Climate Change Low Carbon Life

Carbon Capture and Storage : Cease Seeming Serious

What follows is part of an e-mail exchange frenzy that has been sparked by the UK Government’s decision to announce plans to invest in up to four Carbon Capture and Storage “demonstration” plants.

One of the key corporate players in the enactment of this plan will be the Energy Company E.On, which just happens to be the employer of the partner of the Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (allegedly).

From : Marianne

just fyi….. (sponsored by e.on and the food and drink federation…..!)

From : jo abbess


The Guardian are such cowards.

All the advertisements I’ve seen so far mentioned the FDF Food and Drinks Federation, but not E.On.

As you rightly point out, their website admits E.On are sponsoring it, just like they did last year.

Talk about totally subverting the social agenda…Talk about “coal salers”, or even “Climate Destroyers” :-

From : Chris

I wonder if the E.On sponsorship explains the Guardian’s interpretation of Milliband’s announcements on coal fired power stations as a victory for the environmentalists

From : Oliver Tickell

The article is written by John Vidal who is nobody’s stooge.

I might add I agree with it. It looks to me like the efforts of Climate
Camp, Greenpeace, Jim Hansen etc have paid off in that all these new coal power stations will have CCS 25% for now, 100% (this quoted figure is probably unfeasible, more like 80% possible) by 2025. This is astonishingly close to what was being demanded.

Of course we still want to know who will pay for it, and how. But subject to this and a few other caveats, it looks like a green victory that we should be celebrating!

Just to prove the G is not beholden to EON we also have Monbiot taking the opposite view:

He seems to get something wrong here btw where he says that “These partly abated coal plants, in other words, would still be much worse than unabated gas plants.”

If we assume new coal is 40% efficient, then you get 40We (watts
electricity) for every 100Wc (watts coal). If 10% of power output goes to power 80% CCS, then say 2.5% output for 25% CCS. So we are getting approx 39We for the emissions from 100Wc – 25% = 75Wc. This is equivalent in carbon terms to 39/75 = 52% efficiency – which is comparable to typical CCGT of 50% efficiency. The effect of this is thus to make coal as clean in carbon terms as gas.

Of course there are no firm long term guarantees as to what will happen across Parliaments and Governments. But that goes for anything.

Oliver Tickell

From : jo abbess
Subject: Someone’s got to show me wrong on my arithmetic

Hi Oliver and CRISIS FORUM,

A commitment to 25% emissions abatement from coal-fired power generation is basically two commitments : using coal more efficiently, and doing some Carbon Capture and Storage.

Using coal more efficiently will come about naturally building modern plant. It won’t cost that much more.

CCS on the other hand is very expensive. You’re not going to get much CCS in a plant which only has a commitment to have 25% efficiency gains over conventional plant.

It’s all very well hearing arguments about “efficiency”, but I need to hear the probable story about emissions too.

It’s all very well doing more with less fuel, but if the total amount of emissions rises, then no gain has been made.

Here’s my initial unproven calculation. Show me what’s wrong with my thinking :-

I’m not cheering about CCS. There’s no such thing as “clean” coal.

From : Jonathan


I’m entirely up to speed on this, but at first glance, it seems the assumption is that extra energy is needed to divert to CCS, rather than the plants becoming less efficient in terms of Power Output to the wholesale market. Of course the presumption would be is that they would want to deliver the same amount to the grid as before.

Is there a linear relationship between CCS capture rate and energy required? 90% is supposed to require 20% more energy (fuel).

Your calculations presume ( I think) 25% capture rate. Your additional fuel is 15%.

Here comes the maths:

Normal output of CO2 is 1 (call it X). With CCS at 90%, you need 20% more fuel (from gov figures). The results is that 1.2 is the new total emissions from the furnace, capturing 90% gives an output of 0.1×1.2 (0.1 being the 10% not captured). Which gives 0.12, or 12% of original output. 88% reduction

In your case, the figures are 0.75 (75% of emission are released) x1.15 (15% more fuel), which gives 0.863, or 86% of emissions released compared to no CCS. a 14% saving in emissions.

This was also a very quick calc and I will have to go over it later, with more detail and fewer assumptions

“The CCS process is estimated to require nearly 20% additional energy so the additional emissions would result in a slight loss of capture efficiency (eg down from 90% to 88% capture) per unit of output.” This is from the *Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

From : Mandy

Maybe I’ve missed something, but I thought the theoretical maximum for carbon capture was 90%. 100% isn’t possible. I’m afraid I’m with Monbiot on this. It’s a commitment to coal – not a commitment to seriously reduce energy demand. I’m not surprised, I just don’t know why it’s anything to celebrate. I think the NGOs were wrong to even entertain CCS. I fear that CCS will only be economically viable if used in conjunction with enhanced oil recovery. We’ll see…


From : Green Party News

Commenting on the government’s announcement of public funding for carbon capture and storage projects, Caroline Lucas MEP, leader of the Green Party, said today:

“CCS is the wrong technology for the UK. We’re facing a recession as well as a climate crisis, and we need a lot of jobs urgently.”

