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Document Release: A Post-Paris Literature Review of Negative Emissions Technology, and Potential for Ireland

posted Jan 23, 2018, 3:42 AM by Alwynne Hanna McGeever

The main aim of the ie-nets project is to assess the scale and speed of negative emissions technology (NET) deployment that is required by currently envisaged decarbonisation pathways (globally and nationally), consistent with the Paris agreement goals.

The first Work Package for this project is a preliminary review of the most relevant international and Irish literature. The output of this work is now freely available to download here. The review comprises of two main parts:

Chapters 1-6: An overall review of international research specific to NET. Topics include climate policy, carbon budget management, strengths and challenges of various NET options, mitigation pathway modelling, risk assessment, governance;

Chapters 7-9: A review and analysis of the most relevant Irish research to date. Topics include Ireland’s emission pathway options, an estimation of possible national carbon quotas for Ireland and a preliminary assessment of national NET capacity in Ireland.

Additionally, there is a final concluding chapter with specific conclusions. For convenience, there is also a short Executive Summary of the complete report at the start.

Negative Emission Technology Options

We review the literature for six NET options with particular potential relevance to Ireland:

  • Soil Carbon Storage (SCS)

  • Biochar (BC)

  • Enhanced Weathering (EW)

  • Afforestation/Reforestation (AR)

  • Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)

  • Direct Air Capture with Storage (DACCS)

Considerations for NETs include relative carbon removal capacity, cost, readiness, vulnerability to re-release of captured carbon, vulnerability to future climate change, biodiversity risk, energy penalty and land pressure. Our qualitative assessment of these diverse approaches is summarized in Table 1. For further detail see, in particular, Chapter 3 of the full review document.

Table 1: A simplified schematic to summarise the main policy relevant considerations for utilising NET options in Ireland. High uncertainty indicated by *

Potential capacity for Negative emissions in Ireland

Estimations of a remaining Irish carbon quota at the end of 2017 range from 590 MtCO (“equity” basis) to 1000 MtCO (“inertia” basis). At current emission levels, even the high end estimates of an Irish carbon quota could be exhausted well before 2040 (see Chapter 8).

A review of the NET research relevant to Ireland, and applying a simplistic model to estimate national NET capacity, found that NET approaches that are available for immediate deployment or expansion (afforestation, soil carbon management and biochar) had lower capacities and, if deployed fully, this capacity could saturate within 20 years. Higher capacity NET options with no early saturation limits (DACCS and BECCS) are not yet available for deployment at scale due to high costs and technological immaturity (see Chapter 9). Hence, while this review finds continued research and investment in NET options may increase the achievability of Ireland’s nett emission targets in future, immediate reduction in ongoing gross emissions must remain the highest priority for Ireland’s climate change mitigation actions.

Future Research

Future research priorities identified for Ireland include quantifying the indigenous bioenergy capacity (for potential use in BECCS), particularly under the conditions of future climate change, developing robust, physically-grounded, GHG accounting mechanisms through LCAs of NETs relevant bioenergy systems, and modelling feasible deep decarbonisation pathways for the Irish energy system as a whole with potentially ambitious incorporation of BECCS and/or DACCS.

ie-nets is a two year research project, funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland (EPA) Research Programme 2014-2020 (grant number 2016-CCRP-MS.36). The project is being undertaken jointly by Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin under the direction of Professor Barry McMullin (DCU) and Professor Mike Jones (TCD).