The UK needs carbon capture and storage (CCS) as part of its energy mix to minimise the cost of decarbonising our economy. CCS will have to fit into an electricity market that is increasingly dominated by inflexible nuclear and uncontrollable wind. It will therefore be vital that the CCS plants we develop are sufficiently flexible to interact with this new system, and balance the rapid start and cycling abilities with the lowest possible capital and operating costs. Flexible CCS will be characterised by the ability to simultaneously interact with the complex electricity system of the future and also the downstream CO2 transport and storage system. Rather than burning fuel purely in response to electricity price, CCS operators will also have to factor in waste storage costs, which will suffer similar complexity due to constraints on CO2 transport and injection rates and gas composition.
This project will identify the flexibility bottlenecks in the CCS chain and also promising options for the development of resilient CCS systems. These models will internally calculate CCS plant load factors and electricity wholesale prices, thereby enabling a rigorous, technologically- and temporally-explicit, whole systems analysis. Feedback from CO2 storage operations will exert an as-yet unknown impact on the feasible operating space of the decarbonised power plant. We will explicitly quantify the interactions between the above- and below-ground links in the CCS chain. Sample CCS chains developed will be assessed in more detail concerning their broader role in the UK energy system. The implications of technological improvements in critical technologies such as advanced sorbents, improved air separation technologies and the availability of waste heat will also be considered.
On a larger scale, the inter-operation of sample UK-specific CCS networks with intermittent renewable energy generation will be examined from an internally consistent whole-systems perspective. The internalisation of exogenous boundary conditions (e.g., the role of renewable energy and CCS plant load factors) and the development of multi-source-to-sink CCS system models will enable the most accurate assessment to date of how CCS will fit into the UK energy system and would interact with other energy vectors. The linking of CCS and renewable energy generation system models will allow us to examine the opportunities and impacts associated with the co-deployment of renewable energy and CCS in the UK. This will feed into a wider policy analysis that will examine the dynamics of changing system infrastructure at intermediate time periods between now and 2050.
Dissemination of research output will be continuous over the duration of the project. We will engage with the academic community via publication in the international peer reviewed scientific literature and presenting at selected conferences. Owing to the topical nature of this research, public engagement is a priority for us. We plan on creating and managing a project webpage will provide real time insight into project progress and intermediate conclusions and results. All research papers and presentations will be available from this site. Similarly, we will conduct a continuous horizon scanning activity as part of this project. Our website will be continuously updated with a view to providing an understanding of where our research fits in the broader UK and international research arena.
This work will be carried out via the development and integration of detailed mathematical models of each link in the CCS chain. We have engaged with a leading UK-based software development company with whom we will work to make these models available to the academic and broader stakeholder community. Further, a version of the modelling tools suitable for use by the general public will also be prepared. It is expected that this tool will be analogous in form and functionality to the DECC 2050 Calculator.