Carbon Capture and Storage – building a low carbon economy
by Lord Oxburgh
Our world depends on a plentiful supply of reliable energy – particularly electricity.
Currently, and for the foreseeable future, most of this will be provided through burning fossil
fuels. But fossil fuel combustion produces carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas.
It accumulates in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change – that is the verdict of
the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists. The difficulty is that today we
are almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels and even with the best will in the world it will
take decades to move to alternatives.
How then do we ‘square the circle’? How can we continue to meet our energy needs while
preventing further damage to the climate? How can we significally improve our energy
efficiency? The global strategy must have many strands, but one essential strand is Carbon
Capture & Storage (CCS). CCS is a way of taking the carbon dioxide produced from energy-
intensive processes – particularly electricity generation but also other energy intensive
industries such as steel making, cement production, oil refining, etc – and storing it long-term
in carefully chosen deep geological formations, so preventing it getting into the atmosphere.
CCS is not an unproven technology. It is in operation in plants around the world. But today,
we need to step up to a new level. We must scale up the technologies from today’s limited
number of small plants to widespread implementation around the globe. This presents a
number of challenges, mainly practical engineering issues associated with the scale of the
task but also regulatory issues. Some of these need Government intervention and even
We are at a critical juncture in developing CCS. In order for CCS to play its full role in the
fight against climate change, we need to deploy a large number of CCS plants over the next
20 years. Given the timescales needed to complete heavy indu