prices in Europe too low to matter at barely $5 a tonne – but the COP21 climate deal agreed in Paris last December transforms the long-term calculus.

It implies a tightening regime of higher carbon penalties for the next half century, ending in net zero CO2 emissions. Once prices approach $50 a tonne the equation changes. Beyond $100 it inverts the pyramid of energy wealth: profits accrue to those with access to the cheapest low carbon power.





The drastic implications of COP21 are still sinking in. A maximum ‘carbon budget’ of 3,000 gigatonnes – deemed necessary to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – may mean zero emissions from the power sector by mid-century.

"There are areas like farming and aircraft travel where it is tougher to drive down emissions, so other areas will have to go negative to meet the target," said prof Gibbins. The term ‘negative’ is confusing but it essentially means combining CCS with bioenergy. 

The accord was signed by 195 countries, led by the US and China. It makes no difference whether you accept the hypothesis of man-made global warming. The deal constitutes the political will of the world, and will be legally-binding in the sense that each state transposes its commitments into domestic law.

It is possible that Donald Trump will be elected US president and that the global consensus will unravel. But Britain cannot make strategic plans based on what a putative President Trump might or might not do, and I write this article on the assumption that COP21 will remain the global framework.


I hate to spoil his party, but here are a few inconvenient facts:


1) CCS does not work on any viable or commercial scale, as even Greenpeace admit. This does not mean it never will, but we clearly should not be setting energy policy or spending billions of pounds on something that may or may not happen in decades time.

2) Even if technical problems could be overcome, the use of CCS would add considerably to the cost of power. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that the cost could be between £95 and £138/MWh in ten years time.

3) AEP steps around this “slight problem” by imagining that the world will introduce punitive carbon taxes, that will make CCS cheap by comparison. He has history here. For instance, in May last year, he was forecasting that “It is a fair bet that world leaders will agree this year to impose a draconian “tax” on carbon emissions that entirely changes the financial calculus for coal, oil, and gas, and may ultimately devalue much of their asset base to zero. “

4) As we know, all that COP21 achieved was to kick the can down the road for another couple of decades. The idea that the deal constitutes the political will of the world, and will be legally-binding in the sense that each state transposes its commitments into domestic law, or that there will be a maximum ‘carbon budget’ of 3,000 gigatonnes – deemed necessary to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – meaning zero emissions from the power sector by mid-century, are frankly ludicrous.

No future Chinese President will allow himself to be tied by agreements currently made by Xi Jinping, and certainly not if they damage China’s economy or competitiveness. Chinese politics simply does not work that way. Ditto India and the rest of the developing world.

As AEP himself points out, most countries don’t have convenient oil fields nearby to pipe CO2 to. Will China agree to a CO2 tax which effectively cripples their coal based industry? Of course not!

5) It is interesting that proponents of renewable energy, including AEP himself, always complain about the pollution put out by fossil fuel power stations (real, not CO2). Yet they seem quite relaxed about the same pollution emitted when CCS is involved.

6) He eloquently describes Teeside’s industrial history, apparently still home to 58% of Britain’s chemical industry. He goes on to say:

But its Achilees Heel is the cost of power. Five of the UK’s top 25 CO2 emitting plants are packed together between Darlington and the mouth of the North Sea.

Perhaps he might ask himself how much of this will be left in a few years time, if the ruinous Climate Change Act is allowed to continue. Whether CCS ever arrives or not, it is likely that Britain’s industrial heartlands will have no heavy industry left to take advantage of it.



It is ironic that AEP has spent all the last week proposing hugely expensive alternatives to conventional power, which will end up causing untold damage to British industry, but now claims to be concerned about the great industrial hubs. And all in the naive belief that the rest of the world will join us in the race to the bottom.



If he wants to take out his crystal ball and imagine what our economy might look like in 50 years time, then fine. But it should not be confused with reality.

  1. martinbrumby permalink
    August 22, 2016 3:03 pm

    As Gulliver found at the Academy of Lagado:-

    “The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me “to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.” I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.”

    (Jonathan Swift)

    I think someone should alert AEP to this marvellous breakthrough. He’d probably have an orgasm.

  2. August 22, 2016 3:18 pm

    How on Earth can someone as delusional as AEP actually hold down a job writing for the Telegraph?
    What is more how can the Editors be so dumb as to fall for the ravings of an idiot?

