Are BECCS projects being deployed at a sufficient scale globally?

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Last month saw the publication of a new set of “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways” (SSPs) for input into the climate models which feed into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment. While the details behind these SSPs will be left to the socio-demographic economic modelling experts, these new SSPs will prove critical for shaping climate policy over the next decade. A clear conclusion from the new SSPs is that that they rely heavily on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to avoid the impacts of climate change. Also apparent is the scale of deployment required, with some previous models suggesting BECCS could contribute up to 10 Gt of CO2 per year of the carbon budget.

Political ambitions, recent modelling and the scale of the mitigation task at hand, would suggest that BECCS must play a significant role in avoiding the impacts of climate change. An important question therefore, is whether BECCS projects are being deployed at a sufficient scale globally?


The Global CCS Institute’s analysis of global CCS operations, reveals that currently there are only two large-scale BECCS facilities planned and in operation worldwide. These are the Illinois Industrial CCS Facility in the United States of America and the Norwegian Full-Scale CCS Facility.

Closer scrutiny of these operations reveals that only the Illinois Facility is operating and biomass represents only approximately less than half of the fuel to be utilised in the Norwegian Facility. Moreover, today only one million tonnes of CO2 per year is captured and stored from large-scale BECCS facilities.  To meet our ambitious climate change objectives, we will require a 1,000 fold increase in deployment between now and 2100. To put this more starkly, over 12 large-scale BECCS facilities must be deployed per year between 2020 (only two years away) and 2100. Today, only the Norwegian Facility is in the pipeline.

A more optimistic perspective may be found in the number of demonstration and pilot-scale BECCS projects that have been completed around the world. These projects support several industries using various types of biomass. The fundamentals of BECCS are well understood and whilst there are significant uncertainties surrounding the capacity of BECCS that can be sustainably deployed which need to be addressed, BECCS is a mature technology.

BECCS is only one of a suite of applications that require CCS. From hydrogen production to decarbonise heavy transport and heat to steel and cement production, the petrochemical industry and gas processing, CCS must be deployed to meet climate goals.