Bio-CCS has huge cost-effective CO2 abatement potential

Sigrun Srømsøyen

Publish date: August 8, 2011

Written by: Eivind Hoff

Combining biomass with Carbon Dioxide Capture & Storage (bio-CCS) could remove up to 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere by 2050. This is one of the main findings of a study commissioned by IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme to the global energy consultancy company Ecofys. It represents about one third of total global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2010.

The study only looks into the two largest types of potential bio-CCS applications: Combining CCS with biomass combustion for heat and electricity, and biomass conversion to fuels.

‘The combination actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere,’ says Joris Koornneef from Ecofys in a press release. ‘The biomass extracts CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and the CCS takes out the CO2 released in the energy conversion process’.

Power plants and biofuels in the future could thus achieve a negative greenhouse gas balance, in other words become ‘carbon negative’. There are also other sectors where bio-CCS could play a role, e.g. in ammonia production.

In addition to the technical potential and the ‘realisable’ potential (taking account of energy demand scenarios), the ‘Ecofys report also makes an assessment of the economically feasible bio-CCS potential in power and transport: This could exceed 3 billion tonnes/year in negative CO2 emissions by 2050, but is highly sensitive to the CO2 emission price. The cheapest bio-CCS application in the short term will be in bio-ethanol production, but the carbon negative potential is greater when the biomass is allocated to power plants.

‘The report shows that the sustainable supply of biomass, rather than CO2 storage potential, will be the main limiting factor to bio-CCS. It reminds us of how crucial it is to develop new sources of biomass that can be scaled up massively,’ says Eivind Hoff from Bellona Europa. The Bellona Foundation is one of the partners in the Sahara Forest Project, which aims to develop biomass production in desert areas, using salt water.