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      August 22, 2016 3:33 pm

      You mean you have not noticed, I have never before seen such a stupid apology for a newspaper in all my long life. I watch in total amazement that a once very good broadsheet has fallen to the level of the comics I read as a boy 80 years ago. With the exception of Mr. Booker, no one on it is capable of writing an 11 year old schoolboy essay.
      AEP is living in a dreamland all his own, reality has no place in his world. The sheer cost of capturing and pumping CO2 would be astronomical, and that is only after you find a pump that will do it. By the bye, it being a gas means that it will just compress…….well until it finds a way out.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        August 22, 2016 4:17 pm

        You obviously haven’t read the Guardian then, it is also full of raving looneys.
        It is obvious why the Telegraph has stopped accepting Comments on any of thier editorials, the majority of comments were very pointed indeed, showing up the articles for the La La land they represent.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 23, 2016 12:38 pm

        The Guardian still has comments but not for nothing is it known as ‘Comment Macht Frei’ since anything sensible is deleted and the poster fairly soon blocked. Telegraph has taken the easy route of stopping comments same way that you can’t point out drivel on the BBC website.

  3. August 22, 2016 3:28 pm

    A couple of facts. There is a small CO2 capture facility operating in Canada (on one of 4 generating units at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan). The CO2 is sold for tertiary heavy oil recovery. The parasitic load is almost 30% of the units electrical output. There is a larger more ambitious attempt at Kemper Mississippi backed by $700 million in federal subsidy. Gasify local lignite, CCGT (one 582MWe [gross, before parasitic load] unit) then CCS 65% of the CO2. Plant is $2.5 billion over budget and a year late. Cost is $9450/kWe before considering the parasitic load. By comparison Voglte 3 and 4 (westinghouse AP1200 nucs) are nearing completion at $4772/kWe.

      • August 23, 2016 10:33 am

        ‘News’ from Greenpeace? Based on past experience of their blatant lies and distortions I distrust every single claim in any article penned by Greenpeace activists. And it’s a bit rich for Greenpeace to accuse a company of exploiting gullible politicians by selling them usless green balony: Greenpeace have been using the exact same business model for the past 20 years!!

    • 3x2 permalink
      August 23, 2016 11:19 am

      The parasitic load is almost 30% of the units electrical output.

      This is another aspect that seems to be ignored by proponents.

      The idea that we should burn considerably more fuel in order to force perfectly good plant food into a hole really does demonstrate just where climate insanity has taken us.

  4. August 22, 2016 3:48 pm

    The natural carbon cycle does the job perfectly well, whatever Telegraph writers say.

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    August 22, 2016 4:21 pm

    Paul, Ed Hoskins over at the Talkshop has a very telling piece on Solar Energy based on David Mackay’s Guardian post.
    Basically DECC oversaw the wasye of the equivalent of £30B.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      August 22, 2016 4:22 pm

      Not wasye, but WASTE.

  6. August 22, 2016 4:49 pm

    The Telegraph’s retreat from factual reportage into a seeming obsession with making themselves stand out on WH Smiths shelves – as in judging a book by its cover – serves as a vehicle for this sort of colossal stupidity.

    Sparking Lagado cucumbers ain’t the half of it….

  7. August 22, 2016 5:08 pm

    CCS is yet another approach to mitigation that will fail, both by not reducing emissions and by not affecting global warming. Adaptation is proven to work, Mitigation is failing in every way.

  8. Broadlands permalink
    August 22, 2016 5:24 pm

    Down to zero emissions. But, none of that will capture and store the 50 ppm of CO2 already in the atmosphere that will get us back to a “safe” 350 ppm, as it was in 1987. A big part of the CCS picture that is overlooked?

  9. August 22, 2016 5:36 pm

    The good news from AEP is in his last three paragraphs. This id his last article on energy and there will be no more of his nonsense:

    “I have tried to float a few ideas this August on how to fashion a British energy policy fit for the 21st Century. The list is inadequate. I have not even touched on the possibilities of geothermal energy, or even the simple expedient of flooding old mines to generate warmth through heat exchangers.

    I have barely mentioned the forgotten drive for energy efficiency, 40pc of the gains needed by 2050. Nor have I explored the potential of power-to-gas conversion through electrolysis, a break-through that could store energy for months and overcome the seasonal variations of wind and solar.

    Thank you to those on the front-line who have sent me breath-taking material on scientific advances. You have left me more convinced than ever that humanity is about conquer this challenge. I now return to my normal job covering the world economy.”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 22, 2016 6:39 pm

      Hi Philip. I mentioned as much (about AE-P’s farewell) over at the moribund BH site. I was taken by the fact that here was a man who didn’t know his AC from his DC; thought he could set the world to rights when it comes to power generation – and was totally wrong in virtually all he said; yet who was going to return to his job covering the world economy. And we all know how good a job he does of that.

      I do hope the thirty pieces of silver he was paid by his greenie sponsors was enough.

