The equipment will trap some the exhaust fumes produced by the Ferrybridge plant, operated by Scottish and Southern Energy
The largest carbon capture and storage pilot plant fitted to a live power station in the UK opened on Wednesday, at a coal-fired plant in Yorkshire.
The equipment will trap some the exhaust fumes produced by the Ferrybridge plant, operated by Scottish and Southern Energy.
The development is a welcome one for the fledgling CCS industry, which has suffered major blows recently. On Tuesday, the chancellor George Osborne postponed the £1bn funding promised by the government for a full-scale pilot plant, saying it could not be awarded on an “unrealistic timescale”. On Monday, his fellow Treasury minister Danny Alexander has said it would not be awarded until the next parliament, ie 2015. That followed the collapse of the proposal at the Longannet power station in Scotland. “The development of viable carbon capture technology is central to the UK’s climate change and energy security objectives,” said Ian Marchant, SSE chief executive. “We believe pilot projects such as this will be crucial in establishing when and how the technology can be developed.” Marchant added that CCS plants will also be needed on gas-fired power stations, which SSE is in the early stages of planning at a site in Peterhead, Scotland.
The pilot at the Ferrybridge power station, designed and built by Doosan Power Systems, will capture emissions equivalent to 5MW of generation. This is a small fraction of the total exhaust gas from the 2000MW plant, but 50 times bigger than the previous biggest pilot, the company said. The carbon dioxide captured will not be stored, as this pilot is aimed at testing the scrubbing part of the process.
The government has provided £6m of funding for the pilot, with the companies putting in a large but undisclosed sum. Chris Huhne, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, said: “This investment will be invaluable to the wider commercial scale deployment of CCS by reducing uncertainty, driving down costs and developing the UK supply chain and skills.”
The CCS Association argues that “countries that develop CCS early will enjoy a ‘first-mover advantage’ and benefit from the export of skills and technology internationally and … could create 100,000 jobs across the UK by 2030.”
The CCS industry believes it can harness the UK’s experience in oil and gas exploration in the North Sea to effectively reverse the process and bury carbon from fossil fuel burning in exhausted oil and gas reservoirs.