Coal emits more carbon per unit of electricity than any other fuel, and consequently, in a low carbon future it can only be part of our energy mix if something can be done to significantly reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers the possibility of capturing up to 90% of the CO2 emitted when coal is burnt in a power station. The world has abundant coal reserves, which will be used for energy as countries develop their economies.
CCS is the only technology option currently available that could allow these resources to be used without adding to the damaging effects of climate change.
CCS is an integrated process that involves
- the capture of CO2 from large point sources of emissions (typically a fossil fuel power station);
- the compression of the CO2 to a liquid for transport;
- the transport of the captured CO2 to a storage site; and
- the long-term (at least 1000 years) storage of the CO2 in deep geological formations such as depleted oil and gas fields.
All the components of a CCS plant have been tried and tested although the technology has yet to be implemented in a large scale fossil fuel plant.
For the past seven years, Tyndall Manchester’s CCS work has focused on public and stakeholder perceptions of CCS. Our work has been funded by UK research councils, the EU and the Technology Strategy Board.
CCS is a new and remote technology of which the UK public remains largely unaware and about which people have yet to have clear opinions. People’s perceptions of CCS have been found to be very much dependent on how much people know about CCS and their wider understanding of the climate change contexts within which CCS is being discussed.
When people are first introduced to CCS concerns are focused upon safety and risks, particularly from the storage of CO2. When people learn more about the technology, and particularly are able to discuss it with experts, many of these concerns can be overcome. Trust in experts is the most important factor in the acceptance of risk. Harder to allay are concerns related to governance, regulatory and financial aspects of CCS deployment. However, these issues may be overcome through mechanisms which distribute the benefits, as well as the costs of the technology fairly, to ensure that there is local benefit as a result of CCS deployment.