Shell has proposed a pilot CCS scheme to capture emissions from Scottish and Southern Energy's Peterhead gas power station

Carbon capture projects must be fast-tracked say MPs

A decision on the funding of two pilot carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes must be fast-tracked after a decade of delay, MPs have said.

The technology, which captures emissions from fossil fuel power plants and permanently stores them underground, could help keep greenhouse gases within the limits needed to stop dangerous climate change, the Energy and Climate Change (ECC) parliamentary committee said.

But the technology needs financial support to get it going in the face of high costs, and there are currently just a handful of projects worldwide with none fitted to full scale power stations, the MPs warned.

A competition launched in the UK in 2007 to provide financial support for pilot schemes has seen the estimated date for getting projects up and running slip from 2014 to 2020.

A report from the committee has urged the Government to make final funding decisions on two pilot projects at Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire, and Drax, in North Yorkshire, by early 2015.

And it called on ministers to prioritise coming up with a framework of subsidies for CCS projects with guaranteed prices for energy similar to those being brought in for new nuclear reactors and renewables such as offshore wind.

Energy and Climate Change Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: "Fitting power stations with technology to capture and store carbon is absolutely vital if we are to avoid dangerously destabilising the climate.

"After nearly a decade of delay the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has finally got near to delivering two pilot carbon capture and storage projects in the UK. It must now fast-track these projects and reach final investment decisions before the election to ensure this technology can start delivering carbon savings by the 2020s."

But he added: "These two demonstration projects will not be enough to kick-start the industry or have a significant impact on our carbon budgets, however. Ministers must also ensure that viable CCS projects not involved in the competition are able to apply for guaranteed-price contracts alongside other low-carbon energy schemes."

Deploying the technology early in the UK could have significant economic benefits, including opening a "storage market" in which other countries pay to permanently store carbon dioxide in the UK's disused offshore oil and gas fields in the North Sea, the report said.

A spokesman for Shell, which is behind the Peterhead project with energy company SSE, said: "With a Government that recognises CCS and has committed to supporting early projects, the UK is well positioned to take the lead.

"With appropriate Government support, industry now needs to show that CCS can work on a large scale. This will bring CCS down the cost curve, up the learning curve and encourage further investment."

But other energy projects, including coal plants, wind farms and fracking for shale, have attracted public opposition, the report warned, and it called for a public engagement strategy to dispel myths about the technology and respond to concerns over safety.

Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at WWF-UK, said: "After years of unnecessary delay, getting on with the task of demonstrating the technical and commercial feasibility of CCS is an urgent priority for this Government and the next.

"But the Government shouldn't plan significant investments in new fossil fuel plants today on the assumption that CCS technology will be available at an affordable cost in the future to capture emissions when we simply don't know that yet."

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "The UK is ahead of the rest of Europe with two CCS projects in White Rose (Drax) and Peterhead actively undertaking detailed engineering studies ahead of full construction.

"As well as the £1bn we are investing in CCS, there will also be additional support through low-carbon Contracts for Difference for a number of years to come, so it's important we take the time to get our decisions right and follow a robust process.

“Our vision for CCS in the UK does not stop at these first projects. We want to see a strong and successful CCS industry able to compete on cost with other low carbon technologies in the 2020s."

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