Bioenergy key to US emission ambitions

The CEO of one of the world’s biggest power generation firms has said the use of Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is vital for the United States if it is to have any hope of reaching its net zero targets.

Will Gardiner, (pic) CEO of Drax Group was speaking following the publication of a new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in conjunction with the US Department of Energy, which highlighted the supply side options required to deliver President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

BECCS is the process of capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from biomass (organic matter) energy generation.

“The evidence couldn’t be any clearer – only through deploying BECCS at scale can the United States cut its carbon emissions while simultaneously benefitting from reliable, homegrown renewable power to strengthen its energy independence,” Gardiner explained. “BECCS is vital because it can produce reliable renewable power whilst also permanently removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – no other technology does both.

“Drax is the world’s leader in developing power BECCS, having been the first company in the world to capture carbon dioxide from purely biomass combustion. We have been making very encouraging progress towards in delivering BECCS in North America and progressing with site selection, government engagement and technology development

“With the right support from governments, such as the increase in the level of support for carbon removal projects in the Inflation Reduction Act, we stand ready to invest billions in deploying BECCS at scale across the globe to cut carbon emissions and generate renewable power for millions of homes and businesses.”

In terms of the use of BECCS, the study said by 2035, the US will need 100Mt of negative emissions from BECCS to offset remaining positive carbon emissions in the power sector.

It stated: “BECCS results in a net negative emissions rate because carbon from the atmosphere is captured during photosynthesis and then sequestered after combustion.”

To get to 100% clean electricity by 2035, deployment of BECCS must start by 2026 and the installed capacity range must be between 7 and 14GW. The study believe that 7-14GW of BECCS can offset 250-375GW of fossil fuel because it acts as a capacity multiplier.

The report added there is 105 million dry tonnes of sustainable woody biomass fibre available per year to be mobilised

Overall,  the NREL said it finds multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035 that would produce significant benefits, but the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade.

“There is no one single solution to transitioning the power sector to renewable and clean energy technologies,” said Paul Denholm, principal investigator and lead author of the study. “There are several key challenges that we still need to understand and will need to be addressed over the next decade to enable the speed and scale of deployment necessary to achieve the 2035 goal.”