A consortium led by Sizewell C has been awarded £3 million by the Government to develop plans for Direct Air Capture which could be powered by heat from the new nuclear power station proposed for Suffolk.
The funding will allow engineers from the University of Nottingham, Strata Technology, Atkins, Doosan Babcock and Sizewell C to construct a demonstrator DAC unit capable of extracting 100 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
Direct Air Capture involves removing carbon dioxide which is then stored so that it cannot contribute to climate change. Some Carbon Dioxide (CO2) can also be ‘recycled’ for other purposes such as conversion into synthetic fuels.
Most existing DAC systems are powered by electricity, natural gas, or both, but the consortium is working on a design where the CO2 capture and extraction is implemented more efficiently using heat. Nuclear is the cheapest way of producing low carbon heat and this novel process has the potential to significantly lower the cost of deploying DAC in future.
If the demonstrator project being developed by the consortium is successful, a scaled-up DAC unit powered by heat from Sizewell C could one day capture 1.5m tonnes of CO2 each year. That is enough to almost offset the UK’s total emissions from railway transport.
A full-scale DAC system linked to Sizewell C would be built away from the power station and operated without any significant impact on its electricity output.
Proposals for the demonstrator project were submitted by the consortium as part of the Government’s Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) competition, which is aimed at accelerating the development of carbon capture systems. Today’s announcement follows the successful completion of a research, development and design study in 2021 as part of phase 1 of the competition.
GGR technologies are crucial for helping the UK achieve net zero emissions as they will help to offset the CO2 produced by industries which are difficult to decarbonise, like agriculture and aviation.
All engineering, design, construction and testing activities for the pilot will be carried out in the UK to develop a British DAC technology.
Sizewell C’s Financing Director, Julia Pyke, said:
“This is another fantastic vote of confidence in Sizewell C and shows how nuclear can add even more value to our future energy system. Sizewell C is already set to become one of the UK’s biggest net zero projects and by linking it to DAC it will make an even bigger impact on our carbon emissions.”
Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Hands, said:
“This £54 million government investment announced today will help establish a greenhouse gas removal industry in the UK, which could be worth billions to our economy, bringing in private investment and supporting the creation of new green jobs”.
Cameron Gilmour, VP of Nuclear for Doosan Babcock and SZC Consortium Spokesperson, said:
“We are delighted to continue our involvement in the exciting and innovative Direct Air Capture project. We look forward to further collaboration with our partners to develop the DAC technology in support of the key role that Sizewell C will play in the UK’s energy transition and net zero ambitions.”
Chris Ball, Managing Director for Nuclear & Power, EMEA, Atkins, said:
“The DAC project is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how co-locating clean technology at operational power stations will maximise their impact on a net zero energy system in the most cost-effective and efficient way. This Sizewell C project will create a model to show how we can test and then scale-up the development of novel technology and maximise the benefits of reliable, clean nuclear energy.”