Executive Summary

BECCS is the combination of biomass processing or combustion with CCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage). It involves applying CCS technology to biomass carbon dioxide (CO2) point emission sources and uses technologies for transportation and storage of CO2 that are to a large extent identical to those applied to CCS involving fossil fuels.

BECCS achieves a permanent net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, or negative CO2 emissions in scientific terminology. This aspect sets the technology apart from most other mitigation alternatives, which can only create temporary sinks or decrease the amount of emissions to the atmosphere.

BECCS could be applied to a wide range of biomass related technologies, such as power plants (both dedicated biomass plants and plants which co-fire biomass and fossil fuels), combined heat and power plants, a range of flue gas streams from the pulp industry such as from recovery boilers and lime kilns, fermentation in ethanol production, and biogas refining processes, as well as novel technologies such as gasification of biomass. The typical scale of these biogenic CO2 point sources varies considerably. Whereas a biogas facility can emit as little as a few hundred tonnes of CO2 per year, the largest pulp plants emit millions of tonnes annually.

Figure 1 Carbon flow with BECCS

The main concern with BECCS relates to the underlying biomass sourcing, as is the case for all biomass energy systems. Biomass is often produced unsustainably and may contribute negatively in a number of different ways, including carbon emissions, water depletion and loss of biodiversity. If the demand for biomass increases rapidly due to a push to produce BECCS systems, and if these factors are not accounted for, the negative effects may outweigh the benefits of negative CO2 emissions. On the other hand, there is already widespread use of sustainable biomass production in many countries. There are also considerable opportunities to produce biomass sustainably in the future at a large scale.

The negative CO2 emissions that result from BECCS operations have four main implications:

  1. BECCS can mitigate emissions from any CO2 emission source. This means that BECCS can be used to abate the emissions that are the most difficult and expensive to cut back on, such as CO2 from air transportation or small scale emissions.
  2. BECCS can mitigate emissions which have already occurred. This is accounted for in a number of long-term climate scenarios.
  3. BECCS may be considered as a climate mitigation risk management tool, which may be needed due to the uncertainties of climate scenario modelling as well as uncertainties related to the long-term efficiency of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policies.
  4. BECCS can be added as a supplement to other measures, on top of bio-energy use. The application of BECCS would make it possible to reach agreed climate targets at lower costs, and also involves opportunities to raise the ambitions for emission reductions and the pace of climate mitigation work.

In published results from climate scenario modelling, there are a number of projections that regard the magnitude of BECCS implementation in the future, which give BECCS a substantial role. BECCS stands out as a viable, cost effective method to significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Other mitigation methods alone are said to be insufficient or too expensive to reach stringent climate mitigation targets, such as 450 ppm. With BECCS, it is possible to reach below 350 ppm.

This report depicts the 16 first projects worldwide aiming to install a BECCS process. Four of these have been attempts that for various reasons never left the drawing table. Seven have reached different maturity phases of investigation and planning. Three of the installations are under construction, and operations are scheduled to start in 2011. One is in operation and one research pilot project has already been completed. The listed projects are mostly located in Europe and North America, but the majority of future BECCS systems are expected to be found in South America, Asia and Africa.