“Carbon capture projects wouldn’t start delivering either emissions reductions or jobs for the next decade. But existing renewables technologies and energy-conservation prgrammes could do both, and that’s where the government should be putting its effort.”

The Greens argue that comparative studies have always shown renewable energy sustains far more jobs per megawatt than coal.

Recently the Department for Energy and Climate Change said the global market from carbon capture and storage (CCS) on coal-fired stations could be worth £2.4 billion a year to the UK by 2030, creating over 50,000 jobs. But the Green Party said then that:

* Investment in wind energy instead of “clean coal” could generate four times as many jobs, ten years sooner.
* A nationwide energy-conservation programme could generate almost three times as many jobs as “clean coal” – while reducing energy demand to such a level that the new coal-fired power stations would not be necessary.

Green Party spokesperson on sustainable development, Professor John Whitelegg, commented:

“The promised 50,000 jobs in CCS by 2030 are far too few, far too late. On the other hand, if we generated the same proportion of our electricity from windfarms as Denmark does, and at the rate of growth Denmark has achieved, we’d create about 200,000 jobs by 2020.”

“We could start doing this tomorrow and achieve the emissions reduction and the job-creation we need much faster than with so-called ‘clean coal.'”

“And if we bring every home in the UK up to the proper energy-saving standards, this alone could create 137,000 jobs, and we’ll save so much energy we wouldn’t need coal-fired stations anyway.”

Professor Whitelegg added: “And with coal, we’d be dependent on imported energy just as we are now, and vulnerable to potential price fluctuations and disruption as we have been with oil. We need to leave that coal in the ground and invest heavily in energy-conservation and renewables.”

“We know how to achieve a very low-carbon economy through jobs-rich green energy policies. Why on earth should we tinker with jobs-poor unproven technology that keeps us dependent on fossil fuels?”

From Green Party press office, 020 7561 0282.

Published and promoted by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon for the Green Party of England & Wales, both at 1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.


Published and promoted by Tracy Dighton-Brown for the Green Party of England & Wales, both at 1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.

From : jo abbess


So, Jonathan’s summary is that by capturing and storing 25% of Carbon Dioxide emissions from a coal-fired power station, that the total reductinon in emissions would be 14%.

This contrasts with my first order approximation of total reduction in emissions of 5%.

But his calculations are based on a number of built-in assumptions which are all challenge-able.

Assumption Number 1 : That the “energy penalty” (or “efficiency penalty” for fitting Carbon Capture and Storage CCS equipment to coal-fired electricity generation plant is around 20%. In other words, in order to run CCS, it will take a fifth times as much fuel as currently.

Challenge to Assumption Number 1 : These two sources indicate that the “energy penalty” could vary according to the exact coal-firing technologies :-

both referenced on here :-

Assumption Number 2 : That added emissions created by the CCS process and procedures will all be capturable on-site.

Challenge to Assumption Number 2 : Reference the above documents : they make clear that not all the Carbon Emissions accounting can be assumed to be “inside” the CCS process.

Assumption Number 3 : That the CCS technology is scaleable (what you call “linear relationship between CCS capture rate and energy required”).

Challenge to Assumption Number 3 : From the diagrams and schema I have seen of existing CCS plant, I would have to say that it is usually highly complex to capture Carbon Dioxide, especially if the whole thermal process has Carbon Capture as an inherent part of the chain of events.

I would therefore be fairly justified in saying that CCS kit to capture 90% of emissions will be more efficient than the same kind of kit intended to capture 25% of emissions.

Assumption Number 4 : That CCS is the only way that coal-burning thermal generation units can reduce emissions.

Challenge to Assumption Number 4 : There are several ways in which different designs of new coal plant can be more efficient and therefore produce less emissions for the same power output to the grid. With such a weak requirement of 25% reductions in emissions, it is likely that a good proportion of those reductions will be achieved by plant and process design, therefore the CCS component will be less necessary, and therefore less expensive. It will be so much cheaper and easier to reduce emissions by 25% than reducing emissions by 90%, which is why this compromise has been made (clearly lobbying by the coal team has been involved here).

From : Oliver Tickell

Jo, your arithmetic does not look quite right. Let’s say that 90% abatement really does take 25% of power output, and it goes pro rata, then 7% of output will be needed for 25%. However new coal can go to 45% efficient. So using the same system as I did below, which is as far as I am aware correct, we have 45 x .93 / 100 x .75 = 42/75 = 56%. In other words it is carbon efficient as a coal fired station running at 56% thermal efficiency, which is way better than the 45% we started off with.

