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A deep dive into the modelling assumptions for biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS): A transparency exercise

Butnar, I; Li, P-H; Strachan, N; Portugal Pereira, J; Gambhir, A; Smith, P; (2019) A deep dive into the modelling assumptions for biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS): A transparency exercise. Environmental Research Letters 10.1088/1748-9326/ab5c3e. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is envisaged as a critical element of most deep decarbonisation pathways compatible with the Paris Agreement. Such a transformational upscaling – to 3 - 7 Gt CO2/yr by 2050 – requires an unprecedented technological, economic, socio-cultural and political effort, along with, crucially, transparent communication between all stakeholders. Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) that underpin the 1.5°C scenarios assessed by IPCC have played a critical role in building and assessing deep decarbonisation narratives. However, their high-level aggregation and their complexity can cause them to be perceived as non-transparent by stakeholders outside of the IAM community. This paper bridges this gap by offering a comprehensive assessment of BECCS assumptions as used in IAMs so as to open them to a wider audience. We focus on key assumptions that underpin five aspects of BECCS: biomass availability, BECCS technologies, CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, BECCS costs, and wider system conditions which favour the deployment of BECCS. Through a structured review, we find that all IAMs communicate wider system assumptions and major cost assumptions transparently. This quality however fades as we dig deeper into modelling details. This is particularly true for sets of technological elements such as CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, for which we found the least transparent assumptions. We also found that IAMs are less transparent on the completeness of their treatment of the five BECCS aspects we investigated, and not transparent regarding the inclusion and treatment of socio-cultural and institutional-regulatory dimensions of feasibility which are key BECCS elements as suggested by the IPCC. We conclude with a practical discussion around ways of increasing IAM transparency as a bridge between this community and stakeholders from other disciplines, policy decision makers, financiers, and the public.

Type: Article
Title: A deep dive into the modelling assumptions for biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS): A transparency exercise
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab5c3e
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab5c3e
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.As the Version of Record of this article is going to be/has been published on a gold open access basis under a CC BY 3.0 licence, this Accepted Manuscript is available for reuse under a CC BY 3.0 licence immediately.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10088558
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