Part of the EFI Report Series Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage: Sowing the Seeds of a Negative-Carbon Future January 2022

I read the document Surveying the BECCS Landscape for my AirMiners Bootup session. This document was produced by EFI (Energy Futures Initiative) Foundation, an apparently well funded  501(c)3 nonprofit organization supporting the transition to a low-carbon energy future. This report is a systematic review of the literature to understand the key opportunities and challenges associated with bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), a broad set of systems that integrate the use of energy derived from biomass with the capture and long-term storage of carbon. When it says “the literature”, it means it: there are 644 footnotes, though unfortunately no condensed bibliography, i.e. it references quite a few documents multiple times.

Much of what I got out of this is that there are a wide variety of “pathways” from biological materials to carbon removal. The report states that carbon reduction of any of them is contingent on a wide variety of factors including the nature of the feedstock, i.e. whether the source material is collected or dispersed organic waste, or newly harvested plant growth, and in the latter case, the type of plant (tree, variety of grass, corn, etc); how the feedstock is being processed; and the proximity of the feedstock to the processing plant. Many of these pathways ultimately result in the production of fuels; the way these fuels are consumed will have a significant bearing on the carbon impact.

There seem to be several pathways that one might focus on and try to tease out a set of net impacts, however, even for a single feedstock to output path, the determination of net emissions is going to require a set of complex multi-variable equations.

I used Bing Co-Pilot to summarize the main portion of the “What is BECCS” and Key Issues Identified in the Literature” sections. There’s another section that snapshots the development of the industry and policy support for it. I get the sense that a retrospective literature search was not the ideal approach to developing those sections since this is such a fast moving space.

What is BECCS?

  • The subsection explains what BECCS is and how it works, as well as its components and variations.
  • BECCS is a set of systems that use biomass to produce energy and capture and store the embedded carbon, which can result in a net removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere1.
  • Biomass is any organic material that comes from plants or animals, such as wood, crops, wastes, and algae. Biomass can be converted into different forms of energy, such as electricity, heat, or fuels, using various technologies, such as combustion, gasification, fermentation, or pyrolysis.
  • Carbon capture is the process of separating and capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gas or syngas of biomass conversion processes, or from the ambient air. Carbon capture can be done using different methods, such as chemical absorption, physical adsorption, membrane separation, or cryogenic distillation.
  • Carbon utilization and storage is the process of using the captured CO2 for beneficial purposes, such as enhancing oil recovery, producing chemicals, or making biochar, or storing it permanently in geologic formations, such as saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas reservoirs, or coal seams.
  • The subsection also discusses the integration of BECCS with other decarbonization options, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage from fossil fuels. BECCS can complement these options by providing dispatchable power, low-carbon fuels, and negative emissions.


Summary of “Key Issues Identified in the Literature” “:Key Issues Identified in the Literature”

  • The section reviews the literature on the challenges and opportunities for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), a technology that can produce negative emissions by combining biomass energy with carbon sequestration.
  • The section identifies nine key issues that affect the feasibility and desirability of BECCS deployment in the United States, such as greenhouse gas accounting, rural economic development, environmental justice, policy support, and infrastructure needs.
  • The section also highlights the gaps and uncertainties in the literature, such as the lack of a consistent definition of BECCS, the wide range of estimates for its costs and potentials, and the trade-offs and synergies with other decarbonization options.
  • The section concludes by suggesting areas for future research and analysis, such as developing a comprehensive framework for evaluating BECCS, assessing its regional and sectoral variations, and exploring its social and ethical implications.

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