CCS in the United Kingdom

CCS in the United Kingdom


The United Kingdom has played a leading role in advocating the reduction of CO2 emissions and has strongly supported the deployment of CCS as part of a broader strategy to combat climate change. 

As evidence of this support, the country recently committed £1 billion to the development of a large scale, fully integrated CCS demonstration project, and has announced plans to fund three more such projects.

The UK has endorsed both the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen accord and has expressed its commitment to an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  Over the last 20 years, per capita CO2 emissions in the UK have fallen by about 15 percent, with the average citizen of the UK producing roughly half the CO2 emissions of an American citizen.

Energy profile

Electricity and heat generation accounted for the largest share of the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2008 (about 38 percent), followed by transport (24 percent), and then by manufacturing, construction and other industries (22 percent). 

As far as fuel sources, since 1990 the country has steadily shifted away from coal toward natural gas, so that over the last few years natural gas has produced over 45 percent of the country’s electricity.  The use of coal, meanwhile, has dropped below 33 percent.   That said, coal is likely to continue playing a sizable part in the country’s energy strategy due to large domestic reserves, greater price stability (verses gas) and the reduced capital expenditure required for coal.

Largely as a result of this transition, the UK is emitting seven percent less CO2 than it was in 1990.  The global financial crisis and a slowdown in economic activity has seen CO2 emissions drop even further.


Left: CO2 emissions by sector (IEA, 2008)         Right: Electricity generation by fuel (IEA, 2008)

Policy environment

The UK government has announced plans to become a market leader in CCS innovation and technology.  It estimates the CCS industry – including the transfer of CCS technology to developing nations – will be worth £6.5 billion to the UK by 2030.

As part of this goal, the government has committed £1 billion to the development of a large scale, fully integrated CCS demonstration project, and has announced plans to fund three more such projects.  In addition the government has formed a number of influential CCS networks, with industries proposing numerous large-scale projects throughout the CCS value chain. 

Both the UK and Scottish governments  have introduced legal and policy frameworks to support CCS and build capacity, including the following:

  • The United Kingdom launched its Climate Change Programme in November, 2000.  The programme supported the Kyoto Protocol’s targets and aimed to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent before 2010.  (The country fell significantly short of this target). 
  • As an offshoot of the programme, the Climate Change Act came into force in November 2008, providing a framework to achieve a mandatory 80 percent cut in the UK's CO2 emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).
  • This was followed by the Energy Act 2010 which focused on CCS and established an explicit levy on electricity suppliers to provide financial assistance to four CCS demonstration projects.
  • In October, 2010, the government announced a plan in which a combination of renewable energy, CCS, nuclear and other low-emission energy sources would satisfy over half its energy needs by 2025.  A new Office of Carbon Capture and Storage (OCCC) has been developing the CCS Roadmap to achieve this goal.
  • Scotland has its own Energy Policy, and its own Climate Change Act of 2009, with a target of producing 80 percent of Scotland’s energy from renewable sources by 2050 (nuclear isn’t included in the portfolio).
  • The UK Coalition Government has proposed, and is currently investigating, the use of an Emissions Performance Standard in the UK.  Such a standard would set a legal limit on the emissions from power generation.  In November 2010, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee concluded that there was value in the UK introducing an EPS ahead of the EU.
  • In September 2010, the UK Parliament transposed some important provisions of the Energy Act of 2008 and the CCS Directive into national law.  The law defines “CCS Ready” and requires all new power plants over 300MW, implemented under Section 3 of the Electricity Act 1989, to be CCS Ready.
  • A Directive of the European Parliament sets out a legal framework for the safe geological storage of carbon dioxide and has been transposed into UK law.
  • Other regulations came into force on 1 October 2010, and govern the offshore licensing of CCS (excluding Scotland).  The surveying of CCS storage sites requires a combined Petroleum and Energy Act licence, as well as a Crown Estate lease for any drilling or injection.  
  • The Scottish Government will licence storage within 12 nautical miles of the coast and must be consulted about licences up to 200 miles from the coast.  It’s likely that Schedule 1 of the PPC (Scotland) Regulations 2000 will be amended to include CCS.
  • The UK Government is currently working with the North Sea Basin Task Force to develop common principles for managing and regulating the transport, injection and permanent storage of CO₂ in the North Sea sub-seabed.
  • Currently CO2 is not classified as a 'dangerous substance’ for the purpose of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH), but it is being considered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • In March, 2012, Energy secretary Edward Davey launched a competition worth up to £20 million to fund the development of innovations in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.
  • In April, 2012, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced the establishment of a UK Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Research Centre.
  • In the UK, capture plant and pipelines will be regulated under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

In collaboration with Australia, the UK is leading the Clean Energy Ministerial – CCUS (Carbon Capture Use and Storage Action Group). This group includes a number of international and European players and seeks to facilitate political and business leadership in relation to CCS.

Status of CCS

There are about a half dozen active CCS projects in the United Kingdom and Scotland, and several more planned projects.   

Caledonia Clean Energy Project, Scotlanda full-chain commercial-scale CCS plant in the Port of Grangemouth, west of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth.

C.GEN, Yorkshirea pre-combustion capture facility for a possible 450 MW IGCC plant to be built on a site next to the existing Killinghome Power Station.

Don Valley Power Project, Yorkshire facilitates a move to clean coal technology including carbon capture, based on the long term availability of coal feedstock from the Hatfield Colliery.

Progressive Energy Ltd, North East Englanda 450 MW IGCC plant with pre-combustion capture on a brownfield site on Teesside. If built, around 85% of CO2 emissions will be captured and stored under the North Sea.

SSE Generation Limited, Scotlanda post-combustion capture plant retrofitted to an existing CCGT power station at Peterhead, Scotland.

White Rose, Capture Power Limited, North Yorkshire – oxyfuel new supercritical coal-fired power station on Drax site in North Yorkshire.

Other UK pilot projects include:

Ferrybridge – pilot plant captures 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day from the equivalent five megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power generating capacity.

Aberthaw (RWE npower) – a 3MW post-combustion capture pilot plant at Aberthaw Power Station in Wales. Expected to begin in January with commissioning expected in early 2011.

Renfrew (Doosan Babcock) -- world’s largest ‘OxyCoal’ Clean Combustion Test Facility, designed to demonstrate an ‘OxyCoal’ Clean Combustion system on a 40MWth burner.

Didcot (RWE npower) -- CO2 capture test facilities at Didcot Power Station commissioned in 2008 and testing both post-combustion and oxyfuel capture methods.

Members and key organisations

  • The Institute has over 50 UK-based members representing a cross section of government, industry, research and academia.  Members include:

    Government and Academia

    • Carbon Capture and Storage Association
    • Cardiff University
    • Ecofin Research Foundation
    • Geological Survey of Ireland (GRI)
    • IEA Greenhouse Gas R & D Programme
    • International Aluminium Institute (IAI)
    • IPIECA - International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association
    • Scottish European Green Energy Centre
    • The Government of Scotland
    • The Government of the United Kingdom
    • University College of London
    • University of Leeds (Low Carbon Combustion Centre)


    • Alstom Power Ltd
    • AMEC PLC
    • Anglo American Metallurgical Coal Pty Ltd
    • BG Energy Holdings Ltd
    • Doosan Babcock Energy Limited
    • Drax Power Limited
    • Fluor Ltd
    • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
    • Hess Corporation
    • Howden Group Limited
    • Long O Donnell Associates Ltd
    • Peel Energy Limited
    • Rolls-Royce PLC
    • Standard Chartered Bank
    • The Rhead Group

    View the Institute’s complete members list.