The Carbon Capture and Sequestration Mirage

CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) has been hailed as a sort of silver bullet by those who want us to accept UK shale gas as a bridge fuel to a future based on renewable fuels. Without it it is clear that if we are to meet our climate change obligations the gas simply has to remain in the ground. This was made abundantly clear by the “Task Force on Shale Gas”. Even though this group is actually funded by the industry its recent report made it very clear that CCS is something without which shale simply cannot be contemplated, and that government must not use shale gas revenues as a fiscal “get out of jail free” card, but must invest that income in climate change mitigation, including the promotion of renewables and CCS. Their September 2015 report “Assessing the Impact of Shale Gas on Climate Change” concludes:

..the Task Force is convinced that for a shale gas industry to serve appropriately as a transitional fuel it is important that it is clearly demonstrated that this will not prohibit or slow the development of renewables and low carbon energy industry. We believe that government should commit to deploying the government energy specific revenue derived from a developed shale gas industry to investment in R&D and innovation in CCS and low carbon energy generation, storage and distribution.

This is of course rather inconvenient for the pro-frackers who have seized upon the paragraph in the report which reads

“The Task Force believes that the development of a CCS industry should not be seen as a pre-requisite for initial exploratory drilling for shale gas in the UK”

to try to winkle some doubt into the idea that the report says that CCS and shale gas production must go together. To my mind this is makes the Task Force’s position hopelessly conflicted, as they appear to be wanting to give the go-ahead to the industry at the same time as they are saying that, without an unproven and seemingly unlikely technology, it can’t go beyond “initial exploratory drilling”. We’d love to know how they imagine this industry will be stopped at that point.

Sadly for the Task Force CCS is a development that appears to be at least equally challenging as resolving the issues surrounding intermittency and storage with renewable energy, and this government’s policy is having a disastrous impact, not just on the development and adoption of renewable energy sources, but it is also impacting on CSS, the very technology that the industry funded “Task Force” admits is a sine qua non of shale gas production.

Today (25 September 2015) we learned that Drax is pulling out of one of only two full-scale CCS projects in the UK citing “changes to the government’s renewable policy” as one of the main reasons.

So the government’s idiotic attacks on the renewable energy sector are now threatening the viability and legitimacy of its pet shale gas project. The irony of these unintended consequences is unmissable isn’t it?

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