For years, optimists have talked up carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an essential part of taking emissions out of electricity generation. Yes, build wind and solar farms, they have said, but they can’t be relied on to produce enough power all the time. So we’ll still need our fleet of fossil-fuel-burning power stations; we just need to stop them pumping carbon dioxide (CO₂) into the atmosphere.
Most of their emphasis has been on post-combustion capture. This involves removing CO₂ from power station flue gases by absorbing them into an aqueous solution containing chemicals known as amines.
You then extract the CO₂, compress it into a liquid and pump it into a storage facility – the vision in the UK being to use depleted offshore oil and gas fields. One of the big attractions with such a system is it could be retrofitted to existing power stations.
The big let-down
But ten years after the UK government first announced a £1 billion competition to design CCS, we’re not much further forward.
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7 Sept 2017