“Net Zero compliance at risk if we do not build Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage” finds first-of-its-kind modelling assessment

  • Energy Systems Catapult has undertaken an assessment of the status of DACCS technologies and their potential role in achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050
  • The government-funded assessment found that “Net Zero is dependent on the capacity for the [energy] system to create negative emissions”
  • The report found that if delays to the rollout of DACCS leads to a reduction in the total amount of DACCS that can be deployed in 2050, then Net Zero compliance is at risk

A first-of-its-kind assessmentEIRO – Direct Air Carbon Capture & Storage (DACCS) – on the commercial scale deployment of Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) across the whole UK energy system has been undertaken by Energy Systems Catapult on behalf of the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero.

To comply with our Net Zero ambitions, the assessment found that negative emissions from biomass and DACCS in the order of 75MtCO2 could be needed, dependent on decarbonisation progress in other sectors. Failing to deploy DACCS (or deploying DACCS too late) would put the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target at risk.

The report found that if DACCS plants were deployed to the maximum deployable capacity, they could act as an important source of negative emissions needed to counteract emissions from difficult to decarbonise sectors such as agriculture, aviation, and industry.

“Sectors such as aviation and agriculture represent one of our most difficult Net Zero innovation challenges, tremendous work is being done in this space, but until we crack it, these sectors will continue putting our 2050 ambitions at risk”, said Matthew Joss, Practice Manager Engineering & Analysis at Energy Systems Catapult. “DACCS – if deployed at scale – could give us more time to work on solutions to these challenges. DACCS would also act as a useful option to hedge against slow adoption of low carbon behaviours across society – such as taking fewer flights abroad and reducing our meat consumption”.

While DACCS undoubtedly has a role to play in a future energy system, it is not a silver bullet to the challenge of meeting Net Zero.

The location of DACCS sites would need to be considered. The Catapult’s report sets out the priority order for the UK’s deployment of DACCS:

  • DACCS plants that utilise waste heat are deployed first
  • Natural Gas fuelled DACCS plants are next to be deployed
  • Net Zero systems then deploy hydrogen fuelled DACCS plants whilst non-compliant systems deploy high temperature DACCS

Owing to limitations on land availability compared to countries such as the United States of America, the report calls for a strategic approach to the deployment of DACCS in infrastructure optimal locations. This could include co-locating with nuclear power stations such as Hinkley, Hartlepool, and Sizewell, where there is – or will be – a plentiful supply of electricity and waste heat. Building fewer, larger DACCS sites could result in a reduction in new-build infrastructure and grid reinforcement costs, while sourcing all energy requirements on site – heat and electricity – would reduce operational costs.

DACCS technologies require substantial resources per tonne of CO2 captured, largely in the form of energy as heat in the regeneration process. High temperature DACCS technologies deployed today require in the region of 1,700-2,500kWh of energy per tonne of CO2 captured.

Innovating to reduce the regeneration process temperature at DACCS facilities is key to enabling energy requirements to be met with renewable electricity generation and waste heat sources. For instance, renewable electricity could satisfy process electricity and heating requirements and be used in off-grid or off-shore scenarios. While renewable heat could be used to supply heat for low temperature DACCS facilities.

To make the deployment of DACCS a reality, the report sets out nine recommendations in the areas of data collection, national strategy, and DAC integration.

Data collection

On data collection, Energy Systems Catapult will be making the input data from this assessment publicly available to promote industry collaboration and to aid the identification of gaps in the data. Filling in such gaps and revising technical and cost projections will be crucial as the first large-scale plants come online over the coming years.

The project team are also calling for gaps in data on industrial waste heat availability to be filled to better enable long term planning on the co-location of DACCS at sites where there is a high level of energy use. Limited data currently exists and risks dampening the UK’s ability to plan adequately for the roll out of DACCS.

National strategy

The UK needs a proactive, national DACCS strategy that promotes a shared understanding of the impact DACCS could have on the energy system and the implications this is likely to have on siting and sizing requirements. This should be joined up with the UK’s approach to deploying Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and CCS infrastructure. This would need to be considered alongside factors such as pipeline and grid connections, and existing land use. Failure to bring together disparate elements of the UK’s energy makeup could result in delays to the rollout of DACCS, in turn, harming our pursuit of Net Zero by 2050.

DAC Integration

Further work needs to be undertaken to understand the implications of co-locating DACCS with power plants. “Ideal” sites exist today for co-location and could be used to develop roadmaps for integration.

While the assessment’s focus was on DAC technologies for CO2 capture and permanent storage, there are utilisation options for CO2 in industries such as food and beverage. These areas would reduce the need for fossil fuel CO2 emissions but would at most be net carbon neutral. There may be interest on the impact of these technologies versus their current fossil fuel equivalents – particularly with the recent closure announcement of the ammonia plant at Billingham, one of the UK’s biggest producers of CO2.

“The report has laid bare the fundamental necessity of DACCS to meet our Net Zero aims and ambitions”, said Matthew Joss. “We cannot afford to dither and delay – building out our capacity for negative emissions is essential”.

“We have laid the groundwork for further research, study, and collaboration on the commercial scale deployment of DACCS. By providing our initial thinking, recommendations, and datasets, we want to spark a conversation with industry on how we make DACCS deployment a reality. Our datasets are there to be scrutinised, we want to hear from others on what is missing, what gaps are there in the data, and what is likely to spur collaboration”.

Read the Report

EIRO – Direct Air Carbon Capture & Storage (DACCS)

Whole Systems & Networks

We equip you with the evidence, insights and innovations needed to deliver the future Net Zero energy system

Find out more

Want to know more?

Find out more about how Energy Systems Catapult can help you and your teams