Scottish and Southern Energy Policy on Development of Coal-Fired Power Stations
Scottish and Southern Energy plc ("SSE") is about to submit a planning application to Wakefield Metropolitan District Council to seek consent to develop the UK's biggest carbon dioxide capture trial facility at its Ferrybridge coal-fired power station near Castleford in Yorkshire.
The £21m trial will be carried out in collaboration with Doosan Babcock and other partners and will demonstrate the carbon dioxide capture element of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. It is hoped construction work will start next year, with the trial itself commencing in early 2011 and running through to the end of 2012.
The scale of the project, equivalent to 5MW of coal-fired power generating capacity producing 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day, bridges the gap between the various laboratory-scale trials that are under way and the larger-scale projects envisaged by the UK government. The significance of the project therefore lies in its scale and its ability to demonstrate the operational characteristics of capture plant on an actual power station and the performance of the amine compound on real flue gas.
SSE is involved in a number of other initiatives to transform the environmental impact of coal in power generation. It is supporting the world's largest demonstration of oxyfuel combustion capture technology in Renfrew, Scotland, in which coal is combusted in a mixture of oxygen and re-circulated flue gas so that the resulting exhaust is almost pure carbon dioxide that can be captured and stored.
SSE is also studying the possible development of another demonstration project in which a gasification plant converts coal into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the hydrogen used for power generation and the carbon dioxide dispatched for storage.
In April 2009, the UK government confirmed all new combustion power stations over 300MW in England and Wales will have to be designed 'carbon capture ready' so that they could fit CCS technology retrospectively and has recently consulted on CCS to consider how to deliver a programme that leads to CCS being the BAT (Best Available Technology) by 2020.
Against this background, SSE endorses the UK government's announcement on 9 November 2009 that no new coal-fired power generation plant should be built in the UK without carbon dioxide abatement. SSE would, however, encourage the UK government to ensure full, not portioned, carbon dioxide abatement on new coal-fired generation plant.
Beyond that, SSE believes that no coal-fired generation plant without full carbon dioxide abatement should remain operational beyond 2030. This is the midway point between 2010 and 2050, by which time the UK is aiming to have achieved an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide compared with 1990 levels.
Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of SSE, said:
"Most people agree that the UK's current portfolio of coal-fired power stations still have a crucial role to play in keeping the country's lights on, but that role will have to alter if climate change targets are to be met.
"That needs a two-stage policy approach:. We agree that no new coal-fired power stations should be built without full carbon dioxide abatement, but another decision needs to be taken. We believe no coal-fired power stations without full carbon dioxide abatement should be allowed to operate beyond 2030.
"This straightforward approach is consistent with security of energy supply and the UK's legally-binding carbon emissions targets while reflecting the fundamental change in energy production that will have to be made over the next 20 years.
"The development of the UK's largest carbon capture demonstration plant at Ferrybridge will be a major step forward in realising the undoubted potential of CCS technology.
"The attention being focused on next month's Copenhagen Climate Summit is justifiable but there is also an onus on organisations, companies and individuals to take their own action, and progressing carbon capture technologies and placing a time limit on the operation of coal-fired power stations comes into that category."
Iain Miller, CEO of Doosan Babcock said:
"We are very pleased to cooperate with SSE on the proposed trial at Ferrybridge. The project will help the government achieve its twin goals - accelerating the proving of CCS and creating jobs and economic opportunities for UK-based companies. Once the technology is proven we will be well-placed to pursue the international roll out of CCS to meet global targets for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions."
John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace said:
"The Government's own Committee on Climate Change clearly states that in order to meet our long term climate targets we need to completely rule out emissions from all coal fired power stations by 2030. Investors need certainty, and that means clear regulation. The Government needs to ensure that the picture is very clear that emissions from new coal are not permitted. There also needs to be a clear signal to existing coal and gas power stations that they too will have to deal with their emissions by 2030 at the very latest."
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