Identifying Research Priorities and assessment needs for the case of Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)

With the attention now shifted to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, many argue that early peeking of global emissions around 2020 and focus on zero emissions are critical for achieving the necessary mitigation and temperature goals. As a result, globally negative CO2 emissions may be required by the second half of the century to remove the gas from the atmosphere and store it on land, underground or in the oceans. In light of this recent “neutral emissions” debate uncertain and at present controversial technologies and practices, as Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), may be the only effective solution forward, as many climate scientists believe that the “limit global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels” target cannot be achieved without removing huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

BECCS is considered a very promising Climate Change Mitigation Option (CCMO) with high potential and, although not yet demonstrated at a commercial scale, it is being included in the majority of the modelling pathways showing how the “2oC” and the new “1.5oC” goals can be achieved. BECCS is considered “carbon negative”, since biomass plants will regrow to fix the CO2 emitted (i.e. carbon neutrality) and CCS will capture and store the CO2 emitted during combustion (i.e. carbon-negative). However, many critics argue that this overlooks emissions from Land Use Change (LUC) and life cycle emissions. Although large BECCS deployment facilitates achieving climate goals in scenarios and provides flexibility in other sectors that are difficult to decarbonize rapidly, large reliance on BECCS has raised reluctance and uneasiness amongst policy-makers, with sustainability risks voiced as the prime concern. It is obvious that the large-scale deployment of BECCS would require vast areas of land for biomass cultivation, which raises competing uses between the conservation of ecosystems and ensuring food security in the face of a still growing population. Further political implications arise from the fact that suitable area for growing biomass is not evenly distributed across the globe and that countries suitable for biomass cultivation lack of CCS “know-how”.

In the framework of the CARISMA Deliverable 4.1 “Report on identifying research needs for climate change mitigation technology options”, our work considers technology associations’ and platforms’ positions on the main research priority areas that will facilitate BECCS further deployment. Our research commenced with reviewing position papers recently published by the Joint Task Force of the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants (ZEP) and the European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP, now ETIP Bioenergy) and BELLONA. Representatives from SINTEF also responded to our call for input to validate on the research challenges we have already identified or to provide additional ones. With their viewpoints as basis, we continued with reviewing a large number of studies from both scientific and grey literature, to connect these viewpoints with inquiries expressed by the academic community. The outcome of this work was the identification of 10 main research priorities and of more specific assessment needs concerning the deployment of BECCS. The identified needs were further synthesized using key themes of the Technology Framework under Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement.

Table 1. 10 Key Research Priorities for the case of BECCS according to technology associations and platforms

Research Priority (RP)


RP1: Evidence of pilot and demonstration projects

To prove advanced technologies and close knowledge gaps

RP2: Comprehensive cost assessment and Life-Cycle Analysis (LCAs) of BECCS value chains for the various technology routes

Cost and life-cycle impacts for the large-scale deployment of BECCS have not yet been comprehensively assessed, either for Europe or globally. Given the substantial differences between the various technology routes, a generalized description would not be appropriate and more detailed work is needed

RP3: Improving public perception and awareness

There is a difference in perception and attitude of the general public towards BECCS projects compared to fossil CCS projects

RP4: Up-scaling biomass conversion processes for improved economies of scale for CCS deployment

To make the most promising biomass conversion technologies combined with CCS commercially available by 2020 and accelerate wide-scale deployment of BECCS

RP5: Accelerating research into sustainable advanced biofuels

To improve advanced biofuel technology pathways in order to achieve economic feasibility and enhance the performance and reliability of conversion processes

RP6: Improving data accuracy on sustainably available land

To gain insight on the effects of direct and indirect LUC as key determinants for the viability of a BECCS project, considering that large areas of land will be required if BECCS are to make a significant contribution to future mitigation strategies

RP7: Assessing the potential for biogas co-firing in gas power plants - The opportunities for hydrogen production

A wide range of biomass feedstocks is potentially available to serve as vectors to release energy through conversion to other vectors (e.g. biogas) and thus work is still needed to estimate the opportunities for BECCS when biogas is combined with CCS

RP8: Determining the effect of the composition of biogenic CO2 on the CCS value chain in power plants (e.g. corrosion, effect on amine/ammonia solvents etc.)

The composition of biomass fuels is variable and their generally high alkaline content can lead to ash deposition and corrosion when co-firing in existing boilers, which will drive up costs

RP9: Identifying any specific storage properties for biogenic CO2, i.e. biogenic impurities in the CO2 stream

Because of (geo-)physical variations, there is a need to explore specific storage properties that will provide storage site operators with greater clarity on increasing the probability of success and/or lowering the costs of selecting suitable storage sites

RP10: Studying algal (macro/micro) biomass feedstock in terms of fuel properties and CO2 capture

Due to the high uncertainties and limited available data, marine biomass has not been included in the BECCS potentials. Intense research is needed in many parts of the world to find ways to unleash the promising energy potential of these marine types of biomass

Our results and their synthesis aim at bridging the gap between actual market needs and academia and providing useful insights to the scientific community to guide further research. Finally, implications for policy and practice are suggested to assist policy-makers in their future decisions.

Niki-Artemis Spyridaki
University of Piraeus Research Center (UPRC)


Vassilis Stavrakas
University of Piraeus Research Center (UPRC)


Uploaded on 08/11/2017

* The viewpoints expressed are those of the authors.

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