Waste sector could meet half of key government carbon target according to research

New Eunomia report suggests energy from waste (EfW) could play a leading role in the United Kingdom’s decarbonisation efforts

Renewable energy and waste management company Viridor today welcomed a new report released at the Conservative Party Conference by environmental consultancy Eunomia, which outlines how carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) at energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities should play a significant role in helping the United Kingdom to achieve net-zero status, while at the same time enabling the UK to become a global leader on CCUS deployment. The findings will now be factored into Viridor’s sector-leading decarbonisation ambition, which outlines how the company will reach net zero by 2040 and be climate positive by 2045, and the business will actively reviewing its ambition on CCUS deployment at EfW sites across the UK.

The Eunomia research indicates the cost of carbon capture from EfW could be as much as 15% lower than the cheapest industrial alternative, making it an attractive and ideal building block in the move to a low-carbon economy. The report identifies a three-phase deployment of CCUS technology at EfW sites across the United Kingdom beginning in the next couple of years. With EfW facilities in the UK currently estimated to emit around 11 million tonnes of CO2 per year, there lies a huge opportunity to tackle a considerable portion of the UK’s emissions through the waste sector alone. Based on estimates that 50% of EfW CO2 overall carbon emissions are renewable, from biomass, if all EfWs were fitted with CCUS, it is anticipated that approximately five million tonnes of negative emissions could be stored each year at the current level of residual waste being sent to EfW, a figure which represents half of the government’s 2030 target.

By initially developing CCUS in ‘clusters’, the government will also be able to realise its levelling up agenda; fifteen existing waste treatment sites are within only 20 miles (30km) of the government’s top five carbon capture clusters, offering substantial investment and employment opportunities across Britain. Importantly, CCUS also offers the opportunity for those currently working in the oil and gas industry across these regions to transition across given the similar skill sets, ensuring a strong retention of jobs whilst realising a net-zero economy.

The learnings from implementing CCUS at EfWs as the first of its kind will additionally help to inform wider investments in CCUS to help the UK fully decarbonise. With the UK having one of the greatest CO2 storage potentials of any country in the world - with an estimated continental shelf that could safely store the equivalent of 200 years of the UK's annual emissions - CCUS within the UK presents huge opportunities to lead the world in the deployment of this necessary technology.

Viridor's Director of ESG and Policy Tim Rotheray said: “Eunomia’s research demonstrates the key role for waste companies in carbon capture and the decarbonisation of the UK economy. The opportunity to capture five million tonnes of CO2 a year and offer the among the lowest cost of capture in the industrial sector presents real hope for an accelerated roll out of carbon capture technology across the economy. Carbon capture is a technology the UK is dependent upon to meet its net zero commitments, and deploying it in the waste sector will get the government halfway to its 2030 targets. Viridor will now reflect this latest research into its existing decarbonisation plan and will be actively reviewing its current ambition on the deployment of CCUS technology across its EfW facilities.”
Olivia Powis, Head of UK office, Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), said: “CCUS has a significant role to play in decarbonising the UK’s industry on the road to net zero by 2050 by removing CO2 on an industrial scale from hard-to-decarbonise sectors, and we welcome Eunomia’s report outlining a clear pathway for CCUS deployment in the EfW sector. EfW facilities are very well suited to CCUS given the long-term nature of the infrastructure and proximity to CCUS Clusters, and what the sector now needs is clear government policy incentives to support investment in this technology. The technology is ready but investors need confidence over the direction of travel for CCUS. The CCUS industry stands ready to support the waste sector in its decarbonisation efforts and pursuit of net zero.”

The full report can be read here -  Eunomia Report CCUS

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