Inefficient power generation as an optimal route to negative emissions via BECCS?

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Title: Inefficient power generation as an optimal route to negative emissions via BECCS?
Authors: Mac Dowell, N
Fajardy, M
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Current ambitions to limit climate change to no more than 1.5 °C–2 °C by the end of the 21st century rely heavily on the availability of negative emissions technologies (NETs)—bioenergy with CO2 capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture in particular. In this context, these NETs are providing a specific service by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and therefore investors would expect an appropriate risk-adjusted rate of return, varying as a function of the quantity of public money involved. Uniquely, BECCS facilities have the possibility to generate both low carbon power and remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but in an energy system characterised by high penetration of intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar power plants, the dispatch load factor of such BECCS facilities may be small relative to their capacity. This has the potential to significantly under utilise these assets for their primary purpose of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. In this study, we present a techno-economic environmental evaluation of BECCS plants with a range of operating efficiencies, considering their full- and part-load operation relative to a national-scale annual CO2 removal target. We find that in all cases, a lower capital cost, lower efficiency BECCS plant is superior to a higher cost, higher efficiency facility from both environmental and economic perspectives. We show that it may be preferable to operate the BECCS facility in base-load fashion, constantly removing CO2 from the atmosphere and dispatching electricity on an as-needed basis. We show that the use of this 'spare capacity' to produce hydrogen for, e.g. injection to a natural gas system for the provision of low carbon heating can add to the overall environmental and economic benefit of such a system. The only point where this hypothesis appears to break down is where the CO2 emissions associated with the biomass supply chain are sufficiently large so as to eliminate the service of CO2 removal.
Issue Date: 21-Apr-2017
Date of Acceptance: 20-Mar-2017
ISSN: 1748-9326
Publisher: IOP Publishing:
Journal / Book Title: Environmental Research Letters
Volume: 12
Issue: 4
Copyright Statement: © 2017 The Author(s). Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence ( Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)
Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)
Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (E
Funder's Grant Number: EP/M001369/1
Keywords: Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Physical Sciences
Environmental Sciences
Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences
Environmental Sciences & Ecology
CO2 capture and storage
negative emissions
MD Multidisciplinary
Publication Status: Published
Article Number: 045004
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy
Faculty of Natural Sciences

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