Press releases

New Ecofys study for the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme

Published: 03/08/2011

Large global potential for negative CO2 emissions through biomass linked with carbon dioxide capture and storage

Utrecht/Cheltenham, 03 August 2011 - Combining biomass with Carbon Dioxide Capture & Storage could result in an annual global potential of up to 10 gigatonnes of negative CO2 emissions in the year 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. Compared to the almost 31 gigatonnes of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2010, this represents a huge CO2 emissions reduction potential.

Feeding biomass to energy conversion processes for electricity or biofuel production with subsequent capture and storage of CO2 from these sources – Bio-CCS in short – results in a negative greenhouse gas balance. “The combination actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere,” says Joris Koornneef from Ecofys. “The biomass extracts CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and the CCS takes out the CO2 released in the energy conversion process”.

The study identifies the global sustainable biomass potential and the CO2 storage potential. “One prerequisite is sustainable biomass production,” Koornneef says. “In most regions, the sustainable supply of biomass, rather than CO2 storage potential, is likely to be the limiting factor. But worldwide, there is ample sustainable biomass available to achieve negative emissions.”

Ecofys identifies six promising technology routes in the power and transport sectors, including biomass combustion and gasification for power production, and biomass conversion to bio-ethanol and biodiesel. Taking only technical limitations into account, the maximum annual potential is approximately either 10 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes) of negative emissions in the power sector or 6 gigatonnes in the biofuel sector. In the short term, bio-ethanol production is the most promising option as it allows CO2 capture at relatively low cost.

Currently, a major hindrance is the lack of a clear economic incentive to store CO2 from biomass and create negative emissions. Without such an incentive, the huge potential for negative emissions will not be deployed. In the near term, useful preparatory work would involve a more detailed look at the most promising regions where sustainable biomass production and conversion can be combined with CCS.

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The full report can be requested from IEAGHG by contacting Toby Aiken, Communications and Dissemination Manager;
T: +44(0)1242 680753
F: +44(0)1242 680758

Background notes
The aim of this study is to provide a first order assessment of the potential for Biomass and CCS (BE-CCS) technologies up to 2050, with an additional focus on the medium term (i.e. 2020 to 2030). A distinction is made between technical potential (the potential that is technically feasible and not restricted by economic limitations), realisable potential (the potential that is technically feasible and takes future energy demand and scenarios for the phase out of existing generating capacity into account) and economic potential (the potential at competitive cost compared to alternatives). In some circumstances the difference between these potentials can be large and it is therefore imperative to understand these differences before the deployment of these technologies. In addition to quantitative estimates of these potentials in the form of regional and global supply curves, recommendations are made on how to overcome possible obstacles and enhance drivers to stimulate the deployment of Bio-CCS technologies.

Negative CO2 emissions associated with the realisable potential range between 0.3 and 2.3 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent/year in 2030 and between 0.8 and 3.2 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent/year in 2050.

The economic potential of biomass and CCS that can potentially compete with fossil technologies amounts to negative emissions of either up to 3.5 gigatonnes in the power sector or 3.1 gigatonnes in the biofuel sector.

Estimates of the economic potential are highly sensitive to assumptions on CO2 and biomass prices. Ecofys also identifies other important drivers and barriers that influence deployment of these technologies.

Note to the editors

About Ecofys -
Ecofys is a leading knowledge and innovation company that operates in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change. It delivers research and service solutions from product development to implementation management. Its clients are energy companies, financial institutions and corporate businesses, governments and local authorities, international institutions, project developers, housing associations, building companies and energy consumers around the world.

For further information, please contact:

Mariëlle Vosbeek
Press Office
Kanaalweg 15-G
3526 KL Utrecht
T: +31 (0)30 662-3402

About IEAGHG -
The IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme (IEAGHG) is an international collaborative research programme established in 1991 as an Implementing Agreement under the International Energy Agency (IEA). IEAGHG studies and evaluates technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions derived from the use of fossil fuels. The Programme aims to provide its members with definitive information on the role that technology can take in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

IEAGHG takes pride in being an informed but unbiased source of technical information on greenhouse gas mitigation.

The programme’s main activities are:

  •     To evaluate technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  •     To help facilitate the implementation of potential mitigation options.
  •     To disseminate the data and results from evaluation studies.
  •     To help facilitate international collaborative research, development and demonstration activities (R, D & D).

For further information, please contact:
Ameena Camps
T: +44 (0)1242 680753