MPs to ask energy policymakers what’s Plan B if CCS fails

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MPs on the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee have launched an inquiry into carbon capture and storage (CCS), or as it is now called, carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS).

CCS/CCUS involves capturing emissions and either burying them in old gas fields or salt caverns, or using some of the carbon in industrial products. The technology is seen as essential in meeting 2050 decarbonisation targets.

However, there are very few working large scale plants in the world and whether carbon can be stored forever without leaking is unknown.

Energy minister Claire Perry is supportive of CCS/CCUS, describing them as “vital technologies” to decarbonise heat and industry. Meanwhile, gas network operators planning to switch from methane to hydrogen place CCS at the heart of their plans.

However, the government has concerns around cost of CCS. In 2015 George Osborne scrapped the £1bn CCS competition as part of Budget cost cutting.

The current administration has put around £100m on the table. Companies aiming to develop CCS in the UK have called for subsidies or for government “to take on the key risks for CCUS chain failure … as these cannot be borne by the private sector”.

The Beis Committee aims “to test the Government’s ambitions in this area and to examine what policy levers need to be pulled to make large-scale CCUS a reality in the future”, according to Committee chair Rachel Reeves.

“Clearer policy signals are needed if we are to create a market and commercialise this technology into the 2030s. If the Government judge the costs are such that CCUS is not a viable option then they must spell out an alternative if the UK is to meet its carbon emission reduction targets,” Reeves added.

The Committee seeks written evidence from industry and academia around CCUS costs and alternatives. The deadline for submissions is 22 June. See details here.

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