Described by experts as the “saviour for old coal plants”, carbon-capture might be about to make its mark on the UK for the very first time. Alex Blackburne has the details.
Power company SSE (Scottish Southern Electric) and fuel giants Shell, are teaming up to set up a Carbon-Capture and Storage (CCS) plant in Scotland – the first of its kind in the UK.
Carbon-capture is a way of being able to carry on burning fossil fuels without the environmental consequence of it releasing carbon dioxide.
Instead of the carbon dioxide, entering into the atmosphere, it’s captured at a power plant, purified, piped away for hundreds of kilometres, and then injected into geological storage reservoirs deep below ground, where it can be stored for tens of thousands of years.
The news comes after plans for a carbon-capture plant in Longannet were scrapped, whilst a proposed ‘clean coal’ power plant in Scotland was put on hold.
The Hunterston proposals received a record number of complaints and Scottish ministers are due to launch an inquiry, meaning the project is unlikely to get going for at least another year.
Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, said the proposed project at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire was important on a global level in terms of carbon reduction.
“If this can go ahead, it’ll be the front-running project in the UK, and one of the front-running projects in the world.
“It’s particularly important for the UK because we get more than half our electricity by burning gas, so if we’re trying to decarbonise the whole economy, we’re trying to do that by starting to take the carbon emissions away from electricity.
“This is the first, important step in doing that.”
The project, which will be implemented at SSE’s gas-fired power station in Peterhead will see the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced transported to Shell’s Goldeneye gas station in the North Sea, using existing infrastructure as much as possible.
Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE, said they welcomed the “Government’s decision to include gas-fired generation plant in its CCS demonstration programme“.
“If long-term targets for reducing emissions are to be met, CCS technology must be applied as widely as possible“, Marchant said.
“The development of a commercial-scale CCS demonstration project presents significant challenges and will require appropriate levels of support from both the EU and UK government.”
Meanwhile, Glen Cayley, vice president-technical at Shell (UK), relayed the importance of CCS technology in the long term future of the planet.
“Shell believes CCS is an essential technology in the fight against global climate change and we remain committed to developing CCS in the UK.
“Valuable work has already been carried out during the Longannet Project – work that will be relevant to the proposed CCS project at Peterhead.”
While the introduction of a carbon-capture and storage plant in the UK is, by definition, most certainly a good thing in terms of reducing carbon emissions through energy production. In the long term, we still have a problem.
Fossil fuels are still a finite resource, and there will come a point when CCS projects aren’t able to function.
Let’s just hope the development of this technology in the UK doesn’t detract attention, funding and energy away from the bigger issue – finding renewable, sustainable and ethical ways to keep our planet alive.
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Photo credit: Paul Jerry.