Delivering negative emissions with BECCS - A Life Cycle Assessment of coal-waste co-firing with CO2 transport and storage

J. S. Jones, G. A. Fimbres Weihs, M. Ho, P. S. Fennell, W. Meka, D. E. Wiley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Coal-fired power plants are a major source of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions that drive climate change and associated environmental impacts. Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) has been identified as a renewable technology with the potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, as it refers to power generation through combusting biomass and capturing CO2 in the flue-gas using carbon capture storage (CCS). Wood and paper wastes have gained popularity as biofuels, due in part to their potential benefits as they do not directly compete with other industries for agricultural land and can significantly reduce the quantity of waste diverted to landfills. This study assesses the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction capability of retrofitting biomass co-firing and CCS technologies to an existing coal-fired power plant, using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach. The biomass considered in this study is wood-based waste, including paper, cardboard, palletised wood, chipboard, and furniture. The LCA utilises a “cradle-to-grave” approach, incorporating emissions associated with coal mining, procurement, treatment, combustion, and ash disposal. The system boundary excludes upstream emissions from the manufacture of the waste products, as these were considered “avoided products”. Thus, avoided landfill emissions from the disposal of wood-wastes were included as negative emissions. The life cycle GHG emissions of six different scenarios are considered (co-firing ratios of 0%, 5%, and 10%, each with and without CCS). Power-plant characteristics, waste transportation and pipeline transportation distances were based on existing coal-fired power plants at Mt. Piper, Bayswater, and Eraring, in NSW, Australia. Without CCS, co-firing waste at 5% and 10% without CCS only slightly reduced overall emissions (around 1% and 2% respectively) relative to the current coal-fired power arrangement (no co-firing without CCS). On the other hand, implementing BECCS with 10% co-firing can reduce life cycle CO2emissions by around 80%, and negative life-cycle CO2 emissions are achievable at co-firing ratios above 30%. The life cycle GHG emissions are most sensitive to the energy penalty imposed by CCS on the power plant. At co-firing ratios of 15%, life-cycle CO2 emissions of BECCS are comparable to those of solar PV energy generation. Moreover, at co-firing ratios around 25%, BECCS life-cycle CO2 emissions are competitive with those of nuclear, wind and hydroelectric generation. This highlights how CCS has the ability to make biomass co-firing compare favourably with other renewable or low-emissions alternatives. Although those technologies possess a lower emission intensity than BECCS at co-firing ratios below 15%, if improvements in boiler efficiency and resource recovery continue then this will allow operation at higher co-firing ratios, lowering emissions intensity further. To determine if BECCS should form part of future plans to meet emissions reduction targets, further research into additional sources of suitable waste biomass is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event15th Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference, GHGT 2021 - Virtual, Online, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 15 Mar 202118 Mar 2021


Conference15th Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference, GHGT 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
CityVirtual, Online


  • CO emissions
  • LCA
  • bio-energy
  • co-firing
  • negative emissions


Dive into the research topics of 'Delivering negative emissions with BECCS - A Life Cycle Assessment of coal-waste co-firing with CO2 transport and storage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this