Bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and the Paris climate agreement

The Paris Agreement's goal requires not only radical emission reductions but also the generation of large amounts of negative greenhouse gas emissions. This goal has been criticised in part because the methods for negative emissions (NETs) have only been tested on a small scale, while there are many uncertainties.

I am leading an interdisciplinary research group called Linköping University Negative Emission Technologies (LUNETs) that studies the technical, social and economic possibilities of using NETs and primarily the methods bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and biochar. The projects also include critical analyses of the methods’ political, local and scientific contexts. BECCS means that carbon dioxide is separated from biomass that is processed at large scale facilities, for example at pulp and paper mills and combined heat and power plants. The carbon dioxide is then transported to suitable geological formations where it is deposited. A net negative effect could be achieved as the corresponding amount of processed biomass is regrown. Biochar is produced through slow pyrolysis of biomass and can then be placed on farmland to simultaneously bind carbon and improve soil quality. There are major knowledge gaps and lack of experience regarding both methods, but as the climate goals have become more ambitious, these methods have become more relevant in both political and scientific contexts.
LUNETs funds about 10 researchers and comprises several projects funded by the Swedish Research Council, Formas, the Swedish Energy Agency, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and SIDA and includes Linköping University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Leibniz institute of vegetable and ornamental crops in Berlin. The projects take different perspectives to jointly investigate the conditions for developing and implementing NETs in different geographical, regulatory, institutional and national contexts. Currently, Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and Tanzania are being investigated as cases. We are also studying how knowledge of different methods is constructed through scientific models, Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), and the scientific debate on BECCS. LUNETs contributes with an understanding of how current structures and policies promote or limit the development of the methods, how this development could be supported in a constructive way and with critical perspectives on the global, national and local potential of the techniques, not the least perspectives on deployment in least developed countries. In addition, the projects engage various societal actors through ongoing dialogues to raise important issues and to include many perspectives on the methods at an early stage.

I am currently leading the following projects:
2019-2024. Formas (Visions and Conditions for a Fossil-Free Welfare Society): ”Opening the portfolio of negative emissions technologies: A comprehensive study of social, techno-economic and ethical dimensions of biomass-based NETs in Sweden and Tanzania”.
2018-2023. Swedish Energy Agency (Graduate School Energy Systems): “An integrative systems approach to a carbon neutral industry”.
2018-2021. Swedish Energy Agency (MESAM): “Carbon capture and storage in Sweden: Historical lessons, current perceptions, and policy instruments”.
2016-2020. The Swedish Research Council (VR) (Sustainability and Resilience): ”Conflicting ambitions concerning the use of biomass – Sweden, Tanzania and the World”.
2016-2020. Formas (Future Research Leaders):” Negative carbon dioxide emissions as a feasible transition pathway to sustainability? The uncertainties, barriers, challenges and possibilities of large-scale BECCS implementation in Sweden”.
Concluded project:
2012-2016. Formas (Grants for sustainable development research in the social sciences and humanities areas): “A study of sustainable development: the case of geoengineering”.

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