BECCS deployment: a reality check

Topics: Mitigation, Energy and Low-Carbon Futures
Type: Briefing paper
Publication date: December 2018

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Summary

Authors: Mathilde Fajardy, Dr. Alexandre Köberle, Dr. Niall Mac DowellDr. Andrea Fantuzzi

A field of biofuel cropsThis briefing paper explores the role that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technologies can really play in meeting global climate change targets. The authors consider different BECCS technologies, the energy and environmental costs and benefits associated with each, and why BECCS can only make a limited contribution to climate change goals.

Headlines

  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is presented as a pivotal technology in most pathways for limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2°C. However, it is doubtful that BECCS can fulfil this role alone.
  • BECCS is not a single technology. Understanding the value and challenges associated with each BECCS technology is complex but vital.
  • Depending on the conditions of its deployment, BECCS may be beneficial but it can also be detrimental to climate change mitigation, due to its lifecycle carbon dioxide balance, energy balance and resource use.
  • It is challenging to ensure that BECCS delivers timely and sustainable net carbon removal, while also generating energy at an appropriate scale.
  • Considering these uncertainties and the potential impact on resources, biodiversity and soil health, the scale of BECCS deployment should be limited only to circumstances where it is proven to be beneficial.
  • Good governance and financial incentives are required to stimulate high-quality BECCS at this limited scale.
  • Policymakers should be sceptical about a future that is uniquely or heavily reliant on BECCS, and instead prepare for and implement alternative mitigation options as soon as possible.

Download: BECCS deployment - a reality check [PDF] 

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[Image credit: Richard_Pinder]