I Agree With George

For once, I agree with George Osborne.

Well, for twice, actually.

In his Autumn Statement of the state budget, he reversed a painful austerity measure aimed at the lowest paid workers, by performing a U-turn on removing tax credits.

And, perhaps more importantly, not in the Autumn Statement, he cancelled the Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration subsidy. I completely applaud this decision. Apart from the speed at which it was enacted.

George Osborne did a number of other things in his Autumn Statement that I definitely do not agree with – such as converting student nurse grants into loans – which shows the most appalling lack of judgement, as it will deter just the trainees the National Health Service really needs.

Without more nursing staff on the front line of hospital health care, nothing will improve, no matter how many middle managers you employ. But anyway, back to energy…

For some reason, the news that the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) “competition” money, formerly ringfenced, had been axed, was not included in the Autumn Statement. It was “snuck out” on the London Stock Exchange website, and I cannot find a mention of it yet on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website. Curious.

What’s not curious in the slightest is the racket of the complaints against this decision. Which is to be expected, as a great many engineers and researchers have been relying on this very cash injection for their careers in carbon capture.

Many politicos have been “captured” by CCS along the way, and their resentment is shrill today. Caroline Flint, in particular, should know better than to support CCS – she should look at the numbers, the history, and follow the money…

There is an almost desperate misunderstanding about exactly how poor “value for money” the current CCS technologies are. This is because they are being applied to power generation plant, where the thermodynamics are against the efficient capture of carbon dioxide, because capture would need to be done behind combustion in most configurations.

What is really needed is to go back to basics – chemistry and physics basics – and go back in time to the research done by earlier industrial gas engineers, terminated in the 1980s because of the discoveries of abundant (but not infinite) Natural Gas.

Carbon capture in industrial gas processing has options that are relatively efficient compared to capturing carbon dioxide at low temperatures and low pressures in a venting stack on the back of a power plant.

As one colleague of mine said (to paraphrase slightly), “The government have been pushing carbon capture in the power sector – but this is exactly the wrong place for it to be done. We in the gas industry, we want carbon capture back, please.”

However, carbon capture in gas-related industries, in order to make it truly efficient, both energy-efficient and resource-efficient, and also carbon-efficient too, it needs to be CCU, not CCS, in other words Carbon Capture and Utilisation.

Carbon recycling in integrated gas systems will allow us to manufacture very low carbon and sustainable Renewable Gas, even as fossil fuels deplete or become too chemically complex to permit us to burn them.

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