19 Oct 2011

Flagship carbon capture project scrapped

The government has abandoned plans to fund a commercial carbon capture and storage (CSS) project at ScottishPower’s plant at Longannet, Fife.

“A decision has been made not to proceed with Longannet but to pursue other projects with the one billion pounds funding made available by the government,” the Department of Energy and Climate Change said today.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne insisted the idea can still work elsewhere, and promised that the £1bn would be available for other projects.

“The decision is purely about the viability of this particular project,” Mr Huhne told the House of Commons. “It’s not in any way a reflection on our commitment to the CCS programme.”

With a capacity of 2,4000 megawatts, Longannet is the second largest coal-fired power plant in the UK, behind Drax’s 3,900MW power station in Yorkshire.

CCS technology aims to pump emissions from coastal power plants into storage under the sea. CCS could cut up to 90 per cent of carbon emissions from coal power, its supporters maintain.

But the partners involved in the Longannet project – including National Grid and Shell – are said to have calculated that £1.5bn in public cash was required to make it viable.

Read more: Carbon capture: saviour of coal?
The government has abandoned plans to fund a carbon capture and storage (CSS) project at ScottishPower's plant at Longannet, Fife.

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex questioned why, if CCS was still workable, it was not possible to come to an agreement with ScottishPower to make the project work.

“Longannet would test a potentially revolutionary technology that could help not just Scotland, but the whole of western Europe, meet climate emissions targets while maintaing a balanced energy mix,” Mr Greatrex said.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of the environmental charity WWF Scotland, said today’s decision was “massively disappointing” and warned that it “threatens Scotland’s, and the rest of the UK’s, ambition to be at the forefront of developing this new technology”.

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond condemned today’s announcement, saying it had “serious implications” for the long-term future of coal production in Scotland, as the upgrading of Longannet had been integral to the CCS investment.

The only other contender in the government’s CCS competition, E.ON’s Kingsnorth scheme, withdrew last October, stating that “the economic conditions are still not right for us to progress the project”.

Read more: 10 ideas to save the planet