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Unlocking the potential of bioenergy with carbon capture and utilisation or storage (BECCUS)

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.


What is the aim of this project?

This project, under the Bioenergy TCP, looks into the opportunities of capturing carbon dioxide and either using it (CCU) or storing it (CCS) in energy and industrial installations that use biomass as a feedstock.

Next to a steep reduction of fossil fuel emissions, systems that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be needed to keep global warming well below 2°C, the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement. These carbon dioxide removal systems – known as CDR or negative emissions technologies – include bioenergy with carbon capture and utilisation or storage (BECCUS). BECCUS is likely to be an important means of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere in the coming decades, while producing renewable energy in the form of heat, power and transport fuels.

The project’s components include case studies and an analysis of carbon accounting in BECCUS supply chains to determine the actual carbon footprint – the overall carbon emissions – of such systems. The overall objective is to identify the main obstacles to deploying sustainable BECCUS supply chains and recommend how policy frameworks and business models could meet these challenges.

How could the project be explained to a high school student?

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage or utilisation (BECCUS) starts from producing heat, power or biofuels from biomass. Biomass typically comprises residues, or by-products, of forestry and agriculture, along with organic wastes. When biomass is processed, CO2 from the exhaust emissions or from process emissions can be captured. This CO2 can then be stored in the underground (CCS) or the CO2 can be used in chemical processes to produce materials (CCU). CO2 absorbed by plants during their growth is not be re-emitted to the atmosphere but stored underground or in products. This means that CO2 is actually extracted from the atmosphere, which is vital to reduce global warming. The BECCUS system also produces energy, avoiding the use of fossil fuels.

How could the project help to achieve climate and energy goals?

  • BECCUS systems are among the main options to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, which is crucial for achieving long-term climate goals.
  • BECCUS systems also produce energy – in the form of heat, power or transport fuels – and thus replace fossil fuels in the energy system.
  • Adding CCS or CCU to a bioenergy system adds a layer of complexity so it is important to assess the overall carbon reduction potentials of BECCUS supply chains to ensure that favourable carbon balances are reached.

What government policies could advance this project?

  • Rewarding CO2 savings and storage, so they can be part of a business plan
  • Supporting pilot and demonstration plants
  • Setting up infrastructure for transportation and storage of CO2
Schematic view of BECCUS

Schematic view of BECCUS. Source: IEA Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy (2017)


Partners

  • SEI (Sweden)
  • DBFZ (Germany)
  • IFEU (Germany)
  • Ea Energy Analyses (Denmark)
  • SINTEF (Norway)
  • NTNU (Norway)
  • LUT (Finland)
  • VTT (Finland)
  • Imperial College (United Kingdom)
  • INL (United States)
  • Other members of IEA Bioenergy Tasks

Funders

  • Bioenergy TCP membership
  • Other strategic in-kind contributions by the participating organisations

Expected project duration

January 2019-December 2024 (phase 2, which will run from 2021 to 2024, is under preparation)


About the Bioenergy TCP

The Bioenergy TCP, created in 1976, aims to increase knowledge and understanding of bioenergy systems to facilitate the commercialisation and market deployment of environmentally sound, socially acceptable and cost-competitive low-carbon bioenergy systems and technologies, and to advise policy makers and industrial decision makers accordingly.