Mitigation potential and environmental impact of centralized versus distributed BECCS with domestic biomass production in Great Britain

Fabrizio Albanito* (Corresponding Author), Astley Hastings, Nuala Fitton, Mark Richards, Mike Martin, Niall Mac Dowell, Dave Bell, Simon C. Taylor, Isabella Butnar, Pei‐Hao Li, Raphael Slade, Pete Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

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New contingency policy plans are expected to be published by the United Kingdom government to set out urgent actions, such as carbon capture and storage, greenhouse gas removal, and the use of sustainable bioenergy to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets of the 4th and 5th carbon budgets. In this study, we identify two plausible bioenergy production pathways for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) based on centralized and distributed energy systems to show what BECCS could look like if deployed by 2050 in Great Britain. The extent of agricultural land available to sustainably produce biomass feedstock in the centralized and distributed energy systems is about 0.39 and 0.5 Mha, providing approximately 5.7 and 7.3 MtDM yr−1 of biomass, respectively. If this land‐use change occurred, bioenergy crops would contribute to reduced agricultural soil GHG emission by 9 and 11 MtCO2eq yr−1 in the centralized and distributed energy systems, respectively. In addition, bioenergy crops can contribute to reduce agricultural soil ammonia emissions, water pollution from soil nitrate leaching, and to increase soil organic carbon stocks.

The technical mitigation potentials from BECCS lead to projected CO2 reductions of approximately 18 and 23 MtCO2 yr−1 from the centralized and distributed energy systems, respectively. This suggests that the domestic supply of sustainable biomass would not allow the emission reduction target of 50 MtCO2 yr−1 from BECCS to be met. To meet that target, it would be necessary to produce solid biomass from forest systems on 0.59 or 0.49 Mha, or alternatively to import 8 or 6.6 MtDM yr−1 of biomass for the centralized and distributed energy system, respectively. The spatially explicit results of this study can serve to identify the regional differences in the potential capture of CO2 from BECCS, providing the basis for the development of onshore CO2 transport infrastructures.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1252
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Issue number10
Early online date7 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

This work was carried out under the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC)‐funded project ‘Assessing potential, feasibility and impacts of Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) in the UK (Access‐BECCS)’. We thank Dr Ajay Gambhir for valuable comments and discussion.


  • agricultural GHG emissions
  • bioenergy crops
  • carbon capture and storage
  • climate mitigation strategy
  • future energy scenarios
  • greenhouse gases
  • land-use change


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