The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) has released a new report assessing the ability of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to generate negative emissions — Ability of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to generate negative emissions. While not focused specifically on anaerobic digestion, the report has several relevant findings for the AD sector.
The report concludes there are no major scientific obstacles to achieving net carbon dioxide removal through BECCS if sustainable biomass supply chains are implemented. It states that public concerns about bioenergy’s climate impacts can be addressed with proper sustainability certification and transparency around biomass sources.
These conclusions likely extend to anaerobic digestion pathways for BECCS. AD relies on agricultural residues, food waste, and energy crops as feedstocks – all forms of biomass. Implementing sustainability practices and certification for these biomass sources, as the report recommends, would help AD be accepted as a carbon removal solution.
The report emphasises that carbon removal efficiency for any BECCS pathway depends on minimising emissions across the supply chain. For AD, this means attentiveness to impacts from feedstock cultivation, transport, and biogas upgrading and use. Tracking and disclosing these emissions is key. Overall, the DESNZ report provides a promising outlook for GGR solutions like BECCS and anaerobic digestion while prescribing transparency and supply chain sustainability as prerequisites.
It is critical that the UK government recognise anaerobic digestion as a mature, ready-to-deploy technology with substantial potential to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors. AD can make sustainable use of waste biomass streams while producing renewable energy and nutrient-rich digestate. As policies continue to be developed around biomass sustainability and carbon removal, it is important to acknowledge the nuances between various biomass applications. Ethanol, incineration, anaerobic digestion and other bioenergy pathways have distinct feedstock needs, conversion processes, and climate impacts. Accounting for these differences will allow tailored policies that enable anaerobic digestion to reach its full decarbonisation potential in a timely manner, supporting the UK in meeting its legally binding net-zero emission targets.
Summary of the Report
- The report focuses on assessing the ability of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to generate negative emissions and permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
- The UK Government has set ambitious greenhouse gas removal targets, likely requiring BECCS deployment. The report aims to address concerns raised about using BECCS.
How BECCS Works
- BECCS relies on biomass conversion processes like combustion, gasification, or fermentation to produce energy products. The resulting CO2 is captured and stored underground.
- BECCS can use various biomass feedstocks including dedicated energy crops, agricultural residues, forest biomass, and waste materials.
- The carbon removal efficiency of BECCS depends on minimising carbon leakage across the supply chain during feedstock cultivation, harvest, processing, and transport.
Is Biomass Carbon Neutral?
- The report focuses on assessing the carbon neutrality of forest biomass, not agricultural residues or wastes.
- Certification schemes like the Sustainable Biomass Program aim to validate sustainability claims for woody biomass used for energy.
Public Acceptability Concerns
- General public concerns around bioenergy’s climate impact also apply to BECCS.
- Emphasises the importance of transparency, robust sustainability certification, and monitoring of biomass sources to address concerns.
- The report concludes there are no major scientific barriers to net CO2 removal via BECCS with sustainable biomass supply chains.
- Supply chain sustainability certification and transparency around biomass sources can help address public concerns about BECCS.