Carbon capture at Longannet has been cancelled

Carbon capture remains key to clean coal

Moves are afoot to develop a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Scotland after Longannet was cancelled.

SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) and Shell UK have announced a joint development agreement for a post-combustion CCS project at SSE’s gas-fired power station in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire that, if it goes ahead, would capture CO2 from one 385MW combined cycle gas turbine unit and transport it to the Shell operated Goldeneye gas field in the North Sea, using existing infrastructure where possible.

The project should be in a position to begin a full FEED (Front-End Engineering Design) study in the second half of 2012, subject to progress with a bid for EU funding and developments in the UK’s CCS demonstration programme.

Energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to CCS technology when he announced the Longannet decision, saying that the available £1 billion funding would be used to pursue other projects.

The Longannet venture, under joint development by ScottishPower, National Grid and Shell, had been seen as vital to prove the technology at full commercial scale; to date only smaller projects have been attempted.

The reasons behind the cancellation are still unclear, but would appear to be a mixture of cost – the developers were reportedly asking for £1.5bn - and some technical difficulties specific to this project, rather than CCS technology itself.

Speaking to the BBC, Huhne said one concern was the length of the pipeline that would have carried the carbon from the site on Scotland’s east coast to the storage location out in the North Sea.

ScottishPower’s generation director, Hugh Finlay, said: “The [Longannet] consortium is immensely proud of the work we have completed in the last four years. 

“Our combined efforts have seen this potentially world-changing technology develop from being a concept in a laboratory to a definitive blueprint that could be implemented.

“As a result of the study we now understand how the CCS process works from power station to storage site. 

“This gives us great insight into the physical infrastructure that we need to support it, the regulatory framework it fits within and the organisational model of a CCS business. 

“All of this information will be made available through DECC’s Knowledge Transfer programme and will be of enormous benefit to other CCS developers and stakeholders.”

Huhne stressed that CCS was still important for the UK’s long term energy strategy. 

“A billion pounds is enough to demonstrate this vital new technology in the UK, but it’s got to be spent in the most effective way,” he said. 

“Despite everyone working extremely hard, we’ve not been able to reach a satisfactory deal for a project at Longannet at this time, so we’ve taken the decision to pursue alternative projects.”

There are still six UK projects bidding for funding from the European Union to further validate the technology. 

A consortium led by Alstom is developing plans for an oxyfuel supercritical coal-fired power station on the Drax site in North Yorkshire; C.GEN has a new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power station with pre-combustion and CCS on the coal-feed in Killingholme, Yorkshire, and also in Yorkshire the Don Valley Power Project (formerly known as the Hatfield Project) wants to build an IGCC power station in Stainforth.

In the north east Progressive Energy has plans for a pre-combustion coal gasification project in Teesside, while Peel Energy CCS is proposing post-combustion amine capture on a supercritical coal-fired power station in Ayrshire. 

The Peterhead project mentioned above makes up the six.

“It is clearly disappointing that the Longannet project will not proceed,” commented Dr Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association.

“However, the decision is the unfortunate result of specific issues individual to these negotiations and should in no way be taken as indicative of the readiness of CCS or the ambition of the industry. 

“Despite this, the lessons from this UK competition will be an invaluable contribution as we move forward.”

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