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Carbon capture and storage technology remains a ‘utopian dream’ claims professor

June 29, 2017

By Paul Homewood


CCS remains a “utopian dream”, according to Prof Gordon Hughes:


CARBON capture and storage (CCS) is too expensive and will “never be viable”, a former World Bank advisor claims.

Economics professor Gordon Hughes, of Edinburgh University, says the anti-climate change measure is “little more than a utopian dream”.

The claims are made in a report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank, set up by Tory peer and climate change sceptic Nigel Lawson.

The body challenges scientific data on the impact of pollution and has called on the UK Government to scrap targets to reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions.

The method seeks to collect carbon dioxide from electricity and power generation and industrial processes and place it in depleted oil and gas fields or specific undersea rock formations, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called the process the “most important single new technology” for reducing the harmful emissions and, in its General Election manifesto, the SNP said Scotland could be a “leader” in the development of the technology.

Work commissioned by Scottish Enterprise suggested that, taken with enhanced oil recovery, it could be worth £3.5 billion to the economy.

However, launching the new research today, Hughes said: “We have spent countless millions trying to get carbon capture to work for coal-fired power stations. But in the future coal will mostly be used in the developing world, where CCS is going to be too expensive. Everyone else is moving to gas, for which CSS isn’t yet an option.”

He went on: “Successive governments haven’t thought their policies through. The focus on renewables is making CCS — already a marginal technology — even less viable.

“A coherent strategy could reduce carbon emissions at a fraction of the current cost by switching to gas with the option to install CCS if/when it makes economic sense.”

David Cameron’s government had planned to invest £1bn in developing CCS technology in the UK. A scheme in Peterhead was amongst the projects in the running for the grant, alongside the White Rose project in North Yorkshire.

However, the contest was axed in 2015, something Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said was a “disgrace”, and power firm SSE, which was working on the Aberdeenshire bid along with Shell, called it a “significant missed opportunity”.

In 2015, Stuart Haszeldine, professor of geology and carbon storage at Edinburgh University, insisted the infrastructure in place for the oil and gas sector makes the central North Sea “as near to perfect as you will find anywhere in the world” for offshore sub-surface CCS.

  1. June 29, 2017 10:38 am

    Professor Hughes has produced a lot of very sensible work.

    On the other hand, Professor Haszledine has his snout deep in the trough.

    If only there were somebody in Government who had just the slightest knowledge of anything to do with science, engineering or technology (or even in the civil service or in a position of advice) and could differentiate between those with sense and those with a large snout.

  2. AlecM permalink
    June 29, 2017 10:39 am

    The best CCS technology is new forests.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      June 29, 2017 11:31 am

      And the second best is not cutting them down, shipping them across the Atlantic, burning them to make electricity and pretending somehow that is “carbon neutral”!

    • Broadlands permalink
      June 29, 2017 12:25 pm

      Forests capture but do not store long enough? Aerobic processes tend to reverse their work…over time. This is especially true for the marine environment. CCS technology is an effort to make the geologic storage permanent. New forests of any size “capture” the land where human growth away from urban blight might migrate?

      • AlecM permalink
        June 29, 2017 3:23 pm

        It’s more simple than that. The planet stabilises at a thermodynamic balance which maximises the production rate of radiation entropy.

  3. Broadlands permalink
    June 29, 2017 12:32 pm

    Kevin Anderson and Glen Peters, SCIENCE (October 14, 2016)… “The trouble with negative emissions”

    “Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble. There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise. If the emphasis on equity and risk aversion embodied in the Paris Agreement are to have traction, negative emission technologies should not form the basis of the mitigation agenda….the mitigation agenda should proceed on the premise that they will not work at scale. The implications of failing to otherwise are a moral hazard par excellence.”

    • AlecM permalink
      June 29, 2017 3:26 pm

      That is bullshit which no professional can accept.

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