A study commissioned by the International Energy Agency has concluded that combining energy production from biomass with carbon capture and storage has the potential to reduce annual CO2 emissions by almost a third.
According to Joris Koornneef from Ecofys, who conducted the study, "The combination actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere, The biomass extracts CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and the CCS takes out the CO2 released in the energy conversion process."
Currently, about 31 gigatonnes of CO2 is emitted from energy-related processes each year. According to the study, using biomass to produce energy and capturing and storing the resulting CO2, has the potential to reduce this by 10 gigatonnes annually.
Ecofys identified six promising technologies, including biomass combustion and gasification for power production and biomass conversion to bio-ethanol and biodiesel for transport, to achieve this. It concluded that, in the short term, bio-ethanol production is the most promising option as it allows CO2 capture at relatively low cost.
At present, carbon capture and storage is generally seen as a way of reducing the negative consequences of burning coal. But stopping the use of coal and still capturing the carbon is where the real potential benefit lies. The study says that the only thing preventing this is the lack of a clear economic incentive.