However my arithmetic was also wrong in my questioning of Monbiot’s figures because I forgot to include the greater carbon intensity of coal vs methane.

This is going to tilt the balance well in favour of gas, as he correctly
says. For coal to get as carbon efficient as gas, we need way more than the 25% CCS that is on the table.

But how much? Heat value of coal is approx 35MJ/kg, heat value of gas is 55MJ/kg. Say coal is 90% C, methane 12/16 = 75% C by weight, then carbon:energy ratio of coal:methane is 35/9:55/75 = 3.9:7.3 = 0.53. In other words coal is produces about half as much heat per unit carbon as gas. So for coal fired electricity to have the same carbon footprint as gas, we need to be operating coal plant at an effective carbon-adjusted thermal efficiency of 75%. How feasible is this?

Let’s look at what may be the best we can get from CCS – 90% capture for a 25% overhead. Then we get 45 x .75 / 100 x .1 = 34/10 = 340% improvement of standard coal. Adjust that for thermal content of gas vs coal and it is still 1.7 times better than gas. But if we only get say 75% capture for 20% overhead we get 45 x .8 / 100 x .25 = 144%, equivalent to burning gas at 72% eficiency – so still an improvement. And if 50% capture for 15% overhead we get only 76%, still not good enough to compete with gas in carbon intensity.

The message of all this is that 25% capture is simply not enough, not indeed is 50% capture. For coal to compete with gas in carbon intensity on equal terms we actually need to be getting more like 60% sequestration for a 15% overhead.

How should the environmental community to respond? One simple demand should be that new coal should have enough CCS to now achieve the same carbon intensity as new non-CCS gas, which would probably be about 60% capture. By 2025 both coal and gas should be doing considerably better, with 90% capture on both coal and gas fired plant.

Oliver Tickell.

From : Jonathan


you may also want to consider that E-ON is planning to capture the co2 and pump out into the North Sea….now I am not entirely sure of their plans, but considering this technique has its origins in fossil-fuel extraction, I suspect there would be a partnership with a oil/gas giant (say BP,/shell), who will use the CO” under pressure to evacuate spaces which contain deposits of oil/gas, and then seal it. So the co2 storage is likely to lead to new fossil-fuel extraction which then has its own emissions….



From : jo abbess


(regarding Mandy’s points)

1. The 90% Limit

I have had discussions with several people who know the various thermal generation possibilities with a range of fuels. I don’t remember (or I was not permitted to record) all the details, but the general overview is that Carbon Capture will probably need exponentially rising energy input for any percentage over 90% of plant emissions.

That is, above certain calculable limits, it is likely to take a very quickly rising amount of extra fuel to power the capture process.

This is related to the entropy of the problem – the concept from thermodynamics that any transfer of energy from one kind to another always involves a loss. You cannot get 100% efficiency moving from one form or energy or “work” to another. This applies as much to chemistry as it does to machinery.

For example, one of the most efficient machines that people use is the bicycle, with some people putting its efficiency at 80% conversion, which is considered very, very efficient.

2. Commitment to coal

Not only is this decision a commitment to coal, it is a compromise to the coal lobby, and lays the tracks for further compromises further down the line.

It is not a real commitment to reduced emissions, since energy demand is still projected to rise (hence the orders for new coal plants).

3. The NGO response

Quite a few people have been taken in and suckered by the Coal Public Relations Campaign over the last few years – however long it’s been running. I had a discussion with someone recently where I tried to think back to when Carbon Capture and Storage was first proposed as an “engineering” possibility. The year 1996 popped out of my memory bank quite spontaneously, so I have checked it out :-
“Over 10 million tonnes of CO2 have been stored in the Utsira formation since the project was started in 1996.”
“Statoil have been re-injecting CO2 into a deep aquifer overlying the Sleipner field for storage as a test project, over 1 Mton of CO2 per year since 1996.”

As an aside, also see :-

Although there have been apparently positive “noises” regarding the CCS announcement, I think you’ll find it’s mostly people trying to be reasonable, saying “OK, but…”
“WDM welcomes end of unabated coal but fears CCS technology is “a giant gamble with the climate””

As for John Vidal of The Guardian and certain other gentlemen of the Press, I am appalled by their craven obesience to the CCS nonsense (for nonsense it is) :-
“Clean coal push marks reversal of UK energy policy : Decision not to allow any new coal-powered plants to be built in Britain without carbon capture represents a major victory for the new Department for Energy and Climate Change and green pressure groups : John Vidal, environment editor :, Thursday 23 April 2009 17.42 BST…”

From : jo abbess


(Regarding Oliver’s points)

1. Paying for nothing

Why is it that so many Carbon “solutions” being put forward are so cost-inefficient ?

