The UK is at risk of blowing its chance to become a world leader in carbon capture and storage according to one of the leading industry figures backing CCS.

Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, yesterday said that “if we don’t get the policy over the line in the next month or two”, investor interest in CCS will evaporate.

Jeff Chapman
 And he backed this up by revealing that his own association was already suffering a drop in membership.

 He said that so far in the UK “we have allowed projects to wither on the vine” and now, with other developments abroad gathering apace, Britain’s chance to take a lead on CCS was “ours to lose”.

 Speaking at a CCS conference in London, Chapman said: “We are facing lock-in on fossil fuels by 2030. We have got lots of fossil fuel, we are going to burn it and we will be burning it long after 2030.” He said because of this, industry had “no option” but to look to CCS.

 “It is low-hanging fruit. In the UK we have abundant storage that is acceptable: it is not in anybody’s back yard. In the UK we are galvanised, we are ready for action. We have a range of projects under active development – we need to keep these projects alive and kicking.”

 He said that with the right government incentives, investors would throw their weight behind CCS and costs would come “tumbling down”.

 “The single thing is incentive arrangements,” he stressed.

 There was agreement among speakers at the conference that the stumbling block to CCS getting to the demonstration stage and then into commercialisation was not one of engineering, as the technology was proven.

Professor Jim Watson, research director at the UK Energy Research centre, said: “It’s about the other elements – regulation and financing – not just the technology. If we focus on the technology we may not get past tranche one.”

Christopher Pincher, an MP and member of the House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said it was clear that the government’s Department of Energy was committed to CCS, but stressed that as holder of Britain’s purse-strings, the Treasury had to share that enthusiasm.

“It is vitally important that the Treasury understands that a long term, stable financial and regulatory framework is what is needed for investors. That is something that the government – and all governments – must be committed to,” he said.

He added that “if we get it right, a thousand flowers or more can bloom”.

His fellow Energy Committee member Tom Greatrex added: “If we want to reduce our carbon emissions and keep a borad energy mix, then CCS is vital.”