Core Research Projects: Systems & Policy, CA1 – BECCS within the energy system


Key facts about this core research project

Theme: Systems & Policy
Researchers: Dr Niall Mac Dowell, Prof Nilay Shah
Institution: Imperial College London
Start date: 2017

Why is this research needed?

In order to meet the Paris climate target, we need to remove significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, with bioenergy plus CCS (BECCS) considered a promising option. However, sustainable biomass is a scarce resource, and must be used in the best manner possible. This work will study how biomass can optimally be used to both remove CO2 from the atmosphere and simultaneously provide renewable energy services.

What is this research investigating?

Building on detailed (first principles) technical modelling of oxy- and amine-BECCS[1] and drawing on the work in AC1 BECCS, we conduct a socio-techno-economic analysis of the potential role for BECCS in the larger energy system. We will use optimisation techniques to assess how to remove CO2 from the atmosphere at the least cost and identify the preferred design and configurations across net negative options including BECCS.

Thermal plant tends to get displaced by intermittent renewables – but an idle BECCS plant is of little value; so the question is how to extract the maximum value from a BECCS plant? We will evaluate using BECCS to remove CO2 from the atmosphere via baseload operation, and storing the electricity via H2 production. We will seek to address some critical questions: What is the best (e.g., least cost per tCO2 removed from the atmosphere) way to achieve this? Is the best option pulverised fuel thermal plant collocated and integrated with electrolysis (for example, an oxy-CCS plant could use the H2), or a BIGCC-CCS plant? What is the best use of carbon-negative H2 (heating, transport, chemicals)? What are the technical constraints of injection into the gas network? How can BECCS be integrated into a renewable energy system: BECCS plants will need to operate within a decarbonised system that will include a greater degree of electrification of the energy system and greater penetration of renewable energy sources than is currently the case. We will explore how BECCS plant can best operate within a system that minimises time that BECCS plant are idle, for example linking baseload electricity for energy storage (for example, generating hydrogen) for alternative end uses. We will also work closely with successful projects under the current NERC/EPSRC/ESRC GGR call and meet with relevant projects at an early stage to ensure engagement and coordination of activities.

[1] Mac Dowell, N. and Staffell, I. 2016, Int. J. Greenh. Gas Control 48, 327-344

What does the research hope to achieve?

We will build on the work in WP AC1 but broaden the analysis to consider the impact of BECCS on the wider energy system including integration with renewables.

Research updates

See below for recent updates and resources on this research project.


Spring 2021 Web Series presentation

See the presentation from our Spring 2021 web series >>

Research outputs

Find links to publications, datasets and any other outputs below.


International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control

The role and value of negative emissions technologies in decarbonising the UK energy system



Real-World Challenges with a Rapid Transition to 100% Renewable Power Systems