Biomass Power with CCS

Biomass power combined with carbon capture and storage could be the UK’s most effective tool in meeting its renewables goals.
By Lisa Gibson | July 28, 2011

Domestic biomass could provide up to 10 percent of the U.K.’s energy needs by 2050, and coupling biomass power with carbon capture and storage (CCS) may be the single-most important element in creating a cost-effective and sustainable U.K. energy system. So says Akira Kirton, technology strategy manager for the Energy Technologies Institute.

The institute, a public private partnership, is working with numerous partners on a multifaceted project that includes the exploration of cost-effectiveness, technology challenges and technology developments required for biomass power combined with CCS. The £455,000 ($734,000) biomass CCS project will provide clarity on what further developments are required to better understand the option and what opportunities it could generate for the U.K. Any advancement would undoubtedly benefit other regions of the world, as well, satisfying emissions complaints and converting the carbon neutral source into one that achieves net reductions in carbon emissions.

The project is expected to last up to eight months and will include four focus areas: a technology landscape review of biomass and CCS technologies working in multiple combinations with each other; a high-level engineering study on five to eight technology combinations of biomass with CCS, chosen from the first focus area; a modeling exercise for integration with the ETI’s biomass value chain modeling project; and recommendations in terms of highlighting the benefits and risks of progressing this technology area and potential follow-up projects.

Biomass technologies to be explored in combination with CCS systems include fixed grate, bubbling fluidized bed, circulating fluidized bed, dual fluidized bed, and entrained-flow gasification dedicated through to cofiring with coal, Kirton says. The CCS technologies span precombustion and oxy-firing, to post-combustion technologies such as solvent scrubbing, solid sorbents, ionic liquids, membrane separation, chemical looping and others. “Clearly, not all combinations will naturally work together,” Kirton says.

Subsequently, the ETI is looking to develop one or two larger-scale technology demonstration projects in the $20 million range, Kirton says. “At this stage, the feasibility projects have been set up to help provide the appropriate benefits case and shape to these projects, hence it is too early to suggest what form these shall take.”

The ETI has been tasked with developing mass-scale technologies that will help the U.K. meet its 2020 and 2050 targets. The region has set a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020 and a carbon emission reduction of 80 percent by 2050. Besides biomass energy with CCS, the ETI’s multifaceted, £4.57 million research will also include an in-depth field trial to study ecosystem and sustainability in energy crop growth, and the exploration of key challenges in developing sustainable U.K. bioenergy supply chains for heat, power and transportation fuels production.

All of the ETI’s biomass research holds benefits to the global biomass industry, but it’s hard to ignore the unbridled potential of coupling biomass power with CCS. “In terms of the industry, the potential value of ‘negative carbon’ in helping countries meet ambitious climate change targets could certainly be there,” Kirton says. “In order to deliver this, there would need to be an official mechanism put into place to value this.”

—Lisa Gibson