New PhD opportunities available in Prof. Gail Taylor’s group at the University of Southampton

Nov 6, 2015


PhDs available in the laboratory of Gail Taylor

Going Carbon Negative: Can Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) be part of the solution?

Developing a framework to assess the impacts on UK and global natural capital

The PhD Project: Several Energy and Climate Change future scenarios identify 'Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage'- (BECCS) as a significant enabler of the move towards a low carbon economy. This reflects the ability of these two technologies in combination, to effectively remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere whilst at the same time, providing heat, power and liquid biofuels, leading to the concept of 'carbon negative energy' (IPCC, 2013). National UK assessments such as CCC (CCC, 2011) and the Energy White paper (DECC, 2011) and indeed, within the global IPCC assessment (IPCC, 2013), identify BECCS as having a central role in decarbonisation strategies. Although this is an attractive option, there remain significant technical barriers to deployment and to date, no consideration has been made of the impacts of wide-scale deployment on natural capital and ecosystem services. At the same time, the UK Natural Capital Committee (NEA, 2014) is recommending that Government endorses a long-term plan to maintain and improve natural capital and that natural capital should be incorporated into generational planning of UK infrastructure. Carbon stocks (soils), wildlife (biodiversity) and water resources have been identified as natural capital that is significantly threatened at present and that without careful consideration in future, may lead to the loss of considerable benefits that flow from this natural capital, including food, energy and climate regulation. It has also been recognised that these assets have a significant spatial dimension in the UK (Bateman et al., 2013) and elsewhere and this spatiality must be considered in any future policy developments, including consumption-based metrics that reflect the full impact of our global footprint, here in the delivery of a low carbon economy for the UK. The aim of this PhD is to bring together thinking from the energy and natural capital evaluation approaches, using the considerable number of tools emerging from NEA and elsewhere (including ADVENT and UKERC Pathways Theme) and to develop a framework to understand the likely implications of BECCS for the UK and more widely.


The Candidate and Training The PhD will provide the student with an outstanding opportunity to work with world-leading energy and environment specialists and to gain a thorough training in ecosystems management, biological carbon and bioenergy science, GIS, energy pathway analysis, systems modelling. The ideal candidate should have at least an upper second class degree and preferably a Masters that combines Biological, Environmental or Technological knowledge of relevance to the topic. Strong quantitative/mapping skills would be of value.

Committee on Climate Change (2011), Bioenergy Review, DECC (2011), Planning our electricity future: a white paper for secure, affordable and low-carbon electricity IPCC (2013), AR5 assessment, Working Group III Report, 'Mitigation of Climate Change'

The state of natural capital- restoring our natural assets. Second Report to the Economic Affairs Committee, Natural Capital Committee, March 2014

Bateman IJ et al (2013), Bringing ecosystem services into economic decision- making: land use in the UK, Science, 341: 45 DOI: 10.1126/science.1234379

Energy 2050 - Making the transition to a secure low-carbon energy system, earthscan.


The ADVENT Consortium: ADVENT (Addressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together) is a 5 year research project funded by NERC as part of the RCUK Energy Programme. It involves a consortium of seven partner institutions and aims to develop conceptual frameworks and modelling tools to integrate the analysis of prospective UK energy pathways with considerations relating to the value of natural capital. This will include quantifying the implications of differing future UK low-carbon energy pathways for stocks of natural capital (e.g. groundwater and natural habitats) and for the provision of ecosystem services (e.g. irrigation, visual amenity, recreation. Ultimately, the project seeks to provide both public and private sector decision makers with tools that allow them to take a whole-systems perspective on energy futures in a way that integrates energy and environmental considerations. Developing future research capacity at the interface of energy and environmental research is an important objective of ADVENT. To this end eight PhD studentships of 3-4 years duration are being funded from NERC and consortium partner resources. The holders of these studentships will benefit from being part of a large research team and associated project activities, including a series of workshops to provide advanced research training.

NERC standard stipend will be paid to the candidate and fees covered. Interested candidates should email