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EASTBIO: Co-benefits and trade-offs of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – the role of feedstock sustainability

  • Full or part time
    Prof P Smith
    Dr R Heaton
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Professor Pete Smith (University of Aberdeen)

Dr Rebecca Heaton (Drax Group)

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a key greenhouse gas removal option, proposed by many integrated assessment model outcomes to help achieve negative emissions in the coming century to offset residual emissions in “difficult-to-abate” sectors – in order to meet net zero emissions targets to which Scotland and the UK are committed (Smith et al., 2016). One of the critical challenges to delivering BECCS relates to the sustainability of the biomass feedstock and the supply chains for that feedstock. This project addresses exactly this issue. What is the sustainability profile of different bioenergy feedstock supply chains – and how can they be selected and optimise to not only do least harm to ecosystem services and the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs; minimise trade-offs), but how could they contribute positively (maximise co-benefits and synergies)? Building on the work of Smith et al. (2019) and Albanito et al., (2019), the work in this project will involve using data from Drax, Europe’s largest biomass-fuel power station, to examine impacts on ecosystem services and the UN SDGs of various stages of the biomass supply chain – and to quantify likely impacts through modelling of actual and alternative supply chains. The findings will also be used to help inform and refine biomass supply sustainability criteria for the industry, to help capture the benefits of BECCS while also delivering the best environmental and societal outcomes. The student will be trained in quantitative data analysis, statistics, life cycle assessment and mathematical modelling.

Application Procedure:

Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts and CV to Alison McLeod at . Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to .

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years immediately prior to the programme start date) due to restrictions imposed by the funding body. Queries on eligibility? Email Alison McLeod ().

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.


Albanito, F. et al. 2019. Mitigation potential and environmental impact of centralized versus distributed BECCS with domestic biomass production in Great Britain. Global Change Biology Bioenergy (early online).

Smith, P. et al. 2016. Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change 6, 42-50.

Smith, P. et al. 2019. Impacts of land-based greenhouse gas removal options on ecosystem services and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 44, 4.1–4.32. doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-101718-033129.

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