NGO Spotlight: Bellona

Here at the Center for Carbon Removal, it is Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (Bio-CCS) theme month, so we are particularly excited to turn our spotlight on EU-based NGO Bellona. Bellona has been a leader in the Bio-CCS field for many years -- what follows is a recap of an email exchange with Bellona Bio-CCS expert Marika Andersen to share more about their work and their views of the importance of Bio-CCS in meeting climate goals. 

Q: Who is Bellona?

A: Bellona is an independent non-profit organization that aims to meet and fight the climate challenges, through identifying and implementing sustainable environmental solutions. Our slogan sums up our optimism: From Pollution to Solution! Bellona is engaged in a broad spectrum of current national and international environmental questions and issues around the world. Our area of expertise is broad, and the staff is comprised of individuals with a wide range of professional backgrounds. With close to three decades of experience, we have established a unique network both nationally and internationally.

Q: Why is Bellona interested in Bio-CCS?

A: The scale of the climate change challenge requires that we roll-out all available solutions, including Bio-CCS. Limiting global warming to 2°C will require a tremendous effort in transforming the economy into a low carbon economy. This can only happen quickly enough through a combination of an unprecedented increase in energy efficiency, massive deployment of renewable energy technologies, accelerated deployment of CCS and application of Bio-CCS to achieve carbon negative emissions. The use of sustainable biomass in a plant fitted with CCS produces a double climate benefit that we cannot afford to ignore: Emissions from combustion of fossil fuels are prevented from entering the atmosphere and the CO2 contained in the biomass is captured, thereby removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report is clear that the need for Bio-CCS will only increase the longer we wait to take action: “Delayed mitigation further increases the dependence on the full availability of mitigation options, especially on CDR [Carbon Dioxide Removal] technologies such as BECCS [BioEnergy with CCS]” (IPCC, 2014).

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges to getting Bio-CCS off the ground?

A: The technical solutions for Bio-CCS exist. The challenges are on the one hand, making the political and industrial decision-making process on CCS more efficient, and on the other hand, to re-build confidence in sustainable biomass production and use. Bellona is involved in developing the sustainable biomass component of Bio-CCS, especially focusing on advanced sources that do not compete with land and food, such as the integrated solutions presented by Ocean Forest and Sahara Forest Project. Regarding CCS roll-out, it’s important to note that Bio-CCS is in many ways a low-hanging CCS fruit: The cost of CO2 capture from biofuel production such as ethanol fermentation, is generally very low, as the CO2 by-product streams are often of high purity. The pure stream of CO2 negates the need for additional separation equipment, with only driers and compression units necessary to prepare the CO2 for transport to a storage site. And speaking of storage: This is the linchpin of both fossil and Bio-CCS. Without storage capacity, capture is futile. This is why Bellona is also working to speed-up storage site development.  

Q: What is the outlook in the EU for Bio-CCS over the next few years?

A: In Europe, upheavals in the energy system caused by expansion in renewables and outdated business models, coupled with concerns about energy security, have led to renewed emphasis on the role of fossil power and CCS. On the matter of energy security, Bellona is clear that any enhanced use of indigenous fossil resources must be coupled with CCS and that opportunities for Bio-CCS must be scoped out. But of perhaps greatest importance, is the current lack of incentives to apply CCS to biomass facilities. This is because the EU focus remains on zero, not negative, emissions. As biomass is already counted as carbon neutral in the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), there is no incentive for someone using biomass to add CCS and bring their emissions below zero. A debate on reform of the EU ETS is due to begin in 2016. Bellona has already published some ideas on rewarding negative emissions in the EU ETS and will engage in this debate.  

Q: What are you planning to do at COP21 to raise awareness for Bio-CCS?

A: Bellona will be heavily present at COP21 with a pavilion that we have named Action Through Connection and are hosting jointly with the Norwegian climate research institute CICERO. Here we will host a number of events and gatherings throughout the two weeks, including two events specifically addressing Bio-CCS. The first will address why the world’s foremost climate scientists agree on the need for Bio-CCS, while the second will aim to place Bio-CCS in perspective with other carbon removal technologies and ask what we can do to get the roll-out of this vital climate technology to move faster.

Q: What publications have you released about this topic?

A: Bellona led the work of the Joint Task Force Bio-CCS of the Commission’s Technology Platforms for CCS and biofuels, ZEP and EBTP respectively, to develop a report on the Bio-CCS potential of Europe – Biomass with CO2 Capture and Storage (Bio-CCS), the way forward for Europe. Furthermore, Bellona’s CCS Roadmap for Romania – Our future is carbon negative: A CCS roadmap for Romania – addresses the country’s carbon negative potential. In the lead-up to the EU’s debate on reform of its Emission Trading System, we have released a short brief on incentivizing negative emissions – BellonaBrief: The Carbon Negative Solution – Incentivising Bio-CCS in Europe

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Thanks again Marika and the Bellona EU team!