Energy minister Greg Barker rejected "baseless scaremongering" from Labour that a �1bn CCS fund could be lost in the spending review

'Baseless scaremongering' over CCS funding dismissed

A £1bn fund to prove the benefits of CCS technology will not be axed in the imminent spending review.

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex told MPs he had obtained a document from the Cabinet Office last year which suggests the money had not all been available for the past three years.

But Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker rejected this as "baseless scaremongering". 

Labour claims the CCS fund could be lost as the government slashes public spending.

CCS technology is used to capture CO2 emissions from power stations and heavy industry and transport it via pipelines to be injected into porous rocks, from which oil or gas has previously been extracted, or in saline aquifers deep underground.

The CO2 is kept isolated from the rocks above by caprocks, which are less porous providing a ‘seal’. In the UK, storage sites are likely to be sited deep under the North Sea.   

Answering questions on the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the Commons, Barker said: "I'm very happy to scotch your baseless scaremongering and political point scoring. The fact of the matter is we are going forward with the CCS programme; it's going to be successful unlike Labour's failed attempts at CCS.

"We have two preferred bidders in place and it's backed by £1bn, putting the UK at the front of the global race for carbon capture and storage."

Greatrex asked: "If that £1bn is, as you say, available, and given the Cabinet Office Project Assessment Review I obtained last year says in the current CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) only £200m was available, is the remainder of that £1bn going to be available for the next CSR period?

"Can you confirm now whatever else is given up in your less grand bargain with the Treasury on DECC's budget, that money is safeguarded for CCS in the next CSR period?"

In October last year, four schemes were shortlisted for the £1bn competition to develop CCS technology.

Plans for new coal-powered stations with CCS at Grangemouth, Scotland, and Drax, North Yorkshire, a coal-powered project on Teesside and a bid to fit the technology on to an existing gas plant at Peterhead, Scotland, were on the shortlist, DECC previously said.

The £1bn government competition had to be re-launched last year after previous plans for the technology at Scottish Power's coal plant at Longannet, Fife, were abandoned.

In a related announcement today the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) said they had awarded £3.27m to four research projects to study the geological viability and safety of storing CO2 in depleted North Sea oil and gas fields or saline aquifers.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “Finding ways to reduce our CO2 emissions requires the latest research, especially around new technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage.

“The UK’s world-class scientists are extremely well-placed to tackle this challenge thanks to continued investment in skills, knowledge and cutting-edge projects like these.”

All the projects will come under the umbrella of the UK CCS Research Centre, established in April 2012, to improve the coordination of approximately 150 UK academics working on CCS.

Dave Delpy, CEO of EPSRC said: “These projects will help accelerate the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage, enabling the UK to maintain its world leading role in this vital low carbon technology.”

The projects to receive funding include studies into CO2 injection and storage, fingerprinting captured CO2 to prove ownership, using seismic surveying to monitor reservoirs non-invasively and how the caprock and reservoir rocks respond to oil and gas extraction and later “re-inflation” as CO2 is injected.

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