The kind of efficiency improvements you are calculating, from 45% to 56% per unit of electrical generation, could well be achieved by a subtle and cheap combination of new plant design and energy demand management.

Why would it be necessary, in addition to the X hundreds of millions required to build a new coal-fired station, to spend Y hundreds of millions to incorporate Carbon Capture and Storage ?

I see this as an underhand way to get massive subsidies by the private energy companies to build new coal plants. They don’t really intend to do much Carbon Capture and Storage if they can get away without doing so, by lobbying and tardiness.

But a huge dollop of cash up-front to pay for the plant would be very nice, thank you !

2. The energy overhead

It is not guaranteed that the energy overhead required by Carbon Capture and Storage would amount to just 25% extra coal fuel burned.

That really depends on the technology combinations used in the new plant, which will very much resemble huge chemistry sets, it’s not really efficient as a “bolt-on” option for existing plant.

There are small CCS “demonstrations” going on all over the world, but they are all different, and different scales, and used for different purposes, so costs and energy overheads are not really standardised.

We do not really know how efficient CCS could be in all the proposed forms – and this is a major risk in our commitment to it. Even the “demonstrations” proposed this week will not give us all the answers, as they will be for limited parts of the new plant – the proposal is for 25% of the total emissions of a station in the near-term.

There are so many possibilities for fudging and compromise, it is astonishing.

And then there’s the “externalised” emissions – emissions that come about because of the transport and pumping from the station to the storage – most definitely not properly scoped yet. One proposal the other day was to use ex-Coca Cola tankers to take Carbon Dioxide to burial grounds. The Guardian this week shows a film with some kind of pipeline proposed running out past the new London Array wind farms in the Thames Estuary and piping north to the Hewett field. Even after laying down the pipes for this, running the pumps will not be Zero Carbon.

3. Fuel comparison

In my opinion, it’s always going to be more efficient to burn Natural Gas than Coal, and Biomethane than Natural Gas and Biomass than Biomethane (maybe).

If we need to have Carbon-negative processes for the geoengineering possibilities, we need to use the most Carbon-neutral fuel and then CCS it.

Coal is always going to be dirtier than any other fuel option apart from Tar Sands / Oil Shales / Bitument / Peat.

Because of the high Carbon component of Coal fuel, even if you ditch thermal methods of Energy extraction and use chemistry to try to produce power, it will still be dirtier than Natural Gas. It’s a case of “anything you can do, I can do better”.

4. Now, not later

The CCS proposal this week is TOO LITTLE TOO LATE in my view.

One reply on “Carbon Capture and Storage : Cease Seeming Serious”

Further to the posted exchange

From : Oliver

Here is the Campaign against Climate Change response (see below).

But how come they are demanding immediate 100% CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] from coal but have nothing much to say about the new CCGTs [Combined Cycle Gas Turbine] that are being built ?

It would make more sense to demand that new coal is as clean as new gas, representing as I calculated 60% capture, before further improvements.

From : Campaign Against Climate Change
Subject : No New Coal – full solutions not half solutions – Demo 30th April 2009

Campaign against Climate Change : NO NEW COAL – without 100% CCS : Full solutions not half solutions : Demonstration, opposite Downing Street, Thursday April 30th 2009 from 6.00 pm

The government’s decision to ban new unabated coal-fired power stations is great ! It represents a big move for the government in a green direction, and we congratulate them for that…

But building new coal-fired power stations without 100% CCS (or close) is a recipe for disaster. Does anyone think the government will close down these new power plants, once built, if full scale CCS is found to be unworkable or hopelessly uneconomic ?

And even in the – arguably rosy case scenario – that the four power stations with 20-25 % CCS are successfully upgraded to 100% after 15 years they will still emit up to 275m tonnes of CO2 – around 50% of the UK’s annual emissions. The latest science makes it clear that we cannot afford those kinds of levels of emissions if we are to have any half decent chance of preventing catastrophic climate change. See for example :-

We cannot afford to get it just ‘half right’ in the fight against climate change. The government must be told there should be no new coal-fired power stations unless they can be guaranteed to have 100% CCS from the start.

This is also about the kind of lead we’re giving to other nations in the run-up to Copenhagen – we should be using CCS to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power stations, not as an excuse to build more. This could just encourage a rash of new coal build around the world on the basis of some vague promise about CCS in the future.

The demonstration will hand in 2 letters to the government – one in a green envelope to congratulate them on banning unabated coal, the other in a carbon-black one – to demand that they go the whole way and ban new coal without 100% CCS. Dress code half green – half black ! (if you fancy !)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.