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UK Pulls Out Of Carbon Capture And Storage Project Due To High Costs

Longannet power station

Plans to implement the U.K’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Longannet in Scotland have just fallen through, as the parties involved could not agree on how to finance the project, which was proving more expensive than initially anticipated.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said “A decision has been made not to proceed with Longannet but to pursue other projects with the 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) funding made available by the government.”

In the initial stages of the CCS project, the government had agreed to provide £1bn in funding. The plans were to capture and store CO2 emitted from the large coal plant, which is the largest in the U.K., providing energy for 2 million people and emitting eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. CO2 would be captured at the plant, and then sent in a liquid form to the depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

However, when it was realized that costs associated with delivering liquified CO2 through a 260km pipe were exceedingly high, plans to implement the project ground to a halt. In order implement the new project, Scottish Power, Shell, and National Grid believed they would need at least £1.5bn of public money. But the extra funding proved to be too much for the government, which elected to pull out of the project.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne claimed: “if there was a completely unlimited resource then we may have been able to surmount the technical problems at Longannet.”

Instead, the government vows to fund other CCS projects following the initiation of a new bidding process in England and Scotland.

Environmental groups expressed frustration and disappointment at the government’s decision to back out of the landmark CCS project. If successful, the project would have proven the viability of large-scale CCS technology for coal-powered plants, thus being the impetus for implementing CCS at coal-powered plants around the world.

“This announcement is very frustrating and damaging for the credibility of the UK CCS demonstration program,” said Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK.

Although the failure of the Longannet project is a set-back in the implementation of industrial-scale CCS technology, the technology holds promise for future CCS projects, and could go a long way in reducing CO2 emissions from an emissions intensive fossil fuel. This could be particularly important with the latest increase in coal consumption over the past few years.
Image CC licensed by Peter Macdonald: Longannet power station

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