Carbon capture must be safe and effective in reducing CO2 emissions, members of the public have told the government.
A study of the attitudes of more than 100 people in five UK cities concluded today that the technology could play a role in achieving the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But it revealed concerns about the cost of carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS). Many participants felt CCUS must have a significant impact on CO2 emissions to justify its cost.
The onshore hydrocarbon industry is relying on CCUS to support continued extraction of oil and gas. The technology would also be needed to convert methane from existing sites into blue hydrogen.
The government has said CCUS would play an essential role in meeting climate change goals. It would, ministers have said, help to decarbonise the hardest-to-reach industries and provide low carbon power.
The study, commissioned by the business department, recruited participants in four areas where CCUS may be implemented (Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool, and Port Talbot) and from one city where this was unlikely (Nottingham).
The participants took part in seven online workshops from 1 October 2020-10 November 2020. They were asked to develop criteria that the government should consider for CCUS implementation.
According to the research, support for CCUS was explicitly conditional on it being safe. Participants were most concerned about the safety of storing CO2 under the seabed and about risks to the environment.
There were also worries about the transport of CO2, as well as leaks, earthquakes and harm to marine wildlife.
They wanted the entire CCUS process, including decommissioning, to be safe. Safety features should be supported by strong evidence and explicitly and accessibly communicated.
A small group was strongly opposed to any role for CCUS in achieving net zero. Their attitudes hardened during the study.
They felt that CCUS would tackle the symptoms, rather than the causes of global warming, describing it as a sticking plaster. Some said CCUS would allow the continuation of CO2 emissions and considered it a stop gap that would buy time to end CO2 emissions in other ways.
According to the study, more participants were comfortable about the deployment of CCUS in the UK generally than in their local area.
Views on national deployment were shaped by their opinions on whether CCUS was a desirable solution for reaching net zero.
Views on local deployment were influence by local considerations. Participants identified risks to the environment, as well as safety concerns, noise and disruption during construction and the loss of jobs resulting from decommissioning.
Other conclusions from the project included:
- CCUS contracts should be awarded to ethical companies with a proven record of delivering similar projects
- There should be oversight and regulation of all stages of CCUS projects, independent on government and industry
- CCUS projects should create jobs for local people. Participants in Aberdeen thought CCUS could replace jobs lost in the oil and gas industry.
- There should be inclusive and meaningful engagement with local communities directly affected by CCUS about the risks and costs