1.4Mha of second-generation crops could boost biomass, report says

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology must be utilised, the report says
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology must be utilised, the report says

The UK Government has been urged to increase biomass volume by utilising the planting potential of up to 1.4 Mha of second-generation crops.

In a report released this week, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has recommended an increase in biomass production and the creation of the right environment to advance bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as a core component in a push to a low and net zero carbon UK.

ETI has identified BECCS as economically important to a low carbon transition for the UK.

BECCS delivers negative emissions by using biomass to generate energy, capturing the CO2 emissions from combustion and permanently holding them in geological storage.

ETI analysis shows that producing electricity or hydrogen using BECCS technologies can maximise the potential percentage of CO2 that could be captured.

Because of this, the ETI believes that BECCS will become increasingly important beyond 2050 as the world works towards becoming ‘net zero’.

Without negative emissions, achieving a UK “net zero” emissions target will require the prohibition of certain industrial activities and lifestyle choices or the reliance on imported carbon credits from other countries, the institute says.

1.4Mha of biomass crops

The report recommends that the UK looks to increase biomass production as there is potential for up to 1.4 Mha of second-generation crops to be planted without detriment to current levels of food production.

The ETI warns that by constraining biomass resource availability, the total cost of decarbonisation to the country will rise, requiring more expensive measures to be taken in other parts of the energy system to continue to meet emissions targets.

Currently, the Contracts for Difference scheme is the only policy support mechanism for new biomass to power technologies. It has so far only been awarded to 1,671 MW of biomass and waste technologies, with the next auction expected to take place in May 2019.

Geraint Evans, bioenergy project manager at the ETI said: “This review of our work over the last decade recommends increasing biomass production through the planting of second-generation crops, increasing delivery of more physically and chemically consistent feedstocks and the development of gasification to produce clean syngas from biomass and wastes now, buying flexibility for the future because of the continued role of gaseous fuels in the energy system moving forward.

“Our modelling has shown that bioenergy’s valuable role in a future energy transition is dependent on a number of factors such as, the demand for different energy vectors (power, heat and fuels) the availability of alternative low carbon energy sources and the rate of deployment of low carbon technologies,” he said.