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UK 'summit' aims to kick-start carbon capture projects

London — The UK government aims to get the country's first carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) project up and running by the mid-2020s, energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said Wednesday as energy ministers and industry leaders met to advance CCUS ahead of next week's COP24 climate conference. The plan, set out by Perry and International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol, aims to revive Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage projects that ground to a halt in the UK earlier in the decade. It follows publication of a UN report Tuesday that showed global carbon emissions had resumed climbing last year, after three flat years, and are set for a further rise this year. The goal is to capture carbon emissions from power stations and carbon-intensive industries such as cement, chemicals, steel and oil refining and either reuse the carbon in cement manufacture or other processes, or store it underground, probably in depleted North Sea fields. Such energy-intensive industries produce around 24% of the world's carbon emissions, the IEA estimates.

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The UK plan envisages GBP20 million ($25 million) of spending on installing CCUS technologies at industrial sites and GBP315 million of spending on decarbonizing such sites. Detailed plans for the first large-scale CCUS facility will be published next year, with a longer term goal of rolling out CCUS technology "at scale" in the 2030s. "The UK is setting a world-leading ambition for developing and deploying carbon capture and storage technology," Perry said in a statement in advance of the Edinburgh meeting, to be attended by the CEOs of some of the world's biggest energy companies and officials from Europe, the US, Japan and the UAE.

"The time is now to seize this challenge to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new industry." Perry will unveil an 'Acorn' project to be based at St Fergus on the Scottish coast focused on the transportation of carbon emissions to storage sites, with GBP175,000 of UK government funding to be matched by the Scottish government and European Commission. And industry group the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, comprised of some of the world's biggest energy companies, will unveil another project entailing capturing carbon from a gas-fired power plant in northeast England on Teesside. Achieving international climate goals will be "practically impossible" without CCUS, the IEA's Birol said. "CCUS can also enhance energy security and boost economic prosperity, yet up until now progress has been muted and if this continues the challenges we face in the energy sector will become infinitely greater," he said. Globally, with coal-fired power still relied on by many countries, "there is no other technology solution that can significantly reduce emissions from a large and relatively young fleet of coal power generation," the IEA said. "While there are fewer than 20 large-scale CCUS projects in operation, there are today no technological barriers to their development." Another government-backed scheme, a Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage pilot project, got underway this week at the Drax power station in North Yorkshire, which runs partly on wood pellets, with the first carbon capture due in a matter of weeks. Last month the International Panel on Climate Change warned that past carbon emissions had already caused 1 degree Celsius of global warming and said the world was not on track to meet the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016. The IEA estimates existing energy infrastructure such as power plants, industrial facilities and buildings will emit 550 Gigatons of CO2, which are "locked in" over the period to 2040, equating to 95% of CO2 emissions permitted under its "Sustainable Development Scenario."

--Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, newsdesk@spglobal.com