  10. AlecM permalink
    August 22, 2016 7:24 pm

    AEP should stick to Economic History. He knows eff all about power generation or CCS.

    [Declaration: I worked on the two major International CCS programmes in the 1990s: it can’t work economically.]

    • Broadlands permalink
      August 23, 2016 1:09 am

      Alec… CCS can’t work economically? It can’t possibly work at all…if lowering atmospheric CO2 is really the solution to…”global warming”. Calculate how long it will take to lower atmospheric CO2 by just ONE ppm.. which is capturing more than seven billion metric tons to store somewhere just to get back to 399 ppm? It’s more than 1000 years?

  11. BLACK PEARL permalink
    August 22, 2016 7:34 pm

    The papers probably getting lucrative funding from the CCC to employ him

    Isn’t that the usual way these days ?

  12. tom0mason permalink
    August 22, 2016 8:05 pm

    That’s it it is now official ‘The Daily Telegraph’ is completely barking!

    Where are the voices of sanity to counter this stinking green morass the fourth estate wallows in? Present company excepted.

  13. August 22, 2016 8:19 pm

    Little Emily has two articles in the Telegraph showing how desperate the situation has got in the UK. NG is proving to be even more useless than previously thought.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      August 22, 2016 8:51 pm

      Without wishing ill on anyone I almost want a couple of blackouts. Short, embarrassing, inconvenient ones rather than serious or life-threatening, but just enough to highlight to the public the absolute insanity of our energy policy AND the recklessness of those politicians and hangers-on responsible for it. That includes the green blob, cheerleading media. Guardian, BBC, Greenpeace, Greens and assorted loony contributors. Like the preposterous CC Act they deserve to be eviscerated.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 23, 2016 12:48 pm

      I think National Grid (shareholder) are having a tough time since the government is removing generation capacity and not replacing it and they are having to try to find enough to cover for the times of peak demand with no wind power. The government is also making it uneconomic for plant to be kept open such as Fiddlers Ferry where SSE were willing to pay off their contract as it was cheaper than the losses of keeping it open. When the blackouts come let us be sure to point the finger at the culprit – the government.

  14. August 22, 2016 10:06 pm

    Carbon capture and storage? It’s already in hand and on a scale that man could never mimic.

    There is no relationship between surface air temperature and the carbon dioxide content of the air. Surface temperature is regulated by cloud cover. We need to go back to the schools and teach the kids what used to be called geography, climatology and geomorphology not the green garbage called ‘social science’.

  15. August 22, 2016 10:36 pm

    Carbon capture would be great if it wasn’t for the fact that it is an utterly stupid waste of time, energy and money.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 23, 2016 12:51 pm

      As a Shell shareholder I was concerned that they would be wasting money when they got involved in a CCS trial funded by the government. As soon as the funding was cut, Shell announced that it was stopping the project but with the bizarre – or completely political – claim that it was a great idea and a shame it was stopping. And if you are wondering if it was such a great idea, surely Shell would keep at it when the subsidy stopped, then you are not alone.

  16. August 23, 2016 6:42 am

    Carbon capture can drive a 21st century revival of British industry (What’s left of it!)

    This is pathetic nonsense.

    What will they do with the sequestered carbon, export it? Who will buy it?

    • Russ Wood permalink
      August 23, 2016 8:59 am

      Well, they could always cause a Lake Nyos event. And isn’t it one of the greenie paradigms that populations should be reduced?

    • Broadlands permalink
      August 23, 2016 3:05 pm

      Frederick…Check on, a company that captures and sells it. But, the point is that no technologies, combined globally, can store the enormous amount required to even make a dent in the amount already in the atmosphere. Just one ppm CO2 is more than seven billion metric tons. And we are urged to bury 50 ppm, 50 times that amount ASAP?

  17. johnmarshall permalink
    August 23, 2016 11:50 am

    The elephant in the room being the fact that CO2 has zero effect on climate. Temperatures are starting to fall globally with the sun going quiet to a possible Maunder Min. so we will need all the power we can get to keep the alarmists warm.

  18. Paul2 permalink
    August 23, 2016 7:14 pm

    Yawn. Here we go again. It’s that time of year when hot weather tends to convince the gullible that the Earth really is in peril:

  19. August 24, 2016 5:07 am

    When you have a dimwitted relative, it’s best to get them some sinecure job, away from sharp knives, and especially not involved with any industrial machinery and such. This is the case with poor old A E-P. The sad truth is that he is just there to make up the numbers, but some silly haddock has taken his ravings seriously and then by accident been sending his scribblings through for copy, instead of destruction. The irony is that by putting these years of deluded ravings, between the pages of the paper copy, A E-P has captured more “Carbon” that all those daft “official” CCS projects put together.

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