ScottishPower today flicked the switch on a groundbreaking test project that will see CO2 emissions extracted from Longannet power station – the first time in the UK that they have been captured from a working coal-fired power plant.
The prototype, developed by Aker Clean Carbon, is an exact, small-scale replica of a full-scale carbon capture plant.
It will allow ScottishPower to test the complex chemistry involved in capturing CO2 from power station flue gases and is a major milestone in delivering the reality of carbon emission free coal generation.
The company is one of the leaders in the UK Government’s competition to develop a commercial scale Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project, and by retrofitting the technology to an existing power station, ScottishPower believe it is well-placed to kick-start a carbon storage industry for the Central North Sea by 2014.
At the same time, ScottishPower’s parent company Iberdrola, the fourth largest energy company in the world, confirmed that it will establish a global Centre of Excellence to develop CCS technology in the UK. To launch this, the company announced today that it will be funding a Chair in Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh to provide a academic focus for the Centre of Excellence.
Iberdrola and ScottishPower Chairman Ignacio Galán, said: “We believe that the UK can lead the world with CCS technology, creating new skills, jobs and opportunities for growth. There is the potential to create an industry on the same scale as North Sea Oil, and we will invest in Scotland and the UK to help realise this potential. Iberdrola will set-up its global Centre of Excellence for CCS in the UK to help accelerate the deployment of full-scale CCS.
“This prototype carbon capture unit is a major step on the road towards our Centre of Excellence and the essential data from the unit will shape our research. We are proud to be working with the University of Edinburgh, and this partnership will be pivotal in developing our Centre of Excellence.”
The prototype unit, which weighs 30 tonnes and covers an area of 85m2, will be able to process 1000 cubic metres of exhaust gas per hour from Longannet. Amongst other tests being carried out, ScottishPower scientists will be monitoring the effectiveness of the chemical amine solution that captures the CO2 under different conditions. The data will allow ScottishPower to better understand the science before a full-scale demonstration project is built, eventually capturing up to 90% of CO2 from Longannet. This would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.
Speaking at Longannet as the test unit was switched on, Nick Horler, Chief Executive of ScottishPower, said: “This is the first time that CCS technology has been switched on and working at an operational coal-fired power station in the UK, and is a major step forward in delivering the reality of carbon-free fossil fuel electricity generation. It’s about taking the concept of CCS out of the lab and making it a full-scale commercial reality and that’s crucial if we hope to achieve tough carbon reduction targets.
“The test unit uses the exact same technology that we aim to retrofit to the station for a commercial scale CCS project by 2014, and the leap from 1MW to 330MW is now within sight. There are over 50,000 fossil fuel power stations in operation throughout the world, and by proving that CCS technology can be retrofitted to existing stations, we can begin to address the carbon lock-in from these power plants.
“The switch-on today, coupled with the recent Scottish Regional Study highlighting the Central North Sea’s potential to store all of Europe’s CO2 emissions well into the next century, means that a major new industry is now on the brink of being formed in the UK.”
In a message of support to ScottishPower, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said: “I wanted to send my congratulations… to all the staff of ScottishPower at Longannet, on this historic day for the company and for the country.
“This represents a significant response by ScottishPower to the climate change agenda, and it is one I welcome. For our part, the Government is fully committed to both securing Britain’s energy future and to meeting our carbon emissions target and I hope that the research emerging from the MTU project will make a major contribution to achieving our shared aims.”
The CCS Chair will be located in the Carbon Capture and Storage Group within the School of Geosciences, part of an alliance between the University of Edinburgh, Heriot Watt University and the British Geological Survey, known as the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage. The Professor will be an expert leader of CCS development in the UK and globally.
ScottishPower has selected the University of Edinburgh to host its CCS Chair as a result of the strong ties developed over the past 3 years working on collaborative CCS research and development projects. Under the umbrella of the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, the University of Edinburgh led the work of the Scottish Regional Study that recently published an in-depth report highlighting the Central North Sea’s potential to store all of Europe’s CO2 emissions well into the next century.
ScottishPower will also engage with other academic institutions to which they have ties, including Imperial College London.
Attending the launch at Longannet today, Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said: “CCS is a potentially important technology which could help reduce emissions around the world. But first the technology needs to be proven and the UK Government has been slow to get anything going on the ground.
“Our own research confirms that Longannet is an obvious place to try out carbon capture. All credit to ScottishPower for putting their money where their emissions are.”