The global overlap of bioenergy and carbon sequestration potential

Research paper by P. A. Turner, K. J. Mach, D. B. Lobell, S. M. Benson, E. Baik, D. L. Sanchez, C. B. Field

Indexed on: 04 Apr '18Published on: 03 Apr '18Published in: Climatic Change


Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a negative emissions technology that is a largely untested but prominent feature of ambitious climate change mitigation scenarios. This strategy involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from stationary bioenergy facilities and sequestering it in suitable geological formations, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Many factors potentially limit BECCS deployment including obstacles to building pipeline networks that move large quantities of liquefied CO2 over long distances. Here, we examine the BECCS opportunity that exists in regions overlapping storage basins. Under current conditions, the equivalent of 22.9 GtCO2 y−1 of net primary production (NPP), a measure of biomass growth, overlies highly prospective CO2 storage basins, representing a sustainably harvestable total of approximately 7.6 GtCO2 y−1. Most land overlying basins is either forested or linked to food production. If only marginal agricultural lands, those inconsistently under agricultural production, are used to source biomass, the scale of the available resource is approximately 1 GtCO2 y−1. If transportation of biomass or CO2 is constrained, and if BECCS is not developed on forests or prime croplands, then BECCS deployments will be limited to a small, but meaningful fraction (~10%) of the levels typical in cost-optimized model trajectories that stabilize warming at 2 °C or less above pre-industrial temperatures. Marginal agricultural lands over storage basins can be an entry point for maturing the engineering technologies and financial markets needed for BECCS.