Published on 04/04/2023
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Aston University biomass expert calls for more exploration of power bioenergy with carbon capture and storage

•    Professor Patricia Thornley welcomes latest UK energy security plans
•    But calls for more exploration of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage 
•    She believes plans shouldn’t concentrate solely on energy such as wind and solar power.

A leading biomass scientist at Aston University has welcomed the government’s announcement to ensure UK energy is more secure.

However, Professor Patricia Thornley, director of Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI), believes the government shouldn’t just concentrate on energy such as wind and solar power.

She is calling for the government to explore the use of power bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (or power BECCS). 

On 30 March the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero published the Powering Up Britain: Net Zero Growth Plan, and the Powering Up Britain: Energy Security Plan to set out steps to make the UK more energy independent, secure and resilient.

Professor Thornley believes that the UK’s carbon reduction targets could be tackled by delivering negative emission BECCS projects. The process uses sustainable biomass and waste materials to generate electricity in combination with carbon capture and permanent storage. Through this physical removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, power BECCS is able to deliver negative emissions.

Professor Thornley said: “It is wonderful to see the government moving forward with its carbon reduction plans, whilst recognising the scale of the challenge faced. 

“Bioenergy is delivering carbon reductions around the UK today - 62% of our renewable energy and around 13% of our electricity comes from biomass - and developing sustainable biomass conversion with carbon capture and storage (CCS) would be a natural progression for the UK. 

“So it is good to see commitment to CCS, but to fully leverage the UK’s negative emission potential we need BECCS technology to be rapidly deployed.”

EBRI and the Supergen Bioenergy hub, which is led by Aston University, are working on applied research to progress this ambition.

Professor Thornley added: “Our research at Aston University has demonstrated the potential for sustainable BECCS facilities to deliver a substantial proportion of UK required negative emissions but that the exact amount of negative emissions achieved can vary hugely with plant design and operational choices. So we hope to use our knowledge and research outputs to support UK deployment of sustainable bioenergy moving forward.“

As well as her research at Aston University, Professor Thornley has been contributing her expertise to a government working group exploring the sustainable use of biomass for two years.

Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston University is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

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