Topics: Carbon Capture and Utilisation, Climate Change, Life Cycle Analysis
Type: 
Briefing paper
Publication date: 
July 2019

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Summary

Authors: Anna Hankin, Gonzalo Guillén Gosálbez, Geoff H. Kelsall, Niall Mac Dowell, Nilay Shah, Shoshana Z. Weider and Kieran Brophy

As a signatory to the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, and in a June 2019 Amendment to the Climate Change Act, the UK has committed to an ambitious transformation of its economy. Decarbonisation of the UK’s economy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. However carbon-based fuels and platform chemicals will remain important to the global economy; their production from captured carbon and renewable energy can support this industrial need. Published in July 2019, this Briefing Paper and accompanying summary Note reports on the the viability of different carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) pathways based on life cycle analysis.

Headlines

  • As a signatory to the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, the UK has committed to an ambitious transformation of its economy.
  • Decarbonisation of the UK’s economy must be a priority, but carbon-based fuels and platform chemicals will remain important to the global economy; their production from captured carbon dioxide and renewable energy can support this industrial need.
  • In this Briefing Note, we report on results of a systematic procedure developed to assess the viability of different carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) pathways.
  • Our findings on three CCU pathways show that proposed CCU projects should be assessed always on a case-by- case basis, using detailed, UK-centric, cradle-to-grave life cycle analyses.
  • CCU cannot provide the emission mitigation rate of carbon capture and storage (CCS), but as the UK’s entire geological storage capacity is offshore, CCU could mitigate emissions from inland point sources.
  • Of the CCU pathways considered, the production of polyurethane is the most promising currently for the UK and could provide an immediate short-term mitigation solution for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At present, methanol production does not appear to be a viable